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New York Frame of Mind…..

Nov 6

In News at 10:57am

Yankees won. Cool. I’ve been a Yankee fan before I even knew anything about NY. We lived in Cleveland when I was a kid, and my dad would only bring me to the ballpark when those damn Yankees were playing. He brought me down to the third base seats and Casey Stengel was standing in the coaches box. My dad yelled, “Hey Case!” Stengel was standing there, thumbs hooked in his belt, and gave me a wink and a quick wave. Been a Yankee fan ever since, though, like Yogi, I did have a hard time liking anybody in pinstripes back when The Boss was in full cry.

Corny, right? But hey, it was the 50’s. In Cleveland.

Big sports stuff in NY last weekend. The Iggles handed the Giants their heads and other parts of their anatomy, and the NYC Marathon was won for the first time in a long time by somebody whose address isn’t the Rift Valley. I spent 3 weeks in this astonishingly beautiful place for the National Geographic when I was doing a story for them on the limits of the human body. (Though now that Usain Bolt is running, we should re-define those limits. That guy’s amazing.)


The sheer beauty of these athletes was breathtaking. While running, their upper bodies remained virtually motionless, while their legs, seemingly unattached and thus unburdened by the weight of a torso, would pinwheel endlessly through the countryside. Mesmerizing.


I lived at one of the camps up there for a bit, and would get up for pre-dawn workouts with literally dozens and dozens of runners. It would be so dark in this tiny Kenyan village, virtually bereft of electricity, with only the pale pre-glow sky to see by, that the runners would simply be moving, stretching ghosts, barely discernible.


I stood out there with them in the clutter of the street, watching them get ready, using broken walls and gates to push and pull against, warming their muscles in the chill, windmilling their arms amidst the standing pools of water, and the occasional gaggle of scurrying chickens. Naturally, I was out of place, being the only white guy, and the only one out there who had any body fat. So I would attempt conversation, as one does when one is the lone photog in an alien environment, desperately trying to fit in, make a bridge, seek even the remotest shred of acceptance.

They were invariably polite and congenial. I remember one conversation that went roughly like this.

“Hi, yeah, I’m shooting this story, runners are part of it. Do you run professionally? Do you compete?”

“Oh, yes, I do.”

“Great. Do you compete just in Kenya, or do you run in international events?”

“Oh, yes, I run internationally.”

“Cool. What’s your event?”

“Oh, I run the half marathon mostly.”

“Great, that’s really great. Do you do okay with that? Is it a good event for you?’

“Yes, not too bad. I set the world record for the half marathon last year in Amsterdam.”

“Oh, yeah, well that’s really good, you know, uh, great. Don’t mind me, I’m just, you know, a complete ass, you know, uh, yeah. Like, uh, you see that cow turd over there in the street? Yeah, well, that’s my cousin….”

In the shadows of this downtrodden village in Kenya, amidst the garbage, the mud and the wandering cows, there were probably about 4 or 5 world record holders at various distances. What a wonderful and surprising world.


You know, I have an amazing wife. She is so wonderfully patient, sweet and kind. She weathered the storm this week of one of those modern rituals of maintenance….the dreaded colonoscopy. Hey, it’s a good thing…..afterwards.

Of course I complained. Understandable, right? I wanted to cancel, but I got the eyebrow. The word “reschedule” was barely out of my mouth when Annie’s left eyebrow hit her hairline with the speed of a bottle rocket.

So I went and got all the stuff. Then of course, I misread the directions. Oops! According to this protocol, at certain times, I was supposed to take 2 Gas-x pills, and then 4 of the Dulcosomething or others. (Could they give these things more attractive names?)

Anyway, I got it transposed, and I took 4 Gas-x pills, which is the limit of what you are supposed to ingest in an entire 24 hour period. Seeing as I’m a bit of a dirigible anyway, Annie got very concerned. Actually, she rolled her eyes first, then got concerned.

She insisted on calling the pharmacist, even though I told her it would be okay. I didn’t make the call easier for her by inflating my cheeks and popping my eyes like a giant blowfish every time she looked over at me. She was doing the right thing of course, just being safe. It would be embarrassing to have a death certificate that read, “Overdose of Gas-x.”

I was halfway surprised the pharmacist didn’t tell her to immediately drop the phone and grab a clothesline and tie it to my ankle, lest I bumble out the porch door like an out of control Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float. If I had, she woulda needed to call the police, and before you know it, they would’ve been diverting valuable resources like choppers and stuff to search for me.

“Chopper One, I got him. He just cleared the power lines up here on I-84. He’s gaining altitude. And I think he’s gotten a little bigger. There’s some wind up here (ouch!) and he may be headed for the approach patterns at LaGuardia. Request instructions.”

Oh well, I made it through. Got wheeled into the exam room, half blotto, and evidently the crew had been informed of my pressurized mistake, cause they were all wearing flak jackets, just in case.

More tk….

Mark says:

on November 6, 2009 at 11:09 am

That last photo really sings.

And as for the rest…heheh…hope everything came out ok…

Richard Haber says:

on November 6, 2009 at 11:19 am


Thanks for letting Annie force you to be a grownup and take this critical precaution for long life. Doesn’t matter what the prep entails, it’s much better for us than mourning the loss of a loved one. Plus it’s sort of like a day off, albeit on a short tether…


Lucca says:

on November 6, 2009 at 11:33 am

Hey Joe,

Another great post – I couldn’t stop laughing!

Jeff Snyder says:

on November 6, 2009 at 11:37 am

You fuuny man you

Antoine says:

on November 6, 2009 at 11:40 am

your blog is priceless. Thanks for sharing… everything :)
hope your exams will bring good news (can it really happen?)

joe says:

on November 6, 2009 at 11:50 am

congrats on the yankee$. as a phillies fan, and a firm believer that all sports teams AND POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS should be financially capped, i was… less than enthused. still very proud of my team though.

i found it odd today that i was reading half of a page about a colonoscopy story on a photography blog. but i still read it. it confirmed what i already knew. you are a very gifted writer as well as a photog. like a double threat, or double edge sword, or even a spork. anyways, i’m glad everything worked out (or in) for ya.


Tyler Green says:

on November 6, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Man can I relate to being a cow turd.

Matt says:

on November 6, 2009 at 12:05 pm

As a family doctor (and serious amateur photog) I’m crying with laughter. Thanks for making my day Joe.

Fred M. says:

on November 6, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Joe, fantastic story regarding the Kenyan runners.
being from the Philly suburbs I was sad to see the Phills loose.

the last 3 paragraphs of your post literally had me in tears. I can completely visualize an over inflated out of control Joe McNally parade float and boy, is it ever a humorous vision.
hope all goes well!

pk says:

on November 6, 2009 at 12:37 pm


What a story? I was laughing uncontrollably in my cube trying to make sure in my cube at work not to overdo it or heard…..

Thank you for good hearty laugh….

Ranger 9 says:

on November 6, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I think I speak for everyone here in saying this is one time when we DO NOT want to see pics!!!

Did you talk to the doc about how s/he lights the inside of a colon? It’s kind of interesting — strictly flat and “on-camera,” but I’ll bet not even Joe McNally would want an assistant maneuvering little tiny reflectors around in there to get better shadow fill…

Joe H says:

on November 6, 2009 at 12:39 pm

“More tk….” ? Please, no! Already way too much info on gastronomy! Moving right along…

Jo says:

on November 6, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Tears on my check ๐Ÿ˜‰

JohnS says:

on November 6, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Let me guess, as it turned out, you were hiding in the attic of the garage.

Dan Ward says:

on November 6, 2009 at 12:51 pm

You did it to me again. Like PK above, it’s hard on us cube farmers to keep things on the down low. I’m seriously going to have to wait till I get home to read these posts. F U N N Y G U Y.

Kurt Shoens says:

on November 6, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Scariest part of a colonoscopy: the pre-procedure grilling they give you about your prep. The last thing you want to hear is, “Uh, no, sorry. You did it wrong and now you’ll have to do it again.”

The procedure itself is nothing. The undignified part is obliterated under a haze of conscious sedation.

Brandon Burnett says:

on November 6, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Love your photos and your humor!

RBD says:

on November 6, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I would think that’s a normal dosage for a Yankee fan…
(I coulda’ used an Ed McMahon “Hey-o!” right there)

Glad it all “turned out” ok, though.

Todd W says:

on November 6, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Joe 1, Laptop 0. You need disclaimers on your posts. I was enjoying a nice lunch and thought hey, let’s see if Mondo made another post. Needless to say, I laughed so hard that my laptop is now decorated with a turkey sandwich! You made my day McNally

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on November 6, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Joe, you push the bounds with her understanding. Not only did you do it, then you write about it, and well, we know you a bit too well.

From your airplane series on the use of the brown paper bags, I am surprised that you did not try to schedule a quick flight in between. The person in the seat next to you would have appreciated it. You know, Mongo.

All the best. Remember, flowers help when you are trying to explain what you did or said.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

kathyt says:

on November 6, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Mr. McNally
You are a riot–a hysterical one! You make us all laugh and most of us could use a lot of that. Plus you share all you good photog stuff. Thanks again for just being you! Please give Annie an extra hug she needs it, I am sure.

Jeremy H says:

on November 6, 2009 at 9:29 pm


Dude. Too much information.

Back to the Kenyan runners, please. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Arnold Klein says:

on November 6, 2009 at 10:37 pm


As always thanks for the images and the stories. Hopefully everyone will take to heart the real value of getting that part of their bod checked out. As uncomfortable as drinking that crap (pun intended) is, it is much better than the alternative. Those who avoid this checkup risk losing years of viewing your wonderful images and your great sense of humor.

Thanks for the inspiring imagery. I mean the photos of course.


TrevJ says:

on November 7, 2009 at 10:28 am

In baseball parlance, you, my friend are what they call a double threat รขโ‚ฌโ€ you can shoot AND write like a sonofabitch. Okay, probably a triple threat, cause I’m guessing you can read too!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Hans van de Vorst says:

on November 7, 2009 at 10:28 am

Great stuff Joe, had a big laugh thank you for that. Had the same “check” experience with a book of mine as well. Now feels like a shared burden :) Great light and drama in that last shot. Tops (and I know there’s more tk…).

Sherri B says:

on November 7, 2009 at 10:44 am

Joe – While reading your story – I had visions of you imploding, not exploding — Gas X? LOL Might make for a “Skinny Day” as us girls call it.

I love the humor! Have you photoshopped a halo on your wife yet? Might be a nice gift…

Cindy Farr-Weinfeld says:

on November 7, 2009 at 10:45 am

Another great post, Joe–even down to the colonoscopy details–very funny! And of course those pictures of the runners are absolute art and priceless. I can’t decide which one I like better. . . Nice work, as always! Cindy

Gerry Daniel says:

on November 7, 2009 at 10:54 am

Your posts are always informative and entertaining. This particular post hits close to home for a lot of reasons. I appreciate the time you take to share your experiences.

I had one fleeting moment to meet you in Santa Fe in February 2009. I was attending a week long workshop being taught by Eddie Soloway. I should have taken the opportunity to say hello but I didn’t want to be intrusive. Next time, I will take the chance.


Michael Wiesman says:

on November 7, 2009 at 11:10 am

Great stories! I too was a runner back in the day, running my little legs till they would feel like they had to fall off. I saw a few of those guys running at a few marathon events and to see the size of them, along with how fast they were moving….looking so effortless was inspirational for me as a cross country (chicken chaser).

Just wanted to throw you some props on that last photo in the post for what its worth. Great capture and as a runner I can relate to it, waking up early…..and running all freakin’ day.

I have a t-shirt still from my high school running days that says it best, “Runners. Yea, we’re different.”

Bruce says:

on November 7, 2009 at 11:56 am

Good thing you were out during the procedure. I can picture you trying to get them to shove a couple of Speedlights up there for better lighting (this could be Joe’s book #3 — Interior Lighting the McNally Way.

Tina Blum says:

on November 7, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I can totally relate to the Kenyan runners story. In the early 90’s, I was in NY for work during the U.S. Open. I shared an elevator with a young lady who was carrying a tennis gear bag. I asked if she played. She said “yes, some.” The next day I see a pic of her on the front of the sports page…Stefi Graf! I’m a dork!

Thanks for the colonoscopy story…laughed til I cried!

Malinda Hartong says:

on November 7, 2009 at 3:22 pm

i have so many tears in my eyes i cant see to type. Poor Annie!

Tyler Vance says:

on November 7, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Ain’t colos fun!

Kinda give a new meaning to “fill flahs”


lisa m says:

on November 7, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Hi Joe. Hope everything came “out” okay. Sorry, the door was just sooo wide open! Awesome pics, as usual.

Will Brenner says:

on November 7, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I saw Stan Musial the same way in the same era. It was at the Polo Grounds in New York.

Arthur Hawkins says:

on November 8, 2009 at 1:24 am

Joe, I used a number of things I learned at your seminar two weeks ago in DC for shoots I had last week, and today. You really know how to get your camera in a lot of places, keep pushing the boundaries…

Mario says:

on November 8, 2009 at 10:47 am

Ah the dreaded colonoscopy you’re getting old Joe.

But, that’s never stopped you anyways. Grin.

Roger Botting says:

on November 8, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Colonoscopies are so much fun, the mediacl biz revenge for us not dying early.
The Doctor looked and acted like Lesley Neilson in Airplane, the the sweet young thing who was his assistant. Well being naked form the waist down would be desirable except she was laughing at me with 10 feet of rubber hose sticking out my ass! And my stomach felt like I was rehearsing for a scene from Aliens.
Well I have had worse days.
Joe, hope you at least looked at the TV screen as the doctor explored your inner you!

Billy Mitchell says:

on November 8, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Stay cool! We think of you often.

JR says:

on November 8, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Dear mr McNally,

are you trying to convince us that “half blotto” is not your normal self?

Nice try!

Dianne says:

on November 8, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Joe, so let me see if I have this right? You had a colonoscopy with all of the associated trauma and then you flew to LA to do Location Lighting for Kelby Training……what a brave boy!
You actually seemed somewhat normal (for Joe) on Friday — I don’t recall any references to medical procedures bordering on torture — you totally missed the “location, location, location” lighting possibilities on that one.
At any rate, you did good…..both to have the test (we need you around for a long time) and to share your talent with us. THX.

Rob Trubia says:

on November 8, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Best laugh I’ve had in a long time, thanks Joe!

bill frakes says:

on November 9, 2009 at 12:29 am

The portrait of the runner stretching is absolutely breathtaking.

Do you ever rest?

ed linn says:

on November 9, 2009 at 9:56 am

what a great post today.
awesome images and laughs til it hurts.
thanks for sharing.

Dan says:

on November 9, 2009 at 11:50 am

Great post all around and I laughed quite hard.

cindy williams says:

on November 10, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Thank you for putting art, elegance,humanity and humility in all your work. Enjoy the bump to first class you’ve earned it….

JayB says:

on November 11, 2009 at 3:44 am

LOL. Funny. I just woke up the family laughing. You’re a gas. Now I have to apologize to the family and get the kids back to bed. Thank Joe.

liisa says:

on November 13, 2009 at 2:55 am

For some reason I can hear Maisel: “McNally! What the hell you doing heading over to LaGuardia? You think there’s a better story over there? Get your ass down here!”

Thanks Joe. While others only give us the story behind the photo, you give us the story behind the man behind the photo.

Martha Benedict says:

on November 16, 2009 at 12:26 pm

You are too gifted. Writing turns out to be one of the other great things you do. The Miami Herald humor columnist Dave Berry is looking over his shoulder. You’ll enjoy his comments in a similar vein.

Doug Jantz says:

on November 27, 2009 at 10:19 am

I am thankful you take time to show us some of your behind the scenes setup and how it plays out. Encourages us to go out and step off the pier and try new things, see what happens and learn!

Blessings for the next year!!


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