Watch Out For That Last Step

by Shelt Garner

There is a memorable Amy Schumer skit about a group of women having dinner on their “last fuckable evening.” I find myself pondering this as I approach my 50th birthday with little — if anything — to show for it. Now and again, I stop myself and ponder how the fuck I got myself into this situation and what I’m going to do about it.

The crux of the matter is I kind of blew out an psychological knee because of what happened with ROKon Magazine in Seoul. So, I spent a lot — A LOT — of time grieving over that particular clusterfuck because it was very clear that everything that went wrong in that particular situation was a reflection of my personality.

So, in a sense, it’s failure was my failure.

Now, of course, I’m zooming towards being 50 and for no other reason than to simply justify air being in my lungs, I find myself struggling to figure out how I might live up to whatever remaining potential I may have.

The biggest obstacle is, of course, my age and lack of any particular career. So, there comes a point — right about now — when it is exceedingly difficult to imagine a situation where I will ever find any traditional success at all. Even if I do something that would otherwise merit it.

Now, I’ve spend the last few years making myself feel better by remembering that Stieg Larsson was 50 when he sold three novels. (He promptly died of a heart attack, but still.) But I have to admit to myself that there were some factors that helped him be a success in that situation that I very much don’t have.

He had a successful career as a journalist in the comparatively small nation of Sweden. So, it wasn’t like he was me, being a complete loser nobody in the middle of nowhere in a nation of 335 million souls. Also, there was probably an element of nationalism in why he got his first — and last — three novels published. The publisher probably saw what he wrote as a way to further Swedish culture.

Now, after adjusting to a severe learning curve, my both my writing and my storytelling has gotten significantly better. And, as such, I’m within shouting distance of not only not embarrassing myself with this first novel, but actually getting it published in a traditional manner.

But, still, even if I get this novel published and even if it’s a significant success, I’m not going to get what I want. It’s not like I can ever be young in New York City, no matter how successful I become. And, what’s worse, any success I have at this point given the context of what is going on will be couched in the context of my age and otherwise what a big loser I have been for much of my life.

It’s all very disheartening. The idea of there being an old age Even Horizon is not something that is clear until it’s too late. It’s not like I could start a career in any traditional field.

I’ve given all of this some thought and there are three ways that I might, despite my age, find a modicum of some “success” despite inherent ageism and the fact that I’ve been a big old loser for way, way too long.

  1. The Novel I’m Working On Becomes A Hit
    This is the one I’m hoping for a the moment. But, of course, even if I stick the landing, we’re probably talking me actually seeing “success” at some point in 2024, given the needs of post-production. I will be 51 and not only will my age be anything anyone wants to talk about, but the United States will be in the middle of the 2024 POTUS campaign silly season. And, as I keep saying, I have real concern that the United States in late 2024, early 2025 is going to either have a civil war or turn into an autocracy. That puts a real damper on my hopes for how long I might be able to enjoy the fruits of my success.
  2. Become a Successful Fashion Photographer
    This is one, while possible, is not very probable. Even though I have the innate talent, there are a lot of basic obstacles to this one, over and above my age. I can’t afford the equipment I feel I need to properly do the job. And I live in the middle of nowhere. For me to be able to pursue this career, I would need funds that I just, at the moment, don’t have. Obviously, something might change and I might get those funds suddenly and unexpectedly. For instance, if I sold my first novel and it was a huge success, then that would help me with my dream of being a fashion photographer. But there would remain the issue of my age. The idea that I’ve just waited too long and now things that I should have been able to do — like be a successful fashion photographer — I can’t do for the basic reason of my age is very troubling.
  3. Second American Civil War
    This is, in its own way, the darkest and least likely of these possibilities. I’m just working with what I know about myself and extrapolating what I might be able to do. I’m a good enough writer and public speaker that if we have a civil war, I might — like U.S. Grant — find some success after having been a drunk loser for a long time. This is a really bonkers idea, but, if nothing else, it gives me a little bit of hope that I might be able to unexpectedly find the success I feel I deserve.

    Anyway, if nothing else, I need to take more seriously the implications of my age. I’m not getting any younger and I really, really need to come to grips with the hold hard reality of what that means.

I Need To Visit NYC Again

by Shelt Garner

In the past, I used to visit New York City about once a quarter. It was the closest I could get to visiting Seoul and I was always a lot of fun. I love the city’s energy and visiting — and daydreaming about living there — was always a great way to stir my creative juices.

But, my financial situation has changed for the worst and I just can’t afford to go anymore. Yet that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about maybe one day falling into the money necessary to buy the equipment needed to become a fashion photographer and move to NYC to see if I could pull of such a hat trick. Of course, that’s being exceedingly delusional — I’m probably simply too old to start a successful fashion photographer career.

I can have all the talent in the world, but I’m old enough to know that simply having native talent isn’t enough. It takes time to “come out of nowhere” and I simply don’t have that much time left on the planet to get what I want. And, even if I “got what I wanted” the context would not be wanted I wanted.

Instead of, “Wow, this cool new fashion photographer is making building a career in NYC,” it would be, “Jesus Christ, this old guy thinks he can have a career in fashion photography.”

Whenever I think like this — which is often — I mope. Then I am reminded that my life is extremely quirky and ironic. And I’m a notorious late bloomer. So, allow myself to be delusional and think that maybe, just maybe things will break my way and I’ll be able to live the dream of both being a successful novelist and a successful fashion photographer.

I am well aware of how delusional that is, coming from someone with no career and pushing 50. But one man’s delusion is another man’s dream. People can be so cruel.

But the thing about it is, while there’s life, there’s hope. You have to believe in yourself. You never know when something unexpected might change everything and put you in a far better position than you might otherwise think possible.

Meanwhile. I miss New York City. I hope to live there full time one day before I drop dead. Though, obviously, my best bet — given my personality — would be to move to LA instead and try my luck there. But I really do love NYC.

I’m Old

by Shelt Garner

As I approach the milestone age of 50, I find myself dwelling, and even wallowing in, my own mortality. It’s clear that I have a limited number of time on this mortal coil and if I don’t do something of note soon then this is, well, is it. I will be only vaguely known for a failed expat magazine in Seoul.

I will leave material world unremembered and unloved.

So, I find myself trying to prioritize my time. I think that’s something that people my age do a lot, which is why it’s so difficult for us to date people younger than we are. When you’re in your 30s, it still doesn’t really register that you’re mortal and you could drop of a heart attack or a stroke at any moment.

I continue to want to get into fashion photography. But — and this is pretty deep — I’ve reached an age where the context of any success will be that I “was a success late in life.” It’s not like I have a career that lead any outsider to think, “Well, it’s obviously he would be a successful fashion photographer.”

All I have a hunch that I have a natural eye for beauty and, given the proper equipment, that I have a pretty good shot of becoming a photographer of note. Even though that is, obviously I am old. That’s probably the most jarring things about reaching my age — it slipped up on me. “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans,” is how John Lennon put it.

And this is very true.

Or, put another way, even if I get what I want, I won’t get what I want. Everything will be about how old I am and how I “came out of nowhere” to be a successful novelist or fashion photographer or both (hopefully.) I have just wasted way, way, way too much of my time grieving over ROKon Magazine and what happened in Seoul in general.

The key issue is, when such things are happening to you, you don’t really realize what’s going on. If I had a wife or a girlfriend to reflect my personality back to me, then maybe I would snapped out of my self-imposed mental jail a lot sooner.

But, you know, there comes a point when you can only mope about your lot in life for so long. I’m going to have to gird my loins for what is going to happen in my 50s sooner or later. When I’m feeling particularly optimistic, I think about how U.S. Grant was a drunk in the middle of nowhere for much of the 1850s until the Civil War gave him totally unexpected opportunities.

Then I do a gut check and think the only way I’d ever get that level of opportunity would be if, well, the end of the world came in some way — maybe via a Second American Civil War. And I definitely don’t want that. But I do believe there is a greater than zero chance that might happen.

Obviously, the more likely endgame would be autocracy. Then I have to figure out to avoid getting thrown out a helicopter by ICE.

No fate but what we make, as they say.

Yet Again, Am I Giving Myself Too Much Credit Thinking I Would Excel In New York City or Los Angeles?

by Shelt Garner

I’m drunk yet again. This time off of some very nice whiskey. Anyway, even though I’m An Old, I continue to idly daydream about how well I might do in a big city like NYC or LA.

As I keep saying, I think if I was forced to chose between the two cities, I would have to pick LA, even though in my heart I’m New Yorker. The only reason is, well, if you want to get all crass about it, I’m far more likely to get laid as a broke ass writer if I’m living in LA as opposed to New York City.

The question I have is, of course, am I giving myself too much credit? Am I’m making a mistake in reasoning when I extrapolate from my success in Seoul and try to apply it to a major city in the United States? I think the answer is yes to both. Yes, I am assuming more than is real AND, sometimes being delusional can go a long ways — especially somewhere like LA.

Even though I love, love, love, NYC, the metric for success there is VERY STRICT. You have to be wealthy, successful, powerful and, for men — have a huge fucking cock. I’m just a freaky little weirdo who is very extroverted and “colorful” when I get drunk.

As such, I think LA would probably be the place I land if I fall into a little bit of money at some point before I drop dead. I still believe that I have a career as a fashion photography lurking somewhere in me and, I think, a lot of the haters who grow very frustrated with me will be shocked at how I might spring out of “nowhere” at some point in the future, if not from selling a pretty good novel, then by becoming a reasonably successful fashion photographer.

But, for the moment, that’s all very much being delusional — the very type of stuff that makes those of you playing the home game very frustrated and angry with me. “If you think you have such talent, just get a fucking job and buy the equipment!” you say, etc. I’m an eccentric. When the time comes and I can afford the photographic equipment I need, then I’ll get it.

If I end up just dropping dead before then, oh well.

Of Fashion Photography & Me

by Shelt Garner

As of right now, mapping out my remaining 30 to 40 years of existence (if I’m lucky) I would say if I’m ever going to live up to my “potential” it’s going be by writing and selling a novel (or six.) The thing I know I have an innate ability to do — take a damn good photo — requires equipment that I just don’t have and can’t afford. And I live in the wrong place. I have the wrong background. I’m too old, the list goes on.

And, yet, if there’s one thing I’ve learned is my life is very quirky and strange things happen to me for strange reason. I also know that I’m 100% extroverted and am an excellent “schmoozer” — especially when intoxicated. (The usual caveats about every drunk thinking they’re the funniest person in the room obviously apply.)

As such, I occasionally pause and think about what might happen if I managed to get the funds necessary to buy the photographic equipment necessary to start a career as a professional photographer. I don’t really know the grammar of photography, but I have an eye for beauty, if you will. I know how to tell a story with a picture, in other words.

A sample of my work.

If the stars were to align and I was able to not only get the photographic equipment I needed but was able to at least attempt to start a new life in, say, New York City, there’s a pretty good chance that I could be a moderately successful fashion photographer.

I would want to be a fashion photographer because I love beauty and what could be more beautiful than to take high qualities photos of beautiful women in beautiful clothes for a living? It’s my impression — I think — that my personal photographic god Helmut Newton was older when he started taking pictures for a living.

I’m not comparing myself to him, of course, but I need some hope from somewhere.

What’s more, I’m a big enough kook that I would probably fit right in with the larger-than-life figures found all throughout the fashion world.

But all of that is really dreaming a lot. And, yet, dreaming is free. And for that, I’m thankful.

‘Dreaming Is Free’

by Shelt Garner

I’m not getting any younger. And, in fact, something pretty dramatic will have to happen pretty soon for me not to simply continue to drift in oblivion until I shuffle off this mortal coil.

Me, when I was a man on fire on Seoul.

But stranger things have happened, as they say.

I could sell this novel I’m working on and it become a huge success so I finally have the cash I need to make some of my many dreams come true. Or, I could fall into some cash and finally have enough to buy the photographic equipment I need to start a career in fashion photography. Or, far, far, far, far, far less likely, I could win the lottery one day. (Talk about dreaming being free!)

Anyway, in a sense, it’s just sad that I’m 20 years too old to make my dreams come true. Because I know that if you plopped me in New York City or LA that I would become quite well known pretty quick. NYC would be a lot more difficult than LA because the metrics by which success are measured are so brutal. You can’t simply schmooze your way to success in NYC like you can in LA. You need actual success, a lot of money, good looks and, in the case of being a man, a huge cock. (They called him Mr. Big for a reason, don’t you know.)

My late partner in crime while in Seoul, Annie Shapiro and me back at the height of ROKon Magazine’s success.

But the thing that for a number of years has made me very unhappy is I learned a lot about the “meta” of running a publication when I did ROKon Magazine in Seoul. I know, just know, that given any sort of opportunity that I could change the world.

This type of talk is boring now, after all these days. If I think I’m so great and wonderful, why don’t I simply save up the money to go to NYC or LA and put my theory to the test.

That, of course, is what I should do.

The first issue of ROKon Magazine.

But I suppose there are a number of different reasons why I haven’t — to date — done this. One is, I would want to land in NYC on my own terms. So, trying to be a fashion photographer in NYC is something I think I could probably pull off — but I also would want the proper equipment to do it right. Add to this that I’m 20 years too old to start any of this and I’m something of an eccentric when it comes to what I’m willing to do for money and…well, there you go.

I suppose if you were being a dick about it, you could say that all my talk about pulling of another ROKon Magazine, only in NYC or LA says more about me continuing to grieve over what happened with the magazine than any statement on my ability.

I just know that I learned so much about the meta of running of media company while in Seoul that it’s a shame that I probably will never get to use it — ever. And if that happens, it’s going to be my own damn fault.

Has Anna Wintour Lost Her Touch?

by Shelt Garner

Let me be clear — I’m a middle aged CIS white male living in oblivion in the middle of nowhere. No need to listen to me on anything, much less Anna Wintour.


But as someone who has aspirations to be a fashion photographer (one day) I do keep less-than-casual tabs on the front cover of Vogue Magazine. The last year or so, I’ve noticed how…blah…the magazine’s front covers have become, especially in the context of British Vogue.

I really like this one.

British Vogue continues to give us the feminine spectacle we have come to assume is standard with a Vogue cover. Some of the British Vogue covers really are great and make your eyes light up with joy when you see them. American Vogue covers, meanwhile, are rather drab in comparison.

What the what?

Anyway, Anna Wintour is now 72 years old and, logically, she would retire and let the editor of British Vogue take over. But we all know that’s not how the real world works. Wintour remains a very powerful icon in the fashion industry and she is a spry 72, so she could probably keep her vise grip on American Vogue for at least another decade.

Or she could fired, which would be one of the most shocking events in modern magazine publishing if it happened.

Regardless, no one listens to me. I suppose if there’s a coup and the editor of British Vogue takes over the flagship Conde Nast magazine that my long-time celebrity crush Alexa Chung would have a new, an unexpected “in” with American Vogue. British Vogue seems to really like Ms. Chung.

Idle, Drunk Daydreaming About Being A Fashion Photographer

by Shelt Garner

I have to accept that I’m an Old. I’m past the Even Horizon when it comes to any success I might have being done under the “normal” routine. This fact is so deep to me that it sometimes washing across my mind and stops me cold. Even if I eventually get the success I believe I’m capable of — which is debatable at this point — the context will be all out of whack.

I could be a fashion photographer, given the opportunity.

Instead of gradually paying my dues and becoming a success like a normal fucking person, I’ll seemingly “come out of nowhere” as an “Old.” If I become a such a success that I catch the eye of the press, that’s all they’ll want to know — “How does it feel being a sudden success as an Old.”

At the moment, there are two potential ways I might realistically become such a success — writing and photography.

I’ve spent the last few years working on a six novel project and it’s going really well. I’m pleased with where things stand and I feel I just have to be patient and there’s a reasonable chance that I will get within shouting distance of selling a novel. Or, put another way, I now know how I develop and write a novel and there’s a pretty good chance that I might sell a novel before I drop dead.

Meanwhile, there’s photography.

In a sense, I like photography more than writing because the reaction is instant and a good or great photograph is self-evident. But there is the problem of being able to afford buying the equipment. And that, to date, has been a real problem for me. I’ve been very poor for a very long time.

Great shot of mine.

The point is — I’ll put a move on you.

There’s a greater-than-zero chance that should something happen and my financial situation change rather abruptly that I’m going to suddenly have a career in photography. And given I love women and I love beauty, that would lead me to the sweetspot of fashion photography.

But, at the moment at least, all of that is just daydreaming. If you are using an sort of traditional metrics to judge my potential fate, well, lulz, you have every reason to ignore all of this and, I don’t know, be a smug successful liberal in a major urban area.

And, yet, people always underestimate me. Always. As long as there’s life, there’s hope.

Existential Angst On The Cusp Of 50

by Shelt Garner

“You have potential,” the late Annie Shapiro told me in her last email to me before she died some time later. I find myself thinking a lot about those words as I careening towards my…gulp…50th birthday.

The late Annie Shapiro and me, back when I was young and cute and people cared.

I also find myself thinking of two people. One is U.S. Grant. He was a big old loser for a number of the years leading up to the Civil War. It was only because of the crisis of the Civil War that he was able to rise to the occasion and not just lead the nation to victory, but to become president.

The other person I find myself thinking of at this moment in my life is Stieg Larsson. As I understand it, he was 50 when he sold three thriller novels only to promptly drop dead of a heart attack.

I continue to work on a project that is planned to be six novels. I hope to wrap up at least the first novel at least during the year of my 50th birthday. I had hoped to have something sold BY my 50th birthday, but that, sadly, is not going to happen.

Anyway, what have I learned in my nearly half-century of existance?

This could have been me.

One of the key things I’ve learned is that I’m not only a late bloomer, but I’m far more creative than I imagined for much of my younger life. It took me going to South Korea to realize that I have a number of talents that I could have exploited had I realized I had them when I was 20 years younger. But, in a sense, some pretty dramatic changes would have to be made to my personal history for that to happen.

So, here we are.

Almost 50 and living in oblivion.

I suppose there’s still time pull things through. And, yet, if you’re a single man like me without kids you don’t really have any initiation rights for the different, new stages of your life. You just wake up one day, go to a bar and realize the cute female bartender you’re talking is old enough to be your daughter. Then you grimace and try to extricate yourself from the situation without embarrassing yourself anymore than you already have.

Emma Chamberlain is so young.

What do I think my chances are of living up to my “potential?” Good question. There is one talent I have over and above writing that I could probably leverage into success later in life: photography.

I’m a damn good photographer.

I’m an excellent photographer, good enough that I could become a professional fashion photographer under the right circumstances. I would have to fall into a little bit of money to be able to afford the equipment, but other than that, I have the innate talent necessary to get a lot farther down that creative path than you might think.

The key issue is, of course, that whatever success I might get at this point will be framed in the context of how old I am. The sweetspot for success is somewhere around your early 30s. If you’re 20 years older than that, every news story about you will be frame in the context of how fucking old you are because that’s the obvious hook — look at the old dude who managed to become a success later in life when everyone else is thinking of retiring.


But I’ve always been a late bloomer. Always. But something about what happened to me in South Korea blew out an emotional knee in my mind and it’s taken me way, way, way, way too long to get past it.

And, yet, in a sense, I finally have. But I’m still broke as hell and drifting through life, even if the seeds of potential success have been sown.

‘Manifesting Destiny’

by Shelt Garner

Occasionally, I’ll feel a sense of dread, or just the feeling that Something Big is about to happen. Sometimes, it’s nothing. Other times, I fucking break my ankle.

I generally think gambling is the devil’s business, but I’m so desperately poor and it fits into my general belief that I’m special and destined for some sort of quirky greatness (wink) that I do, on occasion play the lottery.

I probably spend way too much brain power thinking what I would do with a sudden, significant windfall. The last time I checked, Mega Millions was up to $600 million. That may have changed recently, but I’m too lazy to double check.

Anyway, in my effort to manifest me winning the lottery, here is what I would do with all that sweet, sweet cash if I somehow miraculously won it.

  1. Move To A Big City
    The first thing I would do is become one of those smug bi-costal people who humble brag about taking the Red Eye for this or that reason. With a few hundred million dollars to play with, I would buy two places to live — one in NYC and one in LA.
  2. Start A Publication
    With all that money, I would hit the ground running. I would, I don’t know, buy The Village Voice brand or something. Or think up a new name. But whatever it was called, I would throw some money into starting a publication in the tradition of Spy and Gawker. Building this new media empire would consume my life, just like ROKon Magazine in Seoul did.
  3. Hire Research Assistants For The Novels
    I would continue to develop and write six novels, but I would hire a few research assistants to lighten the load and make the end product much, much better.
  4. Be A Bon Vivant
    Rather than be one of those lottery winners that flamed out, I would be like Mark Cuban who, if we’re honest, pretty much just won the lottery when he sold to Yahoo for $1 billion back in the day. I would become an insufferable media personality that was always shooting my mouth off and doing weird, interesting things for the same of doing weird, interesting things.
  5. Start A Dive Bar
    I would find a small venue somewhere cool in NYC and start a dive bar like Nori in Seoul where I used to DJ. I would be the DJ on the weekends and it would be really cool. Sort of a Studio 54 meets CBGBs vibe.
  6. Become A Fashion Photographer
    I would throw money into buying all the equipment I need and then figure out how to become a fashion photographer. I have the talent, I just am very, very, very poor and if that changed in a big way then I would make myself known in the fashion industry.

    None of this, of course, is ever going to happen. It’s just a daydream. I suppose if I sold my novel and it was A HUGE SUCCESS then some of the above might, eventually happen. But I wouldn’t count on it.

    For the time being, at least, I’m reasonably content living in oblivion.