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Peggy and Terry's House

Written by Bryan A. Thompson

Experienced and Written during February, 2006

9 Days Before the Workshop

Friend #1: "Hey, Bryan. My truck gets 2MPG - I need a new car."

<2 minutes pass>

Friend #2: "Hey, Bryan. I need to get rid of a car. My wife says I have too many."

Bryan: "No problem - I know a guy."

We go to load the car onto a trailer. It's at the top of the hill, the trailer is at the bottom, and the car is facing the right way. No problem - gravity is our friend, here. It's kinda stuck in four mudholes. We'll just push it to get it rolling, drive it onto the trailer, hit the brakes, and Bob's your uncle.

#1: "Ready? On three. One..."

#2: "It's cold. Count faster."

#1: "One. Tw-"

#2: "You already said 'One'."

"You interrupted me, so I said it again. Now I have to say it a third time. Dumbass."

"OneTwoThreePush! That fast enough for you?"

"F#(K. You. Too."

They're busy arguing, and no one pushes the Saab stuck in the mudhole on 'three'. Except for me.


#1 and #2: "What was that?"

Bryan: "It's a Saab. That's the same sound their rifles made when they hit the ground during WW2." And the car was on the trailer and we were done. I went home to warm up.

8 days before the workshop

Turns out the snap was my back's way of telling me to stop volunteering to help idiots.

It is so stiff and hurts so much that I can't stand up to walk to the bedroom. FoxNews is on, and I can't reach the remote to turn it off. I sleep, sitting up, on the couch. I awake to Neal Cavuto telling me about Greenspan. And I still can't move.

Uh oh. Literally the first thing I thought was, "I *have* to get better before David's workshop next week. OK, I'm an engineer, so obviously I can solve any problem. Time to take stock of my situation. It's 5 o'clock Saturday morning. I live by myself and no one's expected - ever. The phone is across the room. I have aspirin, bottle of water and…a laptop. Yes. Time to start emailing people. Email #1 to my (probably adopted) father the chiropractor. Back hurts, stuck on the couch, no telephone, help. Emails #2-10 go to my friends. I know this won't work - they're too hung over to be of any use.

"It's Log! It's Lo-og!" is Eudora's way of telling me I have email. My probably adopted chiropractor has this advice: "Whatever you do, don't sit down. Come on over and I'll look at it." OK, what part of "I'm stuck on the couch" confused you?

Hmm. OK, I can move a little, I'll try stretching. Four *hours* later, I pull myself to my feet. It's raining outside, so I grab an umbrella. Instead of opening it, I use it as a cane and hobble out to the car. By the way, "over" to the adopted chiropractors place is 200 miles away. 200 miles, four hours, no problem. Four minutes and three thousand potholes later, I was dreading the sport option with ultra-stiff suspension and ultra-firm sport seats. I'm quite sure that the BMW "Sport Package" is the actually the Germans' way of telling us the war isn't over yet.

Six hours later (I stopped several times to stretch) I arrive in the driveway and call. Dogs start barking in the background and two minutes later the door opens. The barking gets louder, and I am greeted by five dachshunds and a chiropractor.

I walk into the home office (don't we all work out of our homes?) for an adjustment. Literally two minutes later, I stand up and walk down the steps virtually pain free. Sweet! But it isn't over yet. Bark! Everything's realigned, no more pinched nerves, but it's going to continue to swell. BarkBarkBark! Time to ice it. BarkBark! Within 10 minutes, the sharp pain when I moved is replaced by a dull throbbing pain that continues to get worse throughout the day. BarkBarkBarkBarkBark!

It was late, so I decided to stay the night. BarkBarkBark! I tried the bed, but it was too soft. BarkBark! I tried the floor, but it was too hard. Bark! Oh, look. A sheepskin rug. ZZZzzzz----____ barkBarkBARK!

Which brings me to Reason #37 for living 200 miles away from my home town: The dogs wake up every morning at 5:30am. They're my dad's alarm clock. They jump into bed and hop up and down on him until he gets up and feeds them each a half a hotdog with a dog vitamin inside it. Really. This is my proof that Karma exists.

Hey, whaddya know? It only takes an hour and a half to stretch and pull myself up the ladder on the side of the bunk beds and to my feet. Bark! Another adjustment (bark!) and I'm on the road again. Bark! (they're still annoying me as I'm driving off)


7 days before the workshop

I take exactly two drugs in life: Aspirin, and more frequently, Caffeine.


6 days before the workshop

Neither caffeine or aspirin is working in this case. At work: What happened to you? Umm, sorry, don't really have a good story. Make one up. OK, met a chick in a bar and... No one will believe that. This is Rolla. Everyone knows there are no women here. They'll either think you're lying or are gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


5 days before the workshop

I am going to be better by the workshop.

4 days before the workshop

Today the pain is bad enough that I decide to go to the doctor for the first time in 11 years. Nothing broken. Swollen. Take these. Do not pass the receptionist without paying $10. Does anyone else see the similarities between insurance co-pays and those ridiculous dollar amounts in Monopoly?


3 Days before the workshop

<passed out>


2 days before the workshop

BarkBarkBark! But I don't care. I'm back in KC for another adjustment, for a haircut, to do some shopping and then for the Williams workshop. Bark! We're going to your grandparents for dinner. My real grandparents or my adopted grandparents? I told you, your real family paid us not to tell you who they were. And bring some Gates BBQ. I told them we'd bring dinner.


1 day before the workshop, at Reverend Grandma's house

Yes, we really call her Reverend Grandma - she's a minister.

"Why did you bring food? I told your father-"

"You mean my adopted father..."

"...that we would cook dinner."

<both of us at the same time>: "He's an idiot."

<time passes with the TV on, really loud, but I don't care because my ears are ringing from all the meds>

Back to chiropractors house. BarkBarkBark! I set the alarm clock for 6:30am and go to bed.


Day 1 of the workshop

I confess that I only signed up for David’s class to chase tail. I don’t shoot digital, so there could be no other reason for me coming. Right? Turns out that against all odds, I learned something.

BarkBarkBark! 5:30am. BarkBark! 6:30am and the alarm clock is going off. But I don't hear it because my ears are ringing from all the meds.

So I get up about 7:30am for a 9am start time. 55 miles away. Some quick calculations, and allowing for a shower and time to find the place. No problem. I have no problem driving 146MPH. That's why I bought the sport package, right? Except...

I'm not in Rolla, Mizzurah. In Rolla, when there's a traffic jam on the way home, I pull over and walk the two city blocks between work and home. In Grandview, there's the triangle. This couldn't be more appropriately named. It's the Bermuda Triangle of Kansas City. Nothing that enters gets back out. I have no doubt this is what it's like living in a black hole. As traffic slowly crawls along, you pass old Model T's that have run out of gas. The roads are lined with cell phones that have been thrown by random acts of road rage. One of them is mine.

For some reason, I fly through the triangle, which totally pisses off the Karma scorekeeper (KarmaBanc?). The directions are in the trunk. I get off the freeway and get them, get back on, drive to Leavenworth, at which point I'm lost. I start wandering around and they slowly start making sense. When I find myself flying up the side of a cliff at 146MPH, I apply emergency brake and find that I’ve arrived at Peggy and Terry's place.

And I find that I’m one of the first to arrive. “Good, that’s why I bought the sport package,” I think to myself. As I walked through the kitchen I saw Humza and Humza. I walked into the main room, a beautiful and rustic A-frame paneled in rough-sawn planks. Peggy was handing out nametags. And there they were. A roomful of the coolest people I’ve ever seen in my entire life. “My work sucks,” I thought to myself. There was Peggy, and Terry, JimFugelstad, Chris and Chuckie. I saw the famous KimG sitting quietly, and that surprised me. She was clutching a bag with a photo, her photo, of her daughter, printed on the side.

Sitting next to Kim was a petite redhead. She was backlit by the brightest sun (and the leakiest curtains) I’ve ever seen, so those were all the details that were available. She was shooting and chimping and shooting and chimping. “What was she shooting?” I wondered. We all just woke up, no one is awake, we’re all wearing nametags, the room floor is literally covered with camera bags, reflectors, portfolios and empty Frappaccino bottles. I know my work sucks, but WTF could she possibly get? A cloud happened and the backlighting slowly tapered off. The first thing I noticed was the nametag on the leg. The second thing I noticed was the leg. Wow. Then the boots. Nice. And shooting and chimping and shooting and the backlight picked up again and she was just a shadow. A petite, sultry redheaded shadow, meticulously shooting and chimping. That *so* took me back to high school.

With an enthusiastic “G’day, Mates!” the workshop started.

Surveying his domain


Please class - no Australian Convict jokes...

First up was Detail Miniatures...


Lots and lots of details....

“Hi!” Lisa said as she flopped down into the couch beside me. “Wow. She was a knockout and for some strange reason she was chatting me up. Dang, wish I wasn’t stoned on pain killers,” I thought. “What’s your name? You’re that guy from Rolla, aren’t you? I graduated from there, too. I’m a civil engineer. Do you have any samples? These look like film. What’s up with that? Why don’t you shoot digital? You have everything you need – a camera, a laptop, Photoshop. Were you in a fraternity while you were there? What’s your home town? Oh my God - I lived one town over! You graduated when? You don’t look that old. I graduated in 93. When are you supposed to do your critique? He hasn’t scheduled mine yet. How’s he going to get them all in? Are you driving from Rolla? Why don’t you shoot digital? What’s a beauty dish?”

And then the questions came to a screeching halt -

“Leeeeeserrrrr, please. If you have questions, ask me.”

“Oh,” I thought. “It’s going to be one of those classes.” And I was not wrong.

<Time passed and I took notes, but I was so out of it that I was just nodding and smiling for the rest of the day. Then the drugs wore off.>

Time for dinner, but where to go? The grand master has an affinity for bar-b-queue’d steak, but not for the long car ride into Kansas City proper, so to the local “Habaneros” we go. The first night saw a pretty good turnout.

I was fortunate enough to sit at “the cool table” with Chuckie and Chris and Lisa. It was decided that the salsa resembled tomato paste more than salsa, and that the best thing to do would be to order the “Fire! Fire! Fire!” sauce instead. When it arrived, it was like no other salsa I’ve seen in my entire life. It was brown. Really. No problem – we’ll cut it with the tomato sauce and it’ll all be good.

I heard stories of Chuckies days with the Downtown Clowns with box set sales off the charts. I heard stories of Lisa getting a lap dance at a local strip joint. I retold the story of the bride who B&E’d the church and the reception held at a mud bog race. Honeymoon truck lost all five times it tried. Bryan gets a lap dance from the MOH.

We stayed and talked for hours and hours. I had about an hour and a half drive to the place where I was staying, so I was one of the first to leave.

BarkBarkBark! I arrived at my parents’ place. Bark!Bark!Bark! Time for bed. Bark!Bark! Bark! ZZZzzz---___


Day 2 of the workshop

Bark!Bark!Bark! 6:30am. If I leave now I can just make it. Bark!Bark!Bark!

Over the river and through the woods at 146MPH, and I’m late. I know this because there’s nowhere to park. Ooooh! Cookies! Big ones, too! Don’t mind if I do.

Stacy and Lisa are absent this morning. That sucks. I was kinda looking forward to answering a hundred more questions.

<More drugs, more notes, more time passing>

Lisa arrives later that morning and feels so bad that she lays on the floor and left at noon. I felt bad for her and wished there was something I could do.

Next we move on to models.


My name is Williams.  David Williams.


<More drugs, more notes, more time passes. It’s 6pm.>

“OK, Mates, it’s time for one of those boring artsy French films with subtitles. And yes, this is required!”

<More drugs, more time passing>

Artsy French films with subtitles on pain killers rule! Pain killers on an empty stomach aren’t always a good idea. I really don’t remember much after the film started.

Then a “Wooh!” from Dawid and the movie was over.

9pm. Time for dinner. Freaking finally. The grand master has an affinity for bar-b-queue’d steak, but not for driving into Kansas City proper. So this time it’s the 10 Penny Bar and Grill. Just at the bottom of the hill and turn left. Cory Ann was DWs designated chauffer. Dawid was following them and I was following Dawid.

An hour later and we arrive at the 10 Penny Bar and Grill. Best food we had all week, but the atmosphere (or rather, lack of Oxygen) put it in last place. American Idol with closed captioning doesn’t play as well.

10:30pm: “Maaate! Let’s have a look at your work, shall we?” Uh oh, it’s that Australian guy, and he wants something.

First was the scrapbook of artists who inspire me. Except for the very last page. See that? That’s edgy. Interesting the ordering you chose.

Next was my portfolio. “You suck,” he thought. “I suck,” I thought. “How very…safe.” “You suck,” I think. But I held off punching him in the nose, just in case he had anything important to say, and then there’s always the random chance that he’ll Kung Fu my ass.

DW: “Why do you want to move to the Hasselblads?”

BAT: “Because Uncle Bob doesn’t have one. Because of the beautiful bokay of the lenses.”

DW: “And if you shoot it at f/5.6, will you see that bokay?”


DW: “Everything that inspires you is done my way, not your way.”

What? That can’t be right! I’d have seen it before. Right?


And in that five seconds, my life changed. The way I work changed. The way I see the world changed. “But how do you know – you haven’t done any work in the new style yet.” But I knew.

Drive home ZZZzzz---…__Screech! Missed the turn onto I-435. No problem, Just need to find the Hwy 32 exit… ZZZzzz---…___ BarkBarkBark! Screech. I’m home. It’s only 12:30. More Z’s.


Day 3 of the Workshop

Less pain today, thankfully. I don’t like what the drugs are doing to me, so I pass them by and leave with a hearty Bark!Bark!Bark!. Drive there at 146MPH, up the side of the hill, screech! Mmm, leftover giant peanut butter cookie.

“Can I see more samples? What’d you do yesterday? Did you have fun with the models? Where’d you go to dinner? Did I miss anything? Are these all the samples you brought? Where’s your album? Let me see what you shot! Let me see! Let me see!” Hi, Lisa. Glad you’re back…&#61514;

<During the morning break>

DW: "Leeeeserrrr, since you missed yesterday, you might want to go down and take a look at the album laid out on the floor in the studio." He turns to shuffle papers and get more

Lisa (to me): "Did you see it? Is it good?"

BAT (painkillers still wearing off): "It's alright."

DW: "You're like the Australians up in the British section, aren't you?"

BAT: "Sorry - wasn't thinking. I should probably get in way more fights than I do."

DW: "No worries, Mate!"

The day just flew. More model shoots – kids today – not my forte’.


David and Asa

Humza, doing his best to scare Asa out of a career in photography

Peggy, Dahling


Look! It's me!


Cory Ann holds the baby model to give mom a break.


It’s obvious that she misses her son Ayden.

During the afternoon break, DW drags me out into the garden (read 'place where Peggy and Terry's dog poos') to teach me his style. I guess he hadn't given up on me yet, despite all the reasons to.

The day ended all too soon, and with it, the workshop. More waiting around for the critiques to end so that we can go to dinner. Granite City! Granite City! 10 Penny! Vietnamese. But not Indian! Guess who wanted Vietnamese food – in Kansas City? That’s right.

I followed Chris, who followed Cory Ann, who in turn followed KimG, and somehow we all made it to the same place at about the same time.

We sat and talked for hours. Everyone was homesick and the conversation was mostly about our families. Apparently Jim mastered the concept of walkabout during the workshop, because he got up from the table and left, and the next thing we knew, he’s walking down the middle of the street and out of sight. Appetizers came and went. We looked at Kim’s pics. “Don’t mix them up. These are the ones that David is going to help me prep for competition.” They were beautiful. Dinner was dinner, and all too soon it was time to leave.

DW: “G’day, Mate. Send me samples of your work from time to time.”

BAT: Aw, shucks. I bet you say that to everyone. You don’t have to do that, you know.”

DW: “Yes, I know.”

Scrappy the world's fastest dachshund and I arrived safely at about 2:30am Thursday. He was completely exhausted and I'm not really sure he should have been driving. There were no flowers or snoogies awaiting our arrival - just a cold, dark and empty home.


Top 10 Things I Learned at the David A Williams Workshop in KS

Note: Please don’t be offended if I’ve left out anyone really great – I didn’t see everyone’s work. Also realize that my reality for the first two days was pharmaceutically altered to a significant degree. These are the thoughts that passed through my head and the stories of the people that I came to know last week.

10) My work sucks.

9) It’s a great place to learn about every imaginable album type available. Chuckie’s bulletproof Graphi and Jake’s VisionArt really stood out. The spiral-bound WHCC proofbooks looked really cool, too. Saw some incredible John Garner stuff as well.

8) Whatever you do, under no circumstances talk in class. While you’re at it, don’t touch the projector. I think all Australians are secretly jealous of the proficiency of Americans when it comes to operating AV equipment. Oh, and don’t even think about shuffling about, talking amongst yourselves, even about the subject, leave your cell phone on, ask for the phone number of the hot chick sitting next to you, click your pen, open a Twix bar, breathe loudly, or get between the Aussie and his Shiraz.

7) All the great people you meet at the workshops are worth the price of admission. A get-together once in a while isn't enough, and neither was three days and nights.

6) When Chuckie responds to a post, listen to what he has to say. If there’s such thing as a Rock Star Wedding Photographer, Chuckie is it. I sat in Habanero’s and ate at least three baskets of chips listening to stories of Tennessee brides and his days with the “Downtown Clowns” in KC. The next day I saw his work - the raw stuff, not the edited into a portfolio stuff. During the modeling session he wasn’t shooting portraits, he shot a fashion session. I love this concept. He nailed every shot. By the way – rumour has it that the band’s getting’ back together and that a boxed set of the early years is now available.

Ghost of Chuckie


5) When David responds to one of your posts, listen to what he has to say. If it includes an Australian euphemism you don’t understand, go to Babelfish.com and translate it, because that means something, too…&#61514;

I have never learned so much so quickly as I learned from David this week.
The most important part of this experience, for me, was the critique. If you’re going to see him – do the homework. It was tremendously valuable to me to have him not only look at where I was, but also at where I wanted to be, and then make suggestions about how to accomplish those goals.

4) Peggy and Terry Bair are patient and generous beyond belief. It was at least 16hrs/day of work.

3) When Lisa Derr joins the forum and responds to one of your posts, listen to what she has to say. I saw some of her work that looked like it could have been painted by Monet. And she was absolutely the friendliest person I met this week. The fact that she’s a beautiful 6ft tall blonde Civil Engineer with an IQ of like 180 who likes to party at Dave and Busters, and who enjoys the occasional lap dance at Whispers (how hot is that?) has absolutely nothing to do with this judgment, I assure you…

The Lovely Lisa

2) When KimG (sorry I’ve forgotten for the moment what she changed her DWF name to) responds to one of your posts, listen to what she has to say. Her work is amazing. Amazing! AMAZING! (Just ask David Williams) While waiting for David to arrive for dinner on the last night, I looked through a stack of like 500 of her prints. What I saw were 500 different poses, 500 different ideas, each magnificently executed. I see color, I see happiness.

1) Cory Ann is a stone cold fox. And she’s intelligent and totally grounded in reality and loves her work. I’ve known her for a total of one day, and I loved the duality that I found within. She’s exquisitely-tailored and acted quite proper in class, yet she has a wickedly sharp dark side. She has an incredibly sexy tattoo of a Japanese Changjie character. Only it turns out that she’s an absolute marketing genius, and it wasn’t Changjie, but rather her and her son’s initials and doubles as her company logo.


And Cory Ann Ellis is the best portrait photographer I have ever met. Those shots of us that she was meticulously shooting and chimping and shooting and chimping are absolutely incredible. I sat across from her at dinner the last night, chatting with the girls whilst awaiting the arrival of the Master. She was chatting and shooting and chimping and shooting and chimping. A light dinner and she was right back to shooting and chimping and shooting.

In my entire life, I’ve never seen a photograph of myself that I truly loved. Until yesterday, when I saw the images that she shot and chimped at our last dinner. In her photos of me I see emotion. I see reality. I see everything I felt that night. Not a watered-down or doctored version. In her work I see reality. My reality.

When the meticulous petite well-dressed sexy sultry and dark Cory Ann Ellis with the kind and beautiful smile responds to one of your posts…Listen to her. Cory Ann: You rock!

That’s about all I remember, so I’m heading to bed with this lyric playing through my mind:

“Though we may go our separate ways, our paths will cross again some day.”

Track: Our Paths Will Cross Again
Artist: William Elliott Whitmore
Album: Hymns for the Hopeless
Website  |  Play

End of slideshow. Click to exit.

Bryan A. Thompson

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