Friday, December 14, 2012

An Unexpected Journey

My favorite book and movie is Lord of the Rings.  I also enjoyed The Hobbit and am looking forward to seeing the new movie in the near future (by the way, Lincoln is a must-see).  The subtitle for the new hobbit movie is An Unexpected Journey.  I had one of my own this week.


I have met quite a few people with Medtronic, a prominent company in the world of medical device technology and therapies including deep brain stimulation (DBS), over the course of the last year.  This was a direct result of my book, Carson And His Shaky Paws Grampa, which included my own experience with DBS.  Before Thanksgiving, I got a call from the corporate marketing manager asking if I would be willing to participate in a photo shoot in New York that would make me the "DBS patient face" for a new marketing campaign.  I told her I was interested so we communicated over the course of the next couple weeks before finalizing a plan for my wife and I to come to New York (I no longer travel alone due to PD) for two days during December.

It was a trip down memory lane for Linda and me when we arrived at LaGuardia airport three days ago.  We flew in over the U.S. Open Tennis Center, a place where we had spent a lot of time during the eleven years that we lived in North Jersey and I worked in Manhattan.  We also flew over the new Mets Stadium (right next door to the old one).  We (we have two sons) were big fans of the Mets, Giants, and Rangers.  We had also spotted landmarks we recognized including various bridges, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the new World Trade Center tower, where large cranes were poised to complete the final step of construction, the placement of a large spire pointing defiantly to the heavens.  I worked at American Express directly across from WTC1 when the first terrorist bombing took place back in 1993.  Like most Americans, I am still in mourning as a result of the tragic events of 9/11, which had a deeply personal impact on me.


We stayed in a nice hotel in Greenwich Village overlooking the West Side Highway, the Hudson River, and the High Line, and old railroad bridge being transformed into a walkway dotted with gardens.  We were struck by how much construction we saw everywhere, evidence of an ongoing metamorphosis taking place in the city.  It was a very chilly day, but a few hardy souls skated on the small rink in front of the hotel.  We had dinner that night with folks from Medtronic, their advertising agency, and the photo studio to discuss the plan for the next morning.  I should mention that the process was not new to me as I had worked with agencies and photo studios in my position as Merchandising VP for the Amex direct mail catalog.  However, I had never, nor did I ever expect to be, the subject of a photo shoot myself.

Linda and I rose early the next morning to shower and pack so that we could be downstairs for the short trip to the studio only five blocks away.  Once there, I was directed to a corner for a makeup and hair session.  I worked with two gentlemen who were obviously pros at their work.  One mentioned that he did women's skier Lindsay Vonn's makeup for her.  Next I spoke with the photographer about the logistics of the shoot and what they wanted me to do and the marketing people filled me in on the marketing plan.  I was to be the "patient face" of a new deep brain stimulation campaign targeted to doctors, hospitals, and prospective patients.

I had never imagined that the shoot would be physically challenging, but I was wrong.  Without going into too much detail, they wanted to take pictures of me lunging forward with one leg into a semi-squat position and pretending to break an already broken pole  over my knee while looking directly at the camera.  The photographer, an interesting young man from Norway, wanted me to try a variety of facial expressions, such as happy, proud, satisfied, determined........, to see what worked best.  If you have never tried this, it is not easy.  I had my wife stand next to him as he took the photos since I am used to making all kinds of faces at her (I have had 43 years to practice).


We kept this up for two hours with a few breaks for me to recover, them to review the shots taken, and one clothing change.  After a while, my left quad, which was getting the brunt of the workout, started to tighten up.  The makeup guy applied touch up's more and more frequently as I started to perspire as a result of the physical work and bright light.  I was pleased that my balance (not a strong point for most with PD) was not bad at the outset.  However, as we got deeper into the session my poses became more and more like Chevy Chase slapstick.  Thankfully, they assured me when it was over that they were pleased with the results.  They even took a shot of Linda and me together (which they will send us) as a momento.  They told me afterward that it was OK to talk about what took place, but I don't want to be the one to introduce the details of the campaign.


When we returned to the airport for our trip home, I was surprised by how totally exhausted I was, not to mention the throbbing in my left quad.  Needless to say, I have a heightened level of respect for photography models.  All in all, it was quite a memorable experience.

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