Friday, November 17, 2017

The Most Dangerous Man



Did you hear about men?  Oh, yea.

I just deleted the rest of that.  Some things are time sensitive.  It will all shake out, I guess.  We'll have to wait and see.

Still. . . mortal and venial sins.  I'm not one to talk about that as my knowledge of Christianity comes from "Paradise Lost."  As a practicing Existentialist reformed by post-structuralism, I find more absurdity in the cosmos than many do.  In fact, I find practically nothing but absurdity, so I am probably the last (or first) person you would choose as your Life Coach.

"Did your parents practice corporal punishment on you?"

I'm going through what I imagine to be a difficult time in my life right now but which probably isn't.  No, not probably.  It just doesn't give me a lot of joy.  But I'm learning to fall back on my old Existential training and accepting responsibility for what happens.  If I had made different choices, there would have been different outcomes.  If I hadn't chosen to sit next to the furnace that blew up, for instance, I wouldn't have gotten burned.

Etc.

Oh.  That actually happened when I was a kid.  I wasn't being metaphorical.  Maybe a little, but the action is grounded in reality.

If other people's discomfort is interesting to you, well, these are interesting times, and you know the old Chinese Curse.

But back to me.  I'm reading the early letters of Ernest Hemingway, maybe the most dangerous man who ever lived.  But for the first time in my life, and maybe this is because I am no longer young, the fact that he was in his early twenties when he did some of his best writing stuns me.  I look around and pick out a twenty-three year old fellow and try to imagine him writing those things.  I try to imagine him rolling into Paris with his new wife (who was much older than he) and introducing himself to Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and even James Joyce, and having them look at him as the new literary voice.  Holy shit.  Yup.  For the first time in my life, the fact is visceral.

I find that it makes me very sad.

That and the fact that I used to know all the people who wrote the forwards and the introductions to the collection and who helped put the work together.  I presented at the same conferences and had dinners and drinks and more.

Paradise Lost.

I'm just feeling myself a failure at the moment, and even taking responsibility for that isn't helping.  Yet.  It will, I think.  And I hope sooner than later.

I want to skip the factory next week.  I only have to take two days vacation to have ten days away from it.  It is too appealing.  I can't go anywhere, really, because I am having T-day dinner with my dear old mom, but I've thought through that and it is o.k.  Since I am not happy at the moment, I am not vital enough to pick a destination and enjoy it, really.  Traveling alone might seem a struggle.  I'll handle that fine later, but ten days to take care of personal business and to have lunches and afternoon wine and naps in the finest weather in the country now doesn't seem too bad.  The more I think about it, it seems a lot better than not too bad.

And so, with a more appealing immediate future if not a lighter heart, I get ready for what could be the last work for many days.  Some tension leaves my body.  I almost smile.

Almost.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

POP



I just bought a used copy of the previously unpublished letters of Ernest Hemingway.  Just the first volume.  There's plenty to read.  I used to know a lot about Hemingway.  I have probably forgotten most of it.  I met a good chunk of his family at various times and places.  I've known people who knew him.  I've had dinner with one of his biographers and have conferenced with many, many Hemingway scholars.  I've even appeared in an important Hemingway journal.  Yea, I knew a lot about him.

He is a meme now, a one dimensional character.  But that is not the man, of course, just a popular misconception. 

Hemingway wanted to be considered older than he was when he was young and younger than he was when he got older.  "Papa" began when he was still a young writer.  His writing was new and radical in style.  He was an artist.  Which is another way of saying there was something wrong with him. 

Most famously, he was subject to depression.  The older he got, the more he needed sycophants around him to help fight it off.  But he had other things, too, and some of them didn't help him.  Most of them, really.

It was this that occupied me when I woke far too early to get up in the cool blackness of the night.  I imagined his life with Mary who loved being Mrs. Hemingway but maybe not so much the daily grind of it.  She helped get Papa to the doctors, the ones who gave him the electroshock.  He called her POM (poor old mama), but I can't help but think POP.  He wasn't good at taking criticism, and there was plenty of it to go around by the time he was old.  All his friends were old, too, though what he wanted was the admiration of a young woman.  He needed a new woman for a new novel, and the one he wanted wasn't available, so he wrote a truly horrible book that the critics hated.  It was Hemingway lampooning Hemingway, they said. 

After that, he tried to write, but there was no one to write to or for.  Or so I think.  There was only Mary, upon whom he depended and who he resented.  There was no winning for him, with or without her. 

And that, I opine, was what he thought about in the darkness, whatever darkness that was.  Hemingway became hopeless.  In the end, there was nothing to look forward to. 

But I'm reading the letters of a young man who was witty and friendly and helpful, a man who had everything to look forward to.  The future. 

His first and best wife, Hadley, lived about forty minutes from me.  I didn't know it.  I regret not knowing it very much.  I would like to have met her.  She remarried after Hemingway. Paul.  He was a journalist, and they stayed married until he died.  I guess they stayed married even after that.  She was very loyal to Paul and didn't want to talk about her life with Hemingway very much.  I would just have liked to meet her.  I know people who did and said she was a very warm woman. 

Old Hemingway thought about her much and wrote about her in the end.  If he could only go back and do it again.  He would do it right this time.  After he killed himself, it was left to Mary to go through the manuscripts and rewrite that book.  It is a lovely book about his youth, about living in Paris and being young and talented and friends with artists and a husband and a father. 

I am reading the letters now.  He was a very, very prolific letter writer.  I'll let you know what I find. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Listen to Your Breath



I'm not doing much.  Nothing gets done.  I spent $1,500 on car repairs when I took mine in for a tuneup.  I had to take it twice.  I guess that's something.  But the house is becoming a mess.  I'm back to barely cooking.  I've even forgotten about drinking water.  I've taken a few photographs, but it doesn't feel like I'm doing enough.  I have ideas that are forgotten.

The old downward spiral.

I had a conversation with one of the factory workers a couple days ago.  He is an older gentleman who works for us part time.  He had violated a rule or procedure or guideline--it matters not--and I had to write him up and have him sign a form just to cover the factory's behind.  Not a big deal.  It was fine.

He is a talker, but I didn't really want to see anyone.  It was a day I wanted to close my office door and sit it out.  But he was there when I got to work, and he was worried, and I'm a fine fellow even if there is evidence to the contrary, and so I heard him out.  And I'm glad I did.

He was raised in a monastery, I learned.  He was on his way to becoming a monk when, at the age of twenty-four, he found the logic of one of the mandates to be troubling, so he left.  I have a friend who was a Franciscan novitiate who had the same experience.  They both had taken vows, then found one of them troubling.  Obedience.  The fellow in my office is still involved in the old monastery and is friends with many abbots and monks.  His best friend, he said, heard everything as the word of God, and so he was able to obey.

Abbots, apparently, have pretty good lives.

He told me that monks of the Benedictine order take one vow that others don't, but I'll be damned if I can remember what it was called.  I remember what it was, though, and I told him that I always thought that I would enjoy the quiet, contemplative life of a monk.  He said that it was more meditative than contemplative.  That gave me a moment's pause.  Fine distinction there.  He said that each morning, the monks must rise and meditate about their flaws and the ways to improve upon them.  He said that he had never known a monk who wasn't a better person the next year than he was the year before.  His saying it made me feel. . . I don't know. . . slothful?  Inattentive?

We talked about other things for a while, and then he left.  I continued to think about the meditative life and the obedience thing.  It seemed to me that if you lacked obedience, meditation on the self was a bit onanistic.  Maybe that's not the correct word, but it could be.  Self-referential?  I'm not finding the word I want.  But I wondered if I had become too nihilistic for all of that, or at least too existential.  Where there are no stone tablets, what is right and what is wrong?  But that, I guess, can be meditated.  Or should I say contemplated.

So I thought about it and could not come up with any real flaws.  I told that to one of my buddies, and he said that Ili could probably help me out with that one.

Ahhh. . . now there's the rub.

Last night, I woke at three, and the rest of the night was fitful.  I didn't recognize any flaws, but I sure felt a lot of terror.  I don't think I am in any way prepared to meet the future.  But maybe I have realized something.  Maybe my "self-reliance" had lived in the neighborhood of pride.  I have thought that I could manage everything by myself, or at least suffer the outcomes of my own doing without whining.

I understand why people like religion.  When you realize you have made a mistake, have done something wrong, there is confession, the rosary, Hail Mary's, and other acts of contrition.  What I mean is that there are procedures and steps to take.  Ablution.  In the dark of night, such things have their own appeal.

I'll try to meditate rather than contemplate, but I'm certain one will slip over into the other.

"Listen to your breath.  Be conscious of the act of breathing."

Yea, I'll give that a try.  That's bound to help.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Little Wry



It is a difficult time for someone like me.  Yea, yea, you can fill in the simile.  I don't mind (most of the time. . . too much) because I am someone with a strange sense of humor.  I like to poke fun of things, but the acceptable targets are very limited right now.  I feel like someone who wants to break into comedy in Iran.  You can call it "toxic humor" and I won't mind. . . usually.  But the stakes are running high, and I don't know if I have enough capital to stay in the game.

When I was a teenager, I was standing in small patch of lawn in a trailer park talking to my friend's neighbor, a tall, thin man who worked as a musician at a theme park.  He was a strange cat, I have to say, and a bit fascinating.  As we stood there, he started laughing, and when I asked, "What?" he pointed to a pile of dog shit on the ground between us.  I could never figure out what was funny about it, but I never forgot the moment, either.  I remember it vividly five decades later.

I think he might have smoked marijuana, but I don't know.

The postmodernists learned that language controls thought and not vice-versa, so they have become masters at changing the language.  They are the best phrase makers since the Nazis.  You remember them.  They hated the Bohemians.  The Weimar Republic had decadent art.  It wasn't a fair fight.  The artists all ran away.  In France, it was a different story.

I feel like I'm a comedian trying to break into the business in Alabama.  All the material is there, but the audience looks confused.


In the story, it is rumored, Roy Moore says, "Well, you know. . . sacred cow makes the best hamburger."  I don't know that for a fact. . . .

I saw this on the NY Times page today.  Really?  And you guys won't give me a sawbuck?


That's all I got, some opinions and a couple observations, served on a little wry.  Let's see what today brings.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Boo-Hoo



So here is one result of dropping my camera on the brick street and developing my own film.  Cool.

I did a much better job yesterday, though, developing two rolls of 35mm.  The film went on the developing reels without a hitch.  It took about an hour from getting the film on the reels to cutting and sleeving them.  I started scanning them while I watched t.v. last night.  I saved about $20 or so, but I don't have proof sheets, just negatives.  Still, my developing is better than theirs, and there is something satisfying about it.  It feels good to shoot film and then come home and soup it.

Until there is nothing any good on the roll.

But when there is. . . .


And here is the result of not having autofocus and shooting quickly.  I prefocus the camera and count on the depth of field scale on the lens.  Doesn't always work well, but still, there is something fun about the imperfections of the method.  Feels antique, I guess, in the age of perfect pictures.

I'm no fun right now.  I'm in the grips of something and I can find no real pleasure or happiness.  Yesterday was fairly terrifying.  The entire weekend, really.  When I went to dinner at my mother's house last night, she told me she missed Ili.  I know.  I wasn't being any fun.  I had to force conversation.  We are back to that.  "I guess there will be no more pajama parties," she said.

Nope.  Just life with grumpy, ma.

Maybe, though, it was just the mothballs I was trying to use to get rid of the rats.  My tenant said that there were rats in her attic, so I got some traps, some rat poison, and some mothballs.  My mother said mothballs would make them go away.  I hate dealing with this sort of thing and I quarreled with the tenant who only wants me to be a landlord when shit breaks.  I told her that, and I said she had a sweetheart deal on the rent.  When I put the mothballs in the garage, she complained, so I took them to my house and put them in the crawl space under the house.  Bad idea.  I woke with a headache and nausea like I'd never had.  I took a long walk and felt better, but after being in the house, I was feeling like shit again.  I took a shower and rode the Vespa and got some breakfast at a little diner, then went to the Cafe Strange for a fresh squeezed mimosa.

When I came home, I could smell the mothball smell in the house.  That had to be why I felt so shitty, so I got rid of those and put them in the garbage.

I don't have a headache this morning.  Jesus, people in China must feel terrible.  Everything I have ever bought from China smells like mothballs.

That got rid of the physical ailment.  Now I have to deal with the other.


I went to an Office Depot yesterday and heard Christmas carols.  Holidays used to follow one another.  Now they all exist at once.  I'll see if I can survive this one.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Little Eddie and Me



Bizarre.  Last night as I was entering the grocery store, I heard a voice yelling at me.  I turned around to see a guy I barely recognized.  He was the brother of a fellow I used to play with in bands when I was a kid.  He seemed like he might have been drunk.

"I've been trying to text you," he said, which would be really weird since I have never had any reason to give him my telephone number.  I've only seen him a couple times in a decade or so.

"I thought you might want this."  He pulled out his phone to show me a picture.  It was of me and Little Eddie Brigati late one night after a Young Rascals concert.  Weird story, but here is the evidence.

Little Edie was apparently little, I think, since I am only fourteen in this picture.

As I say, this was a weird night.  My bandmates and I had snuck backstage at the concert.  We did this often.  We were really good at it.  We always wore our band clothes.  I guess we thought people would mistake us for the opening act or something.  But we would just mill about with the others and listen to the music from the wings of the stage.  We never had tickets.  I don't know.  I guess we were just cool.  When I think about it now, I find it really odd.

When the Rascals had finished playing, they came backstage and chatted with people.  We introduced ourselves and we got invited to their hotel for the afterparty.  We weren't old enough to drive, but we knew where the hotel was just a couple miles away, and so we walked.

When we got there, we went into Felix Cavaliere's room where he sat on the bed with a couple of girls.  Others were sitting around on the floor.  Felix pulled out a joint and started passing it around.  I'm not sure any more, but I think that was the first time I'd been around it.  We milled about and talked to the drummer, Dino Danelli, for a minute, but he asked a girl to come to his room and he closed the door.  That was the last we saw of him.  Little Eddie, however, came out of his room with an acoustic guitar.  Somehow Wayne, the guitar player in our band ended up playing it and we were all singing with Little Eddie.  Wayne had a camera with him, one of those little instamatic things that fit in his pocket, and we all posed for pictures standing under the fluorescent lights outside in the breezeway.  Wayne had brought a recording of our band and gave it to Little Eddie.  And then the party was over.

If I remember right, Wayne had stolen some of his mother's diet pills, benzedrine, and we all took them.  We decided to stay out all night walking around.

This isn't the only band we partied with in my early teens.  We also partied with The Hollies.  There are many tales to tell like that, and it is a wonder to me that we were able to do this, just little crackers kids in a sleepy southern hamlet.  I don't have pictures of it all, though.

I lost track of Wayne in my twenties.  I went to college and he played in bands.  He wrote a song that Dione Warwick recorded and he played as a studio musician for awhile.  I asked his brother standing there last night what Wayne was doing now.

"He's dead.  Died in 1999."

"Oh, Jesus.  What from?"

"Too many wives."

Apparently, he had a heart attack.

I have a copy of this photograph somewhere, I think, but I had thrown darts into my face long ago.  I didn't like the way I looked in the picture.  I still don't.  I was a much better looking fellow than that goofball making the ridiculous face.  Maybe we had already taken the benzedrine.  I don't know.

Things were different then.  We were little rockstars playing at parties and on local t.v. shows.  We were famous--almost.  I was the only one of us who stayed in school.  The others and almost everyone I was friends with dropped out when they turned sixteen.   That didn't work out so well for most of them.  Looking at that faded photograph brings back some things I don't think about.  I was trying to get away as best I could.  I guess I got lucky.



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Anger and Torpor



These are dangerous times.  People are angry.  Maybe this will come to be known as "The Time of Anger."  Don't doubt it.  Every time I put up something like that here, it makes its way into the popular lexicon.  Doubt it?  Find an earlier published use of the term "Weinstein Effect."  You can't.  I could list others.

O.K.  I'm sounding like Trump.  I should delete that, but I can't.  My point, however, is that there is sure to be more violence.  Have you ever been angry?  I have.  And when I try to argue from anger, it doesn't go very well.  It is stupid.  So when anger and outrage and vehemence are the tools of the trade, stupid things will happen.

I am from the anti-violence movement.  There needs to be an anti-anger movement as well.  But I get it.  The only way to get some people to listen sometimes is to go all crazy on them.  Maybe violence helps peace.  I wonder about the efficacy of the different social movements desiring the same results.  Martin Luther King and the Black Panther Party, for instance.  Hippies and the SDS.

In anger, many things get conflated.  I started to make a list, but I won't.  It is too long and gruesome. But for those who can't or won't, for those who are frustrated and threatened, fist will fly.  What else can one do?  The only humor you are allowed to use now is making fun of Trump and his supporters. The rest is all off limits.

Somewhere, though, someone is secretly writing a great novel.

I, for one, have taken to solitude.  I'm only slightly ahead of the curve on this one.  It is the way of the future.  I go to the Cafe Strange and have my beer and write.  It's true.  I'm more than slightly ashamed of it, but I have intimate things to say and no one to tell them too, so I write.  A glass of beer in the late afternoon or early evening with a pen and a notebook in a strange cafe.  All about, people look at computer screens with headphones in place, a form of publicly shared solitude, or so it would seem.  Suspicion and paranoia hang in the air, and attitude, really, a defensive arrogance.  Here and there, a group of young people will talk and laugh as is their wont, but it is high toned and haughty, too, a hangover from a not too distant adolescence, perhaps, or maybe something more.

The cafe has ancient artifacts--a manual typewriter that people actually use, and a Photo Booth that I sometimes take advantage of.  It is dim and weird inside with strands of hanging lights and bookshelves and a million framed pictures.  It is a coffeehouse, but they have a full bar and another half bar that only serves expensive scotches at a very reasonable price.  They have a kitchen and serve breakfast and lunch and a kind of dinner.  The people who work there have a look.  I have come to enjoy it much more than I do the chi-chi places I used to like to drink.  It is high brow vs. low brow hipster.  It is easier for me, right now, to be alone at the Cafe Strange.

And I'd rather be alone than in the mix.  Nothing I have to say will please anyone.  I am used to that, but as I say, these are dangerous times, and I am looking for peace.

I will take some pictures today.  Factory work keeps me from all of that during the week.  I have been so exhausted after work, and with the time change, all I want to do is make dinner, have a drink, watch a little something, and go to bed.  But that is nothing new.  It is my season's torpor.  And right now, torpor seems a luxury.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bloat



I watched the second part of the Rolling Stone documentary last night.  I couldn't get into it, though I watched it through to the end.  It was a testimony to how success causes bloat.  It made me almost thankful that I have never had any success.  Not quite, of course, but almost.  Besides, I've become bloated anyway, not with success, perhaps, but with something.  It is a lifelong struggle trying not to bloat. 

"I feel puffy.  Do I look puffy?" 

But really, if you have ever read anything at all, you know that.  It is one of the go-tos in literature.  The bloated king, arrogant and full of himself.  And what happens?  See, you should have been reading more carefully. 

I've read the literature of losers, people for whom love and success won't stick.  You have to be against everything.  Only the discarded have an edge.  We know that. 

Still, there is the bloat. 

"I feel puffy.  Do I look puffy?" 

I don't want to call anyone out.  There is enough of that.  But make a list of the bloated.  It is a surprising list.  There is more than enough bloat to go around. 

And we know that one of the sure ways to lose is to get bloated. 

I have been as full of myself as many at times, too many, perhaps.  But there was no success, so the fall wasn't all that far and the "thump" hurt but did not kill.  Only a few who were close by even heard it.  I was no king but an antihero, and maybe the bloat of the antihero is even uglier than the bloating of someone of more authority.  There was that Clinton bloat, but which one? 

But I said I wouldn't call people out.  Still, which was worse, the Trump victory or the Hillary defeat?  Are they really opposite sides of the same coin? 

You will have your opinion and someone else will have another.  Whatever, it has a great affect on us all.  I feel it.  You feel it. 

But in the night, I have to live on a personal level, as do we all.  I have taken down many of the mirrors, but sometimes I just have to look. 

"I feel puffy.  Do I look puffy?" 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Nature of Evil



Just this side of the turn of the century--my second digital camera, the big Leica Digilux.  This was a friend in S.F. I took the picture with film, of course.  My old scans seem to be better than my new ones. 

I had to go to work early yesterday, and I didn't get home until late.  Some days are just like that.  When I got home, I ate a quick dinner in front of the television.  It was too late for the good news shows, so I looked for something on one of my pay channels.  I saw the Rolling Stone documentary, pt. I, on HBO.  I finished up my meal and poured a really deep scotch.  I bought the ticket and took the ride.  And what a fun ride it is.  You try, too. 

But there is something very unfortunate about this doc.  Harvey Weinstein.  They didn't see that coming when they made this one.  They would have needed to redo the first half hour or so of the show.  Watch it.  You'll see what I mean.  I'm sure HBO will get called out on this one. 

But maybe Jann Wenner's sexual fluidity will save it.  My he was a pretty boy married to a very beautiful girl.  They looked so much better than the times.  And for the first time in a long, long while, I missed the early days.  There was an energy and a purpose.  And as usual, it was misdirected and mean and selfish, but it pretended not to be.  But when H.S. Thompson is one of the guiding lights, what can you expect.  He was a prescient genius, but he was twisted to the very core. 

And that was my take away from watching part I.  Right now, the world is full of Captain Ahabs trying to rid the world of Moby Dick, that Great White Whale.  They are righteous and indignant and will save the world from evil.  But the world is never saved by Puritanical jihadists.  The best ideas come from very flawed people.  That is not to say that bad ideas don't.  But we can prosecute every signer of the declaration of independence for their dirty little acts and their twisted little souls.  I never trust the people who jump out and say, "Gotcha!" 

I think Hitler was a Christian.  He hated the Bohemians and decided that they were evil and that they would have to pay for their crimes.  The masses rallied behind him and his message of purity. 

Everyone I've ever liked is flawed, but they have some very lovely ideals. 

Here's my challenge.  Write down your moral code, the one that guides your life, the one you live by.  My guess is that you will have a very, very difficult time.  You've not really done that, but rather, you've accepted some vague notions.  It's like asking someone to list the ten commandments.  Six is about the average for most Christians I know.  Then they start throwing in stuff like see no evil, hear none, speak none.  But that is just an example.  You don't have to have ten commandments.  This can simply be your code, the one you've worked on your entire life. 

Once you have it fairly done (I doubt you will ever make one that is complete and with which you are satisfied), try to consciously try to live by it for two weeks.  Keep a journal of every time you break your own code. 

In a few weeks, we'll all get together and share.  It will be interesting to see how different what we each came up with is different from the others. 

What are we to learn from this?  Well, first, most of us have been judging others by a code so vague we can scarcely write it down.  Second, that our codes are not the same.  And third, we will question whether it is right to expect others to live up to a code they might not fully agree with that we ourselves have trouble not breaking. 

We are all very flawed.  Sometime in the near future, I hope we all quit prosecuting one another and begin to work things out.  I'm tired of the anger and the outrage and the rest.  And I hope we all begin to realize that what we thought and did in the early parts of our lives does not seem so good when viewed through the present. 

Still, man, oh, man, HBO is going to catch hell for this one. 


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Every Kid a Trump



I went to lunch at Chic-Fil-A yesterday.  I know, I'm not supposed to, but sometimes you just have to do the wrong thing.  It was packed.  Outside, cars had to circle the building twice, as in a Disney line, to get a takeout order.  Inside, the tables were full.  Now I don't spend a lot of time with the hoi-polloi.  I know, you're not supposed to say that, but this is my point.  They scared the shit out of me.  It was like being in a Sean Hannity act-alike contest.  But these were REAL dullards.  They moved with anger, quick, punctuated little motions, their eyes forced into a squint, elbows out to take up the maximum amount of space.  Their tones were arrogant and cocksure, but I'm telling you, I've never heard such mundane, obviously wrong statements all at once. 

I blame the educational system.  When I was a kid, you were put into groups.  Bluebirds.  Squirrels.  Turtles.  Just animal names, but you looked around and you knew who you were.  As a result, some people worked at the gas station when they grew up, and they were all about fixing things, but they didn't try to be the voice of the nation. 

Now we don't have groups and every kid gets treated like their parents have money.  They get treated the way Bush and Trump were treated which gave them those greatly ignorant authoritative voices.  Every kid a Trump. 

I can't fix it for you.  You're just going to have to live with it, as am I.  They have emotional authority.  They have moral authority. 

I'm going to have to stay away from such places from now on.  It disturbs me deeply. 

But I have to say the sandwich tasted good. 

This Post Sucks



So. . . after going out with film cameras to shoot the crowd, after developing, after scanning, after post-processing. . . this is what I get.  Cool, huh? 

WTF?

I'm thinking my scanning technique needs tweaking. 


That's hours of effort.  I started to say "work," but if it were work, I'd be getting paid for it. 

I thought I would come home and do some photographic thing after work, but the factory doesn't leave me much and with the time change, it was dark soon after. 


I'll probably just go back to digital.  It is so much easier and certain. 

This post sucks.  I'm going to write another one. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Starting Again



I took a step yesterday toward making pictures again.  I went out with the cameras and actually took them out of the bag!  I walked around an "art festival" that circled the lake downtown with my Olympus XA and my Leica M7.  I shot all film.  Not sure if that's really the thing to do in a crowd.  I could have gotten more and maybe better pictures with the Fuji X100, but shooting with film is thrilling.  I shot two rolls, one from each camera, and rode my scooter to the Cafe Strange to think about it and have a mimosa.  Oh, shut up.  I can drink mimosas if I wish.  So I sat and wrote and thought about things feeling as if I'd started a bit.  Just a start.  I didn't expect there to be anything worthwhile on the film except the last two shots I took of a woman and her dog.  She posed for me.  It was the first time I'd actually talked to someone about taking a picture for a very long time.  And this is the start.  Connecting with rather than putting off.  I must get easy with myself again.

I came home and pulled out the developing tank and reels and chemicals and tent and thought through the things I needed to do.  I decided to develop just one roll because I didn't know if the developer was still good.  I got the roll on the reel just fine and brought it out of the tent and began the chemical process.  Half an hour or so later, I pulled the film off the reel.  Voila!  It worked.  So I decided to develop two other rolls that have been sitting around.

And then things went to shit.  I couldn't get the film to line up on the reel.  Each time, it got off the track, and the more I worked with it, the worse it got.  Finally, in frustration, I just put it on.  The second one was a pain as well, but after a struggle, it felt like it was on fine.

Pulled them out, poured the chemicals, and half an hour later--I was right.  One roll was not on correctly so half the frames were touching and didn't develop.  The other one came out alright.

Frustrating.  And then, of course, I had no proof sheets to look at.  I am thinking that it is not worth developing my own film, though I probably saved myself twenty bucks.  I don't know.

Fascinated?  Yea, I know.  I could have told you all of that in four sentences.  But then I would only have gone on to complain about how the time shift has fucked me up.  Or I would tell you about the existential burden of living alone in the night again.  Or both.

I've decided to go try to develop the other roll of film right now.  This will be the deciding test of my abilities.  If I fuck up this time, I'll send it all off to the lab from now on.

Oh--the pic is another turn of the century S.F. North Beach film image.  I like saying "turn of the century."  

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Of Vespas, Cameras, and Time




A full moon when we are setting back the clocks?  Really?  I'm all turned around.  I fucked up and set my clock in the wrong direction, so when I woke up and saw that the clock said five, I thought, "O.K., I'll get up," but when I opened my iPad to put on some music, I saw that it was only THREE o'clock.  Then I didn't know what to do.  I wasn't sleeping well anyway, but I was turned inside out and upside down now.  It is enough to make one want to do drugs.

Rather, I put on some gentle music and lay in bed listening, and eventually I drifted off into some troubled sleep.  Demons take many forms now.  There are plenty of them.

A friend bought a used Vespa and yesterday invited me for a ride.  The thing was a small 50cc orange piece of shit.  After a bit, he decided to go to the Vespa store and trade it in for a nice, red 150cc.  Atta boy.  He looked a little sick, shellshocked, really, after he wrote the check, but I was certain he had done the right thing.  It is always awful to indulge yourself in anything, though, especially if you have been brought up by a certain kind of parent which he and I both certainly were.  He is a lovely fellow who was a novitiate on his way to a priesthood when he decided on a different life.  Still, he has the compassion and understanding of a fallen priest and is someone you would want by your deathbed.  But he is also more than a bit of a Dennis the Menace ornery fellow who has travelled the globe both as a career and for unsavory purposes, so to speak, and he is a fellow I travelled to Cuba with this year and who went back a month later for more illicit fun.  He's gay, so our social paths diverge quite a bit, but I am glad he is here to distract me from the deep isolation that I dwell in too much now.

I think my gay friends are more disturbed by the #me too thing than most people, at least the older ones.  They have, by social consequence, been driven to more illicit activities than most of our married brethren, at least more often (for I know that our guilty brothers have their guilty pleasures), and there is a world that they could see disappear.  I've been clearing the factory hallways lately with my talk of the dark world.  I feel better knowing it is there somewhere beyond the wall, a place I can visit if I like but which can't come to my house.  I don't have to go there, but I can if I need to.  I can only love my Leave It to Beaver existence knowing the contrast is out there, somewhere.  If you are a gay man of a certain age, you will lament the Disneyfication of 42nd St, the loss of bathhouses and glory holes and all those things that are so sleazy and dangerous and wrong.  Don't get me wrong, for I know how important Disney is to the gay world, but that is only part of it.  All-American, milk drinking, hand holding gays have become part of American life, but those old parades in Castro were another thing.

So I give you another turn-of-the-century image from S.F.  I must have developed this film.  It has streaks and chemical stains and other paraphernalia.  There are so many things that can go wrong with analog photography.

O.K.  I don't know what time it is.  I know what the clock on my computer says, but is it earlier or later?  It will get dark earlier, so I guess it is later, if that makes sense.  Of all the shit that cracker/cowboy republicans cry about, why haven't they done something about this government manipulation of our time?  Where is the great libertarian outcry?

I guess I need to get on with my day.  I plan on taking pictures today.  I don't know of what.  I haven't a clue.  I take my cameras with me everywhere, but I can't make myself use them.  When I pull one out of the bag, it feels like I'm holding a hand grenade.  I can hear people screaming and panicking.

"Look out!" they'll scream at the top of their lungs, "he's got a camera."  Tables are turned over and people hit the floor.

I need to get over it.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Losing Grace



I didn't have time to go through the old pictures and get them viewing ready yet, but this morning as I looked at them and tried to pick one, I realized that I would need to write a narrative to put them into context.  I would need to write some stories, and writing stories takes time that I don't have today.  This picture is from the turn of the century in San Francisco.  I had purchased my first rangefinder camera, a Voigtlander R with a couple of screw mount lenses.  It was fully manual and one of my favorite cameras of all time.  It was stolen from my car with the other $16,000 worth of gear.  Maybe I miss this camera most, but that is a difficult call.  I was on my own on this trip, walking the streets, experiencing things, though I was meeting up with an old friend some just to take the lonely edge off.  It is amazing to me how well these old cameras did at night with Tri-X film.  I look back and wish I had shot a lot more.  I think this is the Coppola building where their productions company is located, but Q will let me know if I am wrong.  Just a glittering city on a beautiful July night.

After work yesterday, I was at the Cafe Strange once again sipping a strong ale and writing down my woes.  You see. . . I have them, and they are getting me down lower than I want to go.  It is a combination of health and life choices, and it seems I'm not able to do anything about either of them but suffer stoically.  That is O.K.  But man, in the middle of the painful night, sometimes now, I don't know.  My heroism seems to leave me.  As Hemingway said, at night it's another thing.

As I look around the cafe, I see "Blue Velvet" or some other David Lynch work.  These are characters and I need to figure out how to photograph them.  Characterology 101.  It should not be allowed to disappear or even fade.  They are the faces of the times.  But taking pictures today is not as it was even a decade ago.  Everything, especially someone like me, is suspicious.  Everyone is afraid of being exploited, of course, and why let someone take your photograph when you can do it yourself?  I don't blame them.  It just makes me sad.  How do I become a trustworthy chronicler?

I'll try to figure that out.

Meanwhile, I have other problems to face.  If I can only get back on my feet in the old sense, feeling well, maybe I can face the world with some grace again.  Losing your mojo is one thing, but losing grace is another thing altogether.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Photographs of Untold Stories



I went through an old portable hard drive yesterday that had pictures from the turn of the century, back when I took pictures for fun.  I took a lot of them.  I was chronicling my life, for whatever reason we do such things, snapshots I always called them, but snapshots are the true chronicle of the world.

This is a fellow I knew from a famous old gym.  He was just one of the number of crazy "characters" that I should write about.  I was friends with them.  They were a strange bunch living on the margins of society.  This fellow was known by different names in different places for different purposes.  He had a great punch and could knock a fellow out even though his hands were small.  But that is for another time when I tell stories without pictures.  I am not about to rat this fellow out in a public forum.  Al those stories will have to be told as fictions, or at least with pseudonyms and without photographs.  Like I said, I was friends with them and there is a code to which I must adhere.

This was taken with an old Nikon film camera.  It was fully manual.  Why are so many of my pictures taken when photography was more difficult more pleasing?  I will probably post more.

I'll just say he ended up going to prison for a while because of another gym fellow who was trying to stay out.  The story is on the tip of my tongue, but. . . .


Thursday, November 2, 2017

So Far Short



Autumn races onward.  Another full moon approaches.  We soon turn back the clocks to darkness.  Inevitable time.  Despite the efforts of the sentimental and religious, it is unrepeatable, irrevocable.  Unbearable, perhaps, relentless.

"Do you remember the time we were. . . "

"Sure I do."

"That was really something then.  We were really something."

"So it seemed."

Memories, glorious and haunting, not easy to share, aspiring to mythology, falling so far short as to be disheartening.

We were all heroes one day for a brief moment.  They call it modern art.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Dancing Demons




I watched the news last night.  Wanted to see the Mueller report.  Liberals are wringing their hands with a "We've got him now," excitement.  That is how I know they are wrong.  Every time they think they do, they don't.  Bannon will win.  There will be attacks and obfuscations and Americans love a guy like Trump.  This is the worst it has ever been, but it is not the worst it will be.  Get ready to kiss the turd.

I don't think I'll watch any more.  I haven't any hope left.  Only ideologues and liberals seem surprised that people perpetrate sex.  They don't seem to take into account what people really want to do.

Morals are made up and agreed upon.  And they are shifting.  There are no stone tablets.  If you don't agree with the majority, you should be punished.  That's what they used to do.  That was bad.  And it is what we do now.  The new morality is better.

Some people want to make the rules.  Others want to follow.  And then there are others still.

Tonight's the night when demons go dancing.  It is a night of expected horrors.  People will look for them, seek them out, if not in reality, on their t.v. screens.  They will watch stories of killer clowns and measly things.  They will enjoy it.  They think its fun.

I have my own demons with whom to dance.  Maybe they'll come in costume.


Monday, October 30, 2017

A Life Extraordinaire



Yesterday's attempt at photographic endeavors was fairly spectacular in a disastrous sense.  Much went wrong.  I accomplished little in the way of making images.  And yet, something may have emerged from the flames.

The weather was beautiful after a front moved through.  Clear, blue skies, brilliant light, low humidity, cool air.  Mid-morning, I went for exercise at the baseball stadium.  I have a routine I have done there for decades.  Oh, lord, I could feel the past couple weeks of illness and antibiotics.  I've a long road back.  After a shower and a too healthy brunch, it was just after noon.  I thought to take my cameras out and try to make some pictures in a crowded market downtown.  In a t-shirt and linen jeans jacket, I got on the Vespa.  It was a stupidly cold ride that I knew was going to make me sick.  I went slowly trying not to chill all the way to the bone, but I had nothing to stop the wind.

When I arrived, the market crowd looked unappealing.  I did not want to join them in their romp around the lake.  What I wanted was to go home and get warm.  I circled once and left.  The way home seemed colder.

At home, I put a heating pad against my chest and sat for awhile absorbing the heat.  I left it there for about fifteen minutes, alternating between my chest and my head.  I did not want to get sick.

Sunday afternoon loomed.  I'd failed to take any pictures.  Was it the cold that stopped me or was it something else?  It was a 50/50 proposition.  Maybe 40/60.  I was fragile in many ways.

"Do something!" my inner voice yelled.  It is too easy to do nothing.  I am a "head case" in that sense.  I can sit and stare and think for much too long.

I went to the garage and got a Polaroid processor, the last of three, and some film.  I wondered if the mechanical failures I've been suffering were the fault of the processing tray, the film holder, or the processing machine itself.  I set everything up on the dining room table.  I ran expensive film through trying to see what was happening.  Nothing worked, and after an hour or so, I gave up.  I was cleaning up when I heard a small but loud explosion.  Then I smelled the electrical smoke.  I could see it rising out of the processor.  I unplugged it and set it outside.  I think it was on fire.

I don't think I'll be shooting any 8x10 instant film.  Too bad for Polaroid/Impossible.  They offer no help in this matter.

I made trips to and from the garage, carrying equipment and testing my big Epson printer.  One of the heads has a clog now, and I was trying to clean and clear it.  No luck.  The orange channel will not clear.  If I can't fix this, the printer is done for.  Things look pretty dire.

I decided to take a look through some of the many boxes of prints I have stored.  I haven't seen them for a couple years now.  There are many hundreds of big ass prints, some 16x24, most larger.  I had an idea that I would pick out the best of the images, cull them from the chafe.

I brought a big container back to the house, opened it, and one by one lay the pictures on the table.  It is stunning how many prints there are.  Beautiful.  But what am I going to do with all of them?  I don't want to keep them any more.  I don't need them.  I printed them to keep the printer healthy.  I printed them to see.  I thought to just start burning them along with the confidential stuff I had in the fire pit.  I tore a few up, ones that were flawed in some way, but I couldn't sustain it.  There are too many to give away, I thought.  Or. . . maybe I could sell them as untitled artist's proofs for a couple bucks.  How much?  Twenty dollars?  I had no takers at fifty.  Where would I sell them, though?  There is something about seeing the big print that is more powerful than seeing them as images on a small screen.

Then I thought it all bullshit.  Why would I bother to do that?  My thoughts turned to destruction once again.  I didn't have it in me to go through another container.  The afternoon was drifting away.  I had done nothing productive so far.  I got out my film cameras whose rolls had not been finished.  The Leica M7 had about ten shots left.  The Olympus XA around the same.  The Leica CL about fifteen.  The Leica R5 about that, too.  I decided to take them out and finish off the rolls on each one.  I put them in a bag and went back to the scooter, this time for a half mile trip to the Boulevard.  I pulled up in front of the Starbucks and parked.  I pulled the little XA out of my pocket.  It is tiny.  I wanted to see what exposures I would be using with the non-automatic cameras.  As I framed up the GAP store window to my left some people walked by.  Click.  I looked up at the sky then back to the sidewalk.  More people.  Click.  It is more a whisper than a click, really.  Before I got off the bike, I had finished the roll.  None of the pictures would mean anything, but that was o.k.  I wanted to develop the film in a new developer anyway just to see how the images look.

I got of the scooter and rewound the film, and when I tried to open the back to remove the film, I dropped the camera onto the brick street.  When it hit, the back popped open.  Shit fuck goddamn.  That was a far fall.  I picked the camera up and closed the back, or tried.  It didn't want to shut.  I fooled around a bit and took out the roll.  WTF?  It was a shitty old color film made by Kodak a long, long time ago.  Not a good film, but a cheap film.  I remembered loading the film some months back out of a drawer full of old, weird color films.  O.K., O.K., I thought.  Whatever.  I put the film roll into my bag and got out a roll of Tri-X.  I tried to load it, but something didn't feel right.  Maybe I busted the camera for good.  Finally, though, I got it onto the take up spool and closed the back.  It wasn't the easy closing that it was.  I wound the film through.  It felt hard.  I took a picture.  Wound again.  Still hard.  Click.  I put the camera away not sure if it was working or if something was off.  I grabbed my M7 and started to walk.

I saw myself in the store windows.  I looked alright.  But the camera made me self-conscious.  When I walked by sidewalk tables, people looked at the camera, looked at me.  I might have had a hand grenade.  When I got to a corner, I put the camera to my eye.  The meter read out in the viewfinder was going crazy, flashing numbers and letters in the LED.  Great.  As I looked, some people walked through the frame.  A man waved crazily, but I was not taking pictures.  Then I did.  I stood there and tried to get the camera to settle down.  It never did, but I shot through the roll.  Again, nothing useful.

With that, I gave up.  I walked back to my Vespa thinking that as a photographer, I was done.  What had the day yielded?  A processor that blew up, two broken cameras, and a desire to throw away my prints.

By then, it was time to go have dinner with my mother.

That's the sad true tale of the day, I'm afraid.  I woke this morning to temperatures in the forties. The sky is clear and the light is brilliant.  I had thought to take today off, just play hockey and go take pictures, but that was yesterday before the deluge.  Now I have sat too long to go to the gym.  I will get into the shower and make my way to the factory.

It is a life extraordinaire.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cafe Strange



Sitting in the Cafe Strange.  The Cafe Strange is not a clean, well-lighted place. It is grungy and dim and dirty and is filled with the loser class sitting with laptops and coffees or teas. They are a sad but arrogant lot. It is fun to sit there and be an irritant, for I know they hate me.  I am too old to be in such a place.

It probably isn't true, though, that they hate me.  It is only that I would were I them.  No, that is not true, either.  Truths are hard to come by these days.

The difficult thing about coming home is the absence of the cat.  The last time I lived here alone, it was the two of us.  There is an emptiness now without her that I hadn't realized before.  The first day I came home after Ili moved, I stood on the deck waiting for kit-kat to come running up with her daily complaint, but there was nothing but the new silence.  And it is new.  The cat had been here a very long time.

I go to bed feeling fine, and wake that way, too.  It is the other part that is difficult.  A lethargy and listlessness that I must battle.  I must find a devil to drive me.

Late in the afternoon, now, I go to the cafe for one St. Bernardus ale, to sit, to look, to write.  I go out into the world in a different way.  Something must come from it or I have become nothing.

From nothing comes only silence.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Emptier



O.K.  I'll try to write what I was going to write if I can.  There is a time lag here that must be considered.  Passive voice.  Consider it.

After a night in the ER and a week of antibiotics, I went for a follow up with a GI doc.  The antibiotics were gone, and I still had pain.  Best to get looked at now, I thought, and not wait.  I didn't want to go, but there comes a time.

He looked at all the records from the hospital online, looked at the blood test and the urinalysis and then the CT scan.  His brow furrowed, his mouth twisted, then he said, "You don't have diverticulitis."  He was more talking to himself than to me, I thought.  "Why'd they tell you that?"

My minde raced.  If it wasn't diverticulitis, then. . . something horrible or mysterious.

"Why did they give you antibiotics?  You didn't need them."  He shook his head.

He asked me to lie back on the examination table.  He pushed around my abdomen asking me if this hurt, if that hurt.  I wasn't sure what he meant by "hurt."

"No," I said, not certain if that was true.

He reached up under my ribs.

"Your liver is normal.  Your spleen is normal."  He thumped his fingers around on top of his hand that lay on my abdomen.  "You have a little gas, but. . . ."

He had me sit up.

"You're a healthy man," he said.  "I don't know why the ER doctor told you that."

"Then why did I go to the emergency room?" I asked.

"You may have had something, but it wasn't diverticulitis.  It is nothing," and here I cannot recall the word.  Organic?  Systemic?  What he was saying was that there was nothing wrong with my organs.  He used some of the medical metaphors that meant I had some inflammation, "itis" words.

Whatever it was, it wasn't anything that gave him much cause.   I didn't have cancer.

I drove home in a fog.  Why did I have pain?  I wanted to give the ER doc a good thumping.

I drove to the gym after work.  I hadn't been for two weeks, but when I got there, I changed my mind.  I wasn't healthy enough for it to be good for me yet.  I wanted to go home and see what was left.  Ili had taken her things back to her place that morning.  I left before she did.  What would be left?  What wouldn't?

I opened the door.  Things were much as I had left them, the kitchen a little barer.  On the dining room table lay a book she had bought me in New Mexico.  On top lay a blank Polaroid.  Perfect.  She had written a farewell note on it.  She had inscribed the book.

Sitting in a cafe drinking the first beer in ten days, a 10% ale.  I look to see if I will get sick as the warning on the antibiotics say, suddenly and violently.

I will go home in a minute.  The house will be the same but emptier. I will cook something easy.  I will have another beer, maybe, and watch t.v.  In the morning, I think, I will go to the gym.