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Shop ‘til you chop
by Nathan Orme
Dec 06, 2008 | 601 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Joan Galt
By Joan Galt
Christmas is the time of year when we hit the stores, flash our credit cards like samurai swords, slash them through the consoles at lots of cash registers and bring home gifts for friends and family. This year, though, the Yuletide ninjas are keeping their plastic blades sheathed and doing a lot less shopping. Seems the economy has put a dull edge on their American Express cards so they can’t slice their way through the price tags like they used to. Either that or a lot of swordsmiths have repossessed their products from ninjas who couldn’t pay their bills.

OK, I’ve stretched that metaphor to the breaking point.

Another holiday shopping tradition observed by many of us will also surely be curbed by the necessary penny pinching this year. Besides the gifts we normally buy for other people, all of us have plopped a gift or two or ten for ourselves in the cart. You know, the thing we want that we’re sure no one will buy so we should just go ahead and get it for ourselves. Maybe it’s that season of our favorite TV show and that 50-inch LCD television to watch it on. Heck, that gift to ourselves might even get wrapped and put under the tree and labeled as being “From Santa” so we can open it Christmas morning. As the gift is passed to us, or in the case of the aforementioned TV, forklifted, we can feign surprise and gasp, “Gee, I wonder what this could be!” Tearing away the paper and revealing the package underneath, we then exclaim, “Oh, it’s exactly what I wanted!”

Now that’s Christmas.

In years past, my wife observed this tradition for both of us. Somehow, Santa always knew exactly what she wanted. This year, however, the Easter Bunny brought me divorce papers, so carrying on this tradition is now my task. Having always been more of a Scrooge when it comes to holiday purchases, buying for myself is like fruitcake: the possibility is there but I never partake. But once again, this year is different and it’s time to try acting like Bob Cratchit.

For a few months, thoughts of a new camera and a high-speed lens have been dancing through my head. Photography has been a passion of mine for a long time and the past few years have provided me a legitimate business excuse to buy some real photo gear. My needs thus far have been pretty simple, but with my job at the Tribune and my aspirations for side work, the relatively inexpensive starter equipment that has been adequate so far is now lacking. Fellow photophiles know that it takes some pricey pieces to shoot good concert or sports images. But having been a good boy this year and made a few hundred bucks in side jobs, the rationalization was there to spend several times what I earned on a new toy or two.

First, though, another task: acquire a credit card strictly for business purposes. Until now, one card has pulled double duty for personal and work purchases. Separating the two makes record-keeping much easier, so one afternoon I picked up the phone to call about getting a new piece of plastic.

In the past, this task has been easy. With impeccable credit to my name, companies usually fall all over themselves to extend me a line that would take me two lifetimes to repay. This time, however, the man on the phone didn’t say, “Mr. Orme, we’d like to offer you a card with limit of $10 million and a personal shopper to help you spend it.” He actually grilled me on my income and expenses. It was a little scary how much he was able to find out about my finances in the time it took to get “Danke Schoen” stuck in my head while on hold. To my surprise and relief, he still gave me the card and with just enough of a limit to be dangerous. What people are saying about the tightening credit market must be true. It was still a bit of a surprise, especially remembering how eager a lender was a year and a half ago to loan me a quarter-million dollars to buy a house on a completely fabricated income.

Lucky for me, selling my house in Southern California to a family that probably had an equally unscrupulous lender got me out from underneath a loan situation that ought to be illegal.

With hard-earned credit in hand, I was off to the photo store. Not only was the lens of my dreams waiting on the shelf with its sensual curves to tempt me, it had a friend in a glass case: a nearly new Nikon D300 for $600 off regular price. As I averted my eyes from the total on the receipt, the nice lady at the store took my card, swiped it, neatly packaged up my new Nikon toys in Canon bags (blasphemy, I know!) and I was on my way. You see, spoiling myself was only part of the point of this purchase. Optimism has been a buzz word among politicians trying to save face and among retailers trying to save their backsides. We all just have to have optimism and keep the wheels to commerce spinning no matter how deafening their squeak is right now. If we all do that, everything will be OK.

So, with optimism as my guide, I did my part to bolster the economy. The promise I made to myself is to make a weekly effort to post an ad or do something to try and get side jobs making money with my camera. It doesn’t matter if it’s taking pictures of an old lady’s cat or a new mom’s screaming brat, as long as it makes a buck and the shutter clicks then it will do. Maybe it’s a natural part of my disposition to be optimistic, but things are sure to turn around and when they do I want to be ready to live my dream of having a photo business.

My new gear got a test run Thursday night at The Saddle Tramps show at John Ascuaga’s Nuget, and soon some of them will be posted at so you can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at them. And as soon as the layoffs stop, no doubt you’ll see my images appearing in Rolling Stone or the New York Times. Just wait and see.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear a swordsmith knocking on my door. My credit card is dull already and needs to be sharpened.

Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at
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