Framing The Moment

Blurry video image framed by fingers

As videography goes, I am not likely to win an academy award anytime soon.

“I can’t see anything,” says my wife.

“I can’t hear anything,” says my daughter.

“Is that your finger over the lens?” asks her brother.

My wife and two of our children are gathered around a computer helping me transfer video from my smartphone taken of our older son performing with his college jazz ensemble at a small club in New York City. The grainy video shows a group of musicians huddled on a small dark stage highlighted vaguely with dim violet light. It is hard to make anyone out. Silhouette heads from the audience frequently pass in front of the shaky frame, blocking out the stage entirely.

There is no sound. None.

After a long tedious stretch, the shot jerks violently to one side of the stage to center on a tall, blurry musician bringing a shiny reflective saxophone to his lips. “This is his big solo!” I tell everyone from memory.

And then, just before my son begins to blow, the video abruptly ends.

There is silent disbelief all around the computer screen as my epic fail fades to black.

My younger son breaks the ice. “I don’t know,” he says, “video of a musical performance without light and without sound. . . it kind of defeats the whole purpose, don’t ya think?”

My daughter is a little more understanding. “Maybe you lost the audio because you ran down the batteries while you were still recording,” she suggests empathetically.

As parents, we never want to miss the hard earned achievements of our children. We take pictures and save mementos of their life’s journey so that we can share them with others and cherish them long after the events have passed. And with all of the advancements in technology we can now easily record those precious moments right from the smartphones we carry in our pockets and purses.

Which is why I felt compelled to record video of my son’s exciting late-night, mid-week performance at a New York City jazz club which unfortunately given the location, the day, the hour and the weather, my family could not attend.

Which is also why I had to spend the day and $250 retrieving my phone cable from a large NYPD impound warehouse on 12th Avenue before I was able to recharge my phone and transfer the video. The cable was inside the car.

This also explains why I couldn’t drive home from New York City the night before and was not able to call my wife to let her know that I had somehow lost the car and to ask whether she might be able to pick me up at the train station so that I didn’t have to walk home at 1:30 in the morning.

It was a cold walk.

Which is all because 30 minutes before catching the last train to New Jersey, I found myself standing perplexed beneath a barely-visible sign on a dark, snow-covered street curb in the East Village in the bitter cold with a missing car and a dead iPhone. I later learned the sign said NO PARKING with some illegible print stating something about towing at the owner’s expense.

Which explains why I could not use my phone to call my wife and why the red battery light on the phone disappeared 45 minutes into an hour long set of really good music performed by a very talented group of college kids just as my son was about to lay down a long, melodic solo.

Which was the same warning light I didn’t see because after desperately combing the snow-clogged side streets of an infamous New York neighborhood known as Alphabet City until I finally found a lone parking spot minutes before the performance, and then frantically locating the small basement jazz club tucked down a set of stairs hidden along Avenue A, I was forced to stand at the very back of the bar with my phone raised blindly above my head like I was a tourist in desperate need of a shot to prove I was really there.

Which I did with great joy because for days I had been waiting to experience a vision of my son performing with his NYU band in a smoke filled bar full of late night hipsters digging on some cool underground college jazz scene, despite the fact that smoking has been banned in New York City establishments for years and that my presence as an obnoxiously proud parent from New Jersey would probably have driven any late-night college hipsters away even if they existed.

But that is the moment I wanted to capture.

Which somehow explains why I am not a great videographer.

Oh well, it was a really cool, satisfying experience. One that I will vividly remember, always.

But I guess you had to be there.