If You Run From Your Ghosts You’ll Never Find Out What They Want – By Gerard Exupery

Sandy Hook is a barrier spit in Middletown Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey. It’s about 60 miles from where I live. Most of the peninsula  was at one time part of Fort Hancock. There they tested munitions that were to be used on Navy Ships. It was decommissioned in the early ’70s, and not much has been done with it since.

Sandy Hook was turned into public beaches, so there is lots of company if you want that sort of thing during the summer. But once the season is over, you will find very few people wandering around. While there has been an effort to preserve Fort Hancock’s buildings for some future purpose, for the most part, it is a lonely unvisited place. Of the many times that I have been there, I only once saw a car on the shore road and never ran into another human being.

On Christmas day, at 0530, I found myself again on this little island, just the fog and me. It’s not that I dislike people. Not at all. I just like my solitude to appreciate them better.

Shore Road Fort Hancock NJ

This place is filled with ghosts. Bring your own along, and it turns into the ghost subway at rush hour.

Alone while taking pictures (which is how I like it), I kept being interrupted by conversations from years ago and thoughts about things I might have done differently. I kept thinking, “Will you please shut up!”.

I lifted the camera and took this snap-in anger and shame (I guess that’s why my eyes are closed). It brought me back to the reality of my being right there… as old as I was feeling and still being followed around by a few unsatisfied ghosts.

Christmas Day

For someone who doesn’t particularly like “spooky” situations, I do find myself in them with some regularity.
I hate being afraid. I’m a person who has spent their life-fighting anxiety over imaginary things with reasonably good success. So, when something causes me to become nervous, I usually just walk straight in. But, this age thing I hadn’t prepared myself for very well. Last May, I turned 65, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t proud of my age; I replied when asked that I was 59. I would see the lie as I was saying it and make a mental note to examine it at some future point and avoid doing so as long as possible.

Looking in the LCD, I accepted those things that I had done, both good and bad, which I had avoided coming to terms with. And I had grown so damn tired of thinking about fearing growing older.

Wow, that’s really me,” I surprised myself by being OK with it. Every one of those wrinkles and scars comes with an interesting story.  Suprised also because I looked as if I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards.*

I emailed it to a woman I had been flirting with in Poland who had no idea what I looked like; I was OK with it. My ex-wife said I looked like I had been punched in both eyes or I was wearing eyeliner. The truth was I hadn’t slept much in the last 48 hours. That time of year doesn’t have the best of memories attached to it.

So my Christmas present to myself this year was a self-portrait. Not as pretty as some, not as ugly as others but definitely me.

*Anne Lamott


Help Me Print “Women Hold Up Half The Sky” my Second Book.

My book ‘Subway New York City ‘1975-1985’ is available on Etsy.

Gerard Exupery Website

Gerard Exupery has been a New York City Street Photographer for 40 years, He attended the School of Visual Arts and studied with Lisette Model at The New School. He has also worked as an oil rig roustabout, a photographer’s assistant, custom printer, motorcycle mechanic, audio engineer, video engineer, producer, and Mr. Mom.  Exupery also drove a New York City taxi which he considers his post-graduate work.

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7 thoughts on “If You Run From Your Ghosts You’ll Never Find Out What They Want – By Gerard Exupery”

  1. ummm….Sandy Hook is not an island, and the fort is a very popular place during most of the year (surf fishing, especially). There are trails from the parking lots. I suppose at 5:30am on Christmas Day in NJ, not many people will be out. But later on that day they will. And they are friendly, even during COVID, because outdoors people understand taking risk as well as the importance of socializing for mental health.

    Nice photo…love the tones. I’m 60, and can assure you that mixing with others who are living their own lives will lighten your outlook… I’ve often thought NJ could use more camera clubs…they are a perfect opportunity to mic with all ages, at different experience & skill levels. And Sandy Hook is a great spot for outings…the sea wall casts awesome shadows, you get sunrises on a schedule, and so many structures to explore (under both sides of the bridge, the fort, the points (NW & NE), overgrown battlements…

    1. I’m glad you liked the pictures. Thank you. I always thought it was actually an island. I stand corrected and have changed it in my piece. I have never been there during the summer as I am not insane. I usually go just before sunrise and leave before 0900 during the late fall, winter, and early spring.

  2. Lovely images, Gerard! I think it’s quite brave that you move towards your anxiety and not away from it. For me personally, that’s the best and most lasting way to dispel it. It never really ends though, does it?

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