Thursday, July 20, 2017

Leadership



There are words that make my skin crawl.  "Leadership" is high on the list.  It has been a tremendous buzz word for years.  Boards and elected officials love to use the word.  There are leadership seminars and leadership conferences.  Your county's Chamber of Commerce probably has a county leadership team.

What a bunch of putzes.

I've seen minor league leadership academies.  The factory has one.  They get together and learn to eat with forks and knives and in which order to pick them up when the meal is brought in servings.  I've seen them, I tell you, all sitting with their identical polo shirts embroidered with the words "Leadership Academy" on them lined up at tables like inmates.  Once in awhile the regal ruler will come in and throw them some peanuts.

But they do it, even the ones who say it is stupid.  Even the ones who know better.

We have evaluations and awards at the factory, too.  I am in charge of a lot of evaluations.  They are done in private, of course, using a flawed, almost worthless tool.  But some people get better evaluations than others, and some are sterling.  Again, these are done is secret so nobody knows.  You can't point to one worker and say, "Judy is sterling, better than the rest of you, and here is why."  Of course.  But the awards are equally opaque.  We give "Worker of the Year" awards for which there is a process but no criteria.  We pretend there are criteria, or at least campus "leaders" under the auspices of the "ruler" do, but there are not.  I've asked for them before.  Many times.  I am given the procedures.  "But these are not criteria," I say.  "We give the awards year after year, but I never know what the winners do that makes them exceptional.  How are we supposed to emulate this special behavior if we don't even know what it is?"

That wins me the stink eye ever time.

But people apply and win--eventually.  You have to be nominated a few times before you are allowed to get an award.  That is the one one of the criteria I have gleaned.

Again, even those who know better.

There is a stupid slogan at the factory: "Lead from Where You Are."  I shit you not.  I don't have the energy to put into words how badly this makes me cringe.  But I like it in some ways, too.  It is a revelation of the bosses disdain for the "little people."  Even from the bottom, they imply, for our factory is truly a hierarchy.

Postmodernism was about leveling hierarchies, at least ostensibly.  Forget the hierarchy.  Things are a labyrinth.  But many groups used postmodern to promote their own agendas.  Once you've overturned one hierarchy, you are supposed to upend the next, but that has proven not to be practical, so what theory and theorists have given us are the tools of the new rulers.  Trump is King because his crew have learned to use the tools in order to deceive and manipulate.  They overturned the old apple cart.  Now they are selling apples.

O.K.  That is a dumbly abrupt ending, but I'm done.  I mean, that's a long way to go based on a dislike of the word "leadership," right?  I have others, but I'm done complaining (almost said bitching, but I could hear my boy feminist friend asking why I had to be so misogynistic and then I'd have to explain why I think feminists are like republicans in their usurping of theory for a political purpose and I don't want to.  Besides, he usually makes me look undereducated on the subject).  And besides, I was only talking to those who already agree with me.

O.K. then. . . a long walk, and then the factory.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Clean and Cheerful People



I was at lunch with my boss yesterday at a fish taco place that is popular.  As we stood in line, I remarked the "office people" there.  They intrigue me.  I love the way they look, mostly.  Then men where that office uniform that is so crisp and professional.  The women, though, seem to have many more clothing options.  They, too, look crisp like newly minted money.  I am always disheveled at best and just sloppy looking at worst.  I look best that way, I'm afraid.  In office professional clothing, I look like something out of a wax museum.  I am lucky that I am allowed to get away with my sartorial sins.

"Do you know any of these people?" I asked.

"What?"

"Do you know any people who have these kind of jobs, office people, you know, the ones who go to work and have a lunch break then go back again?"

I realized I don't.  I have had friends who work, but they are lawyers and brokers and though they are busy, they pretty much make their own schedules.  They don't have set lunch hours and they don't punch a clock.  But I don't know any branch bank employees or people working in insurance offices.  Etc.  That I had never realized that until this moment rather shocked me.

My boss just looked at me quizzically like a dog who hears the words, "Do you want. . . " which it understands then hears the words "vacuum cleaner," head cocked at 45 degrees, eyes squinting.

"They fascinate me," I said.  "Look at them.  They are all clean and cheerful."

I realized I sounded like James A. Fitzpatrick in the old "Travel Talks" newsreels (link).  I hate to admit how much influence such things had on me as I grew up.  I could just as easily have said, "Here we have come upon a rather large group of office workers out on their daily lunch break.  They are an attractive and industrious crew, such a clean and cheerful people."

I guess at the moment, though, that is what I was feeling.

The women.  I don't know how they do it.  I don't know where they get their clothing.  Target, I imagine.  I can see them there in my mind's eye going through the clothing section.  And again, I am ashamed to say I hear the Updikian voice in my head; "They look so good and sexy, even the chubby ones."

It is just fantasy, I know, and the bubble burst when we got back to the office.  One of the secretaries was going on a European cruise, and we were all wishing her a bon voyage when one of the others said in that certain tone, "Oh, that is on my husband's and my bucket list."

It was like nails on a chalkboard to me.  I had to leave the room.  Why do they do it?  Why do people use such hackneyed expressions in that highfalutin tone?  The question is rhetorical.  I know the answer.

And I know that like all things, my fascination would run out with familiarity.  It would run its course long before intimacy.

And I know, even better, that the first time I opened my mouth, that cheerfulness would leave them as quickly as smoke leaves a cigarette.  I have no illusions about that.  But, as they say, wouldn't it be pretty to think so.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Cohen's Chutzpah




"I never really want to intrude anywhere but to put the camera in place is the problem. I see a lot of pictures when I don't have a camera with me and am relieved not to have to try to get there."
This is the first image I remember seeing by Mark Cohen.  It was the one that enamored me of his work when I was in school.  I copied that style for awhile, using a flash at dusk so that the background was always darker than the subject, the light falling away into the distance.  I did that just before I quit photographing the first time after I had moved back to my own hometown where photographers were considered with great suspicion.  Photography was easy in a college town.  When it became too difficult, I guess I quit.  I never went back to that style.

There is sometimes a dream and sometimes a nightmarish quality to his photographs.  They are usually quite jarring and disturbing.  It is difficult to think of him stalking the streets and making these sort of images for over fifty years.  If you've ever tried it, you'll know.  It is exhausting.

But it can be exhilarating, too, and, as they say, "The devil drives."  Why do it?  That is the question that you always hear.  It is always with you trying to make you doubt.  Cohen's success is in part due to his ability to go on. From an interview in 2015:

Anne Wilkes Tucker: When you say, “I’m making pictures to put in the drawer,” there is a kind of determination on your part to continue with what is in your particular eye when I’m sure there were dealers saying to you, “If you’d back off a little, it’d be easier to sell them.” Were there not?

Mark Cohen: Well, no. They didn’t make any effort to sell them because they weren’t expensive enough. They were only six hundred dollars, so it didn’t matter to the dealers, or to the Marlborough Gallery or to Virginia Zabriskie either. The galleries thought that my pictures were strong. I got good reviews, but they never sold many. But that was okay. It’s still hard to sell them.

He speaks about the inherent sensuality of the photographs, the closeness and revelation of skin.  It doesn't take much, but much is suggested.  



I don't know much about his life.  I wonder if it was what one would deem "normal."  What were his personal relationships like?  Were they sustained/sustainable?  I know from experience that it is hard to find someone who wants to put up with such an obsession.  Obviously, there is something disturbing revealed, the photographer, as it is, always photographing the inside of his or her head.  


C.C. wrote me yesterday about the "rapeyness" of art.  All of it is, he says.  For the photographer, I guess, to reveal the things people refuse to see but can't stop looking once they are, there must be some sort of perverse madness.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monster




I'm not sleeping.  Last night I woke every fifteen minutes or so.  Twitchy.  Maybe I have too much pain.  It seemed too cold, then too hot.  Did I mention twitchy?  Once, an hour before I finally gave up, I remembered a dream.  Ili had cooked a raccoon in the oven for some reason.  When I went to cut into it, it moved.  Just a little.  Then more and more.  She wouldn't believe me, but then it fell off the table and began to move around the room, raising its head, trying to get to its feet.  Ili kept saying it couldn't see anything like that mattered.  I was horrified at the torture the thing must have gone through and was going through now.  Why in the fuck had she put it in the oven?

I was up long before the sun which is just now starting to lighten the sky.  I hear the first morning bird.  I'll be tired today.  I wonder what is wrong with me.  Anxiety, perhaps, of a non-specific type.  My unconscious must be working on something.  It feels like there is trouble ahead, but my lack of sleep won't help.

I bumped around yesterday without producing much.  I Rode scooter with camera but took no pictures.  I have become too intimidated.  I am too visible, perhaps, to try shooting surreptitiously.  Maybe I just don't feel good about myself.

Jesus, next I'll be talking to a therapist.


In the afternoon I gave up.  It was too hot to do anything outdoors anyway, so I decided to go to the little hipster place and have a beer and write out some options.  When I got on the scooter, however, I decided to go to the fancy place with the hipster bartenders instead.  I squeezed in at the bar, but everything felt wrong.  The music sucked and I didn't know the bartender.  After five minutes of waiting for the new hipster to take my order, I left, glad that I hadn't ordered after all.  Back on the scooter, I headed for the other place.

Better choice.  It was crowded with "beautiful losers" as some might say.  I ordered an IPA from a big, young, burly girl who seemed on the verge of a foul mood, and found a place to sit looking out the big plate glass windows.  I didn't want to sit there particularly, but the place was full on a Sunday afternoon.  One large group played some card game.  Students worked on homework together.  Here and there were plates of food.  I looked around at the crazy interior and the colorful crowd and my nerves began to dance.  I wanted to photograph the place.  I wanted to photograph them all.  But that wasn't going to happen, at least not that day, for I was a fish out of water.  What had I become, I wondered?  I seemed to be exactly what I was, something that stood out like a goldfish in a wild river.  How?  I used to be part and parcel, then later at least able to slip in and out of this crowd.  My movements were off, I thought.  I had lost some grace, was besieged by the herky-jerky syndrome.  My body was not pliable.  I had become. . . A MONSTER!

Shit, I think I now understand my dream.  It was a translation of how I felt in the hipster place, like that raccoon.  Seriously.  That has to be it.  Absolutely.

Maybe my day will get better.  The sky is lighter now, and I will walk.  There is no curative better than a good long walk.  It is just what the metaphysical doctor ordered.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Rapey



Groan. . . .

Spent the sick day with cameras.  Didn't do much except go through the functions of many of them.  I forget where the buttons are on them after not using them for a long time.  Bought film.  Drove around on the scooter.  Tried to use a weird method of flash photography.  Thought I had it but then realized it wasn't working.  Driving around with my camera strapped across my body, I saw dozens of pictures I didn't have the chutzpah to take.  I would have had to stop, get off the bike, etc.  But that wasn't it, was it?  I lacked the courage.  Perhaps it was just courtesy.  Sometimes Ili thinks my photography is like a rape crime.  That is the way people think today.  Everything is like rape.  Maybe she is right.  She has gotten into my head, anyway, and made it harder for me to do what I used to do and want(ed) to do.  Thus, I abandoned my mission and came home.  Played with cameras more focussing on technique rather than vision.  I got out the Hassie and took some black and white film portraits of rakes and back flow devices and grills and wheelbarrows.  I kept remembering the photo class I took when I went back to grad school studying anthropology.  I'd studied photography as an undergrad zoology major and had come back to the same school, so I just signed up for more advanced photography courses on the side.  I had a young, new instructor who was departing from the ways of Jerry Uelsmann, Todd Walker, and Doug Prince with whom I had studied before.  The new guy had us out shooting with color slide film, almost a heresy back then.  I remembered the images I made.  He was bowled over, as they say.  I didn't shoot people and I used flash.  I want to go back and find them.  I know I have those slides somewhere.  They probably aren't as good as I remember.

Back to the present. . . when the afternoon wained, I took my digital Leica and flash out to try my new technique.  Failures over and over again.  But I was learning.  I learned, too, that I didn't have to turn my bike off to put it on the kickstand.  I was driving through an office park that led to a big private airport that led to a pasture that was connected to dairy corporation, all very surreal and deserted, and I just went slowly looking around until I saw something that might be interesting, and I would park the Vespa without turning it off and walk over to the thing I wanted to photograph, then get back on and go.  I think I have worn some of the teeth off the starter by hitting it while I'm driving thinking it is the horn which is on the other side, and now it is having a little trouble, though I suspect the battery, too, so until I can have it serviced, it is better not to keep shutting it off and starting it back up again.  Slowly I drove through the waining day with my camera and flash, and I began to realize once again how slow photography is, that it takes a long time to get a shot, that it is mostly immersion into what you are doing and it takes hours to know where you are and what is around you and that is when you begin to talk to people and then you can take the mutually agreed upon photograph.  And then, maybe, it isn't rapey.  Maybe.  Because there is no denying that there is a sensuality to photography if not a sexuality, and that is why it has always been so controversial.

When I got home, I looked at the few images on the camera and wanted to cry.  "What happened?" I thought.  "I used to be some kind of photographer.  But I'm not any more.  What happened?"  I looked at the table full of cameras and lenses and peripheral gear, the bags and straps and filters and flashes, god knows how much money, and I thought about all the things I knew about photography, things I knew how to do that others did not, technical things, and I thought about the people at the camera store who are always interested in my gear.  They know all about gear and can answer technical questions, too.  But so few of them ever make any showable images.  Gear and technical knowledge will not make a good picture.  Good pictures are the result of time and courage, I thought, and I have had neither these past couple of years.  I wanted to sweep the table full of cameras into a garbage bin and forget about it all.  Just quit it.

I did not sleep well last night, dreaming as I was of the good photographs and the good photographers.

I've become enamored of Mark Cohen once again.  He was one of my favorites back when I was taking photography courses as an undergrad.  I watched some YouTube videos on him this weekend.  If you have six minutes. . . (link).  I've been looking at his images online.  Now. . . if you want to talk about rapey. . . .  I'll be writing about him in the future, I think.  But now it is time to think about whether to sell all my gear or to go on.  Right now, neither seems a good idea.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

On the Pipe



With Ili gone for the weekend, I wondered--what sort of masturbatory trouble might I get into?  There seems no end to the possibilities.  There are cameras and a Vespa and time.  At night, there is camera porn on the YouTube.  Trouble was/is, I'm not feeling well.  I must have picked up a stomach bug, but it isn't limited to my stomach.  I feel bad all over.  Illness hampers the desire to tear it up.  But there were things I wanted to do like go to the camera repair store and see about a thing or two, then go to the new camera store to buy some chemicals and film.  I broke out the 100 poundish Liberator and went to the garage where all the old studio materials are stored and found a Polaroid back that would fit with the smaller Fuji instant film.  I ran a nozzle check on the printer and then had to change inks to run a cleaning cycle.  I came back to the house and sat down to let the heat and humidity and sickness soak me through and through.  I decided the best thing to do, the thing that might calm my stomach and give me some relief, was to have a shot of the whiskey.

That was ill-conceived.

The camera repairman could do nothing for me.  He didn't even want to give me free advice, and so he sent me on my way.

By the time I'd finished up at the camera store, I had many camera desires that I hadn't when I went.  The day was slipping away rapidly.  Feeling unaccomplished, I slipped a new pack of film into the Polaroid holder and tried to make a photo with the Liberator.  The film would not pull through.  I opened the back to see what was wrong knowing I was fogging the film.  Somehow though, through no real knowing skill on my part, I got the damn thing working.  I sacrificed six of the ten pieces of film, but then. . . magic.  I got everything to work.

Once again, I was soaked through and through.

There was so much more camera magic to be had, but I was weak and wet and in bad need of a shower.  Which I took.  And by the time I was dressed, it seemed to me to be coming upon the dining hour.  What to do?  Ili had sealed up the leftover pho.  It was either that or I would have to cook.  I chose pho.  Still, there was another trip to the store where I bought more things than I needed.

And when I got home, I was pooped.

And so, a glass of wine while the pho reheated.  And when it had, I realized I needed to boil some noodles, too.  Another drink and some camera porn.  Why do so many of us like to look at cameras?  People buy them and then photograph them endlessly.  I am guilty, too.  They are beautiful things often enough.

And when the meal was ready, I sat down and watched a documentary on David Hockney's photography.  I'd never heard him speak before.  He is a fascinating man, a good and maybe a great thinker, and the things he said about photography and about the photo images that he made were about as good and insightful as anything I have ever heard on the topic.  I had always been half a Hockney fan, but I am now full on.

And when that was finished and the dishes washed, I decided upon my next pleasure.  I had recently come upon an old pipe I used to smoke a hundred years ago.  It is a pretty if not beautiful thing, and I had held it in my hand and thought, "I think I'd like a smoke."  The next day at work, I was talking to one of the fellows in my department, and he spoke of getting up each morning and sitting on the porch and drinking his coffee and smoking his pipe.

"You smoke a pipe?!"

I told him about coming across mine and wondered where I could get tobacco.  There are not the old tobacco shops like there used to be.

"I used to smoke latakia," I said.  It is a tobacco that originated in Syria.  The farmers would store it in the rafters of their huts where it absorbed the smokiness of the camel dung fires.  It has a particularly strong odor and is especially fine to smoke, I think.

A week later, my friend gave me a pouch full of Latakia.

And so, on a Friday night alone, I loaded up the old pipe with strong tobacco and took my whiskey to the deck.  Smoking a pipe is much different than smoking a cigar, much cooler in the mouth.  I turned to catch my reflexion in the kitchen window and thought to myself, "I like that look."

Just then a car pulled up and a voice shouted to me.  In the fading light, I could not make out who it was.

"What are you doing?"

Haughtily I replied, "Just standing on my deck drinking whiskey and smoking a pipe in my boxer shorts," which was true.  I am rather like that, though.

When he pulled away, I realized who it was, a friend who had probably been having a drink at my neighbor's house.  I must have looked a sight.

Today I will have to find someplace that sells pipe cleaners and those little metal things that tamp down the tobacco into the bowl.  That shouldn't be difficult.

I woke this morning still feeling sick.  The whiskey and nicotine had not helped as much as I'd have thought, I guess.  My belly is alive and my body aches.  And this, I predict, is how I will spend my big weekend alone.  I am a hellboy.

I think there is a nap in my very near future.

The Actual Pipe

Friday, July 14, 2017

Just Out of Reach



I have read very few Jayne Anne Phillips stories.  But I will.  I just ordered "Black Tickets" based on a book review by Dwight Garner.  He mentioned "loneliness" in reference to her work.  That is always a big attraction for me.  It just never seemed that unpleasant, at least not when contrasted to the other.

I need mental and physical space.  I need hours.  I have to waste a lot of them to get anything done.  The company of other people is o.k. in small doses, but I can't think when other people are around.  That is the time when I "perform."  And I've come to realize over the years that too much of my performance alienates others.  They like it in small doses.  I've learned to leave the room sooner than later.

As a youth at parties, I would pick a spot on the outside of the activities where I could sit and observe without being observed.  I never felt a part of things and enjoyed the sweet agony of being apart.  I'd watch the popular kids perform their crowd-pleasing antics and would feel a bitter disgust.

I liked it most when the girl in this picture would come over and say hello.  That would be Jayne Anne Phillips.

I knew that girl over and over again in college and after.  Sweet sadness, desirable trouble, always inches out of reach.  She would constantly fall for some strange character, a redneck ruffian, a troubled poet, a louse.  Sometimes I'd take her coffee and a bagel early in the morning and we'd sit and talk awhile.  Or perhaps we'd go to lunch.  She was sweet and usually distracted by something, often sadness or trouble, not of an important kind but of an emotional nature.  She never seemed to settle.  The things that were easy for her drove her to seek trouble.  She needed to be disrupted.  Stillness was not her forte.

I miss her.  All of them.  They made me what I am.  I chuckle at that.  Blaming or praising?

But she and they are not around any more.  They've been replaced by the Instagram girl with the Facebook sensibility.  That is not a rap.  We are but the products of our times.

I have some space and hours this weekend.  A weekend is not enough, but it is something.  I will get to waste the hours and have a chance to think.  There might be just enough time to do one thing, but maybe not.  I need to do a lot of daydreaming before I can lift a finger.  At night, I will read some stories by Phillips and see if it brings back memories or feelings that can push me toward some sort of action.  

I wish I had taken that photograph of Jayne Anne Phillips.  It says a lot.  I hope I am not too far removed to do it now.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Like Most




Sick day.  Some belly thing, body and skin.  No use trying to write.  I'll just muddle through today.

Like most.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Difficult Codes to Crack



I was going to write an analytical post today comparing two articles in the N.Y. Times.  That was a thought.  Before that, I was going to comment on this opinion piece (link).  It tells us in educated terms that the educated class is the problem.  We are exclusive, creating codes that are too difficult for the poor and undereducated to crack.

There are a lot of clever people in the world, but FOX news still drives the market.

I haven't anything else today.  That is the truth of it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Blog Lament



I was sent this image by someone who said it reminded them (we are now allowed to use the singular plural form of a pronoun) of something.  They (ibid) liked it.  Funny that, though it didn't really seem so to me.

I have cameras and nothing else.  This blog has become nothing more than a lament.

Another friend sent me a link to a review in the N.Y. Times of Lawrence Osborne's new novel, "Beautiful Animals.  I ordered it right away but it won't be available until July 18.  I'm hoping the novel will be as good as his others.  Or better.  Osborne is a terrific writer who gets sloppy sometimes and makes mistakes.  But he is good and I enjoy reading him more than any other contemporary writer. . . probably because his writing isn't contemporary.  It is a throwback to something else.  I don't think it would be easy for someone under thirty to enjoy his writing.  I tried searching for a list of good writers under thirty just now.  Pitiful results.  You can find lots of lists of books written by writers under thirty, but they are old.  Pynchon's "V."  Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises."  Fitzgerald, etc.

I'm not against young writers at all.  Tell me which ones.  I'm all ears.

I'm pretty sure the writing will be about identity politics.

I did some research on trailer parks yesterday.  Not much out there, really, but I found enough, I think, to write a cover letter about my artistic mission, at least one that might get me in the door.  Trailer Parks started years before I would have imagined, but the 1960's saw a real boom.  Trailers started as campers, but people who could afford nothing else began to live in them full-time.  What began as recreation ended up as alternative living for the poor; hence, the stereotypical hallmark of trailer park living.

My cover letter won't say any of that.  It will be about the disappearing lifestyle of historic mobile home living.  There are many beautiful images from the past.

Jesus.  What a thing.  If I do it, I'm sure that people will object to that, too.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Stormy Moon



July's full moon has come and gone.  It has made its magic and done its damage.  July, I read, is the stormiest month.  It has been here.  I wonder what they mean?

I've had too much champagne and whiskey and chocolate cake.  It is time for reclamation of some type.  I look around and think, "I must do something."

One thing I want to reclaim is photography.  New Mexico is made of aluminum.  I mean, there are many trailers there.  In my own home state, however, trailer parks are disappearing.  I would like to photograph them before they are gone.  Tough.  A huge commitment.  I would have to get permission not only of the people who live there but of the owners and managers of trailer parks, too.  You can't just walk in with a camera and not expect trouble.  But I have been in trailer homes.  They are unique places, not like any other place at all.  I envision photographing people sitting by praying hands lamps and portraits of pets.  Doilies, perhaps.  I want to get to know the people who live there.

I shouldn't have said so, though.  It is a huge commitment, probably one of which I am not capable.  Not just now.

The full moon July 2017 astrology is as intense as it gets. Moon and Pluto opposite Sun and Mars creates such intensely hot energy that it will be difficult to control. This dangerous full moon has the potential to cause serious relationships problems if you let things get out of control. 
The July 2017 full moon could cause threats, violence, displays of power, murder, invasions, overthrows and war. There is, however, a real chance of compromise and peace between lovers and between nations. Continue reading for advice on how to keep relationships together during this powerful moon phase (source).  

 It is still July, still the stormy month.  Summer is a danger here.  I toss and turn and always fret.  These are not the gentle months.  Troubles are many and pleasures are few.  Sounds like lyrics in an old soul song.  It is the south.  Like Faulkner said, we endure.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Soft



We went to one of the local springs Friday, but the park was closed.  Rather, it was full.  They weren't letting anyone else inside.  I guess that's good, but not for us so much.  So we drove on to the beach.  It was the hottest part of the day by the time we got there, and after the beautiful beaches and clear water of the Breakers, Ili was not so happy.  We sat on our blankets and ate subs and then went into the flat opaque water.  After not to long a stay, we left.

Saturday was a rain day.  We were lazy.  We ran then ate breakfast, had mimosas, and went back to bed.  We got up and watched t.v., then came back to my place where we ate and watched more t.v.  Early, we went for sushi and came home and watched t.v.  And then we went to bed.

Soft.  That is the word my father's generation used to describe certain kinds of people.  I have never been that, but I am in the act of becoming.  It ends today.  I don't want to be "that."  I know which side I want to be on in the game of cowboys and gamers.  I know fitness freaks who are soft.  They can go to box gyms and play body shaper, but they don't like dirty work.  I guess I'd rather be a tree trimmer.

I mean. . . if I can't be an artist or a writer.

I am not one for lying around.  My perfect day is rising early, reading, writing, exercising, eating, drinking, napping, rising, going to the studio and working, eating, working more, reading, and bed.

I know.  There is no tree trimming in there.  Perhaps I'm soft.

Yea, maybe so.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Life You've Earned



Another summer weekend approaches.  Beaches and pools and cold springs.  I'll give it a go, as they say, and see what happens.  I should be happy.  There is little to complain about other than my lack of creativity.  To make up for it, I have put in a bid for a camera on eBay.  It is a lowball bid and I am sure to lose, but it made me feel good to be in the game.  It is a swell camera, one that I used to own before the thievery, and if I do end up buying it, I swear to sell one of my other less used cameras to pay for it.  Just saying that makes me feel much better.  Now I hope I win.

We should look forward to things as much as this little girl looks forward to the sea.  The sand is hot, the water refreshing.  "The Life You've Earned," the advertisement says.  Maybe that is what I have.  Probably so.

"What did I do to deserve this fate?"

"Really?"

I must look back over the years of writing, but I think I am never good in the summer.  The heat oppresses me, and I want to be a Kennedy sailing off the shores of Kennebunkport, later retiring to the broad porches of the large home with a cool vodka and tonic.  Lobster dinners followed by homemade ice cream.  That's the life for me.

So. . . beaches and pools and cold springs.  I'll give it a go, as they say.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Perpetual Whine



Maybe I should simply quit posting photographs here.  I have a billion dollars worth of camera gear and can only take snapshots with my iPhone.  I can't even tell you why.  I'm under court orders not to discuss it.  Any discussion of the ban on camera use for anything other than family snapshots (and I'm allowed very little of that) could land me in a shitload of trouble.

Snapshot photography.

Twitter posts.

I am fucked.

It matters little right now.  The weather is so oppressive that all I want to do is sit under a fan and drink.  It is too hot for anything.  Yesterday after work, I rode my little Vespa to the store.  Even riding the Vespa was awful.  The air, so hot, so wet, is not refreshing at 35mph.  These are Burmese Days in an untextured land.  We await the terrible storms.

There is only one cure for anything, really--tremendous wealth.  It can make almost anything tolerable.  The Breakers, of course, is not peopled with tremendous wealth this time of year.  They are all in better weather.  We only got onto the island of Palm Beach because Trump was elsewhere.  The stores on Worth Avenue were knowingly closed.  The streets were empty but for the Abercrombie crowd in their typical cargo shorts and flip-flops.

I mean me.

I do not sleep well in the summer here.  My dreams are vivid and horrible, my body painfully restless.  At the Breakers, however, I slept long.  It is this life I live, I conclude, through which I suffer.

No photos.  No stories.  No sleep.  I am perpetually broke and now broken in body and spirit.

And now the perpetual whine.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Augury



This is an iPhone pic through my Rollieflex viewfinder.  Morning after drinks for health and hydration.  We bled money.

"The Breakers.  It's The Life You've Earned."

No shit.  That is what the in-room t.v. ad tells you.  But it is all very nice.  More than nice.

I wanted to show Ili where I used to stay on old Singer Island, a quiet little jewel, uncrowded, tropical, wonderful. . . .  I hadn't been for years.  Something happened though.  It has been discovered.  I took her to the old Sailfish Marina where I had been going since the '60s.  Now it is an ugly Jimmy Buffet TGIFridays sort of mishmash.  All the charm and beauty are gone.  In its place are jackasses.  Sorry.  But I couldn't stand it.  Loud tattooed people with motorboats and liquor tearing up the waters.  The beautiful reef fish were gone.  All the things that must have brought them there. . . but no, they probably brought one another.  They come for that, I guess.  They come for the crowd.

And so, the quietude of the Breakers was wonderful.  The rich are different from you and me.  They are more beautiful.  They are quieter and better behaved.  They don't move in that herky-jerky aggressive way of the hoi-poloi.  They hardly look around.

And so we paid for beauty.  Chairs beneath large, sheltering umbrellas on the beach overlooking the clearest of blue waters.  A birthday dinner at the Flagler Steakhouse, the most expensive meal I've ever been a part of.  Twenty-dollar in room movies.

We stood a foot and a half apart in waist-deep water.  A four foot tarpon swam between us.  A wonderful surprise.  I show Ili all the magnificent creatures that live in the bits of floating Sargassum weed (but I never do find a seahorse).

Once we made a mistake of going off property.  It was a terrible shock.  The weather was awful, the roads and sidewalks and buildings worse.

It takes tremendous effort to make beautiful things.

Back home on the Fourth of July, hamburgers and hotdogs with mother.  Just as I begin to grill, a storm begins.  I put the hamburgers on the grill but the rain comes down in sheets and there are giant lightening strikes close by so that we clench with each bolt.  The wind blows in gusts, sixty miles per hour I guess (confirmed today in the paper), tree branches breaking, trees coming down.  The power flickers.  Then there is hail.

A reckoning, I guess, a sort of welcome home augury.

I guess.  Today it is back to the factory.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

July



July.  Summer is in full swing.  I will head to the beach tomorrow for a few days, staying in Trump's Palm Beach at the fabulous Breakers.  We have turned down the invitation to stay at the Mar-A-Lago what with the bloody faces and all.  We are now forced to go in the off-season, of course, as Trump's visits make it impossible otherwise.  Have you ever been?  Oh, it just isn't what it used to be, new money and all.

The weather should be terrible, but the daiquiris will be icy and we will eat cold lobster salads.  I just want to buy a few linen suits to make it through the season.

So. . . I won't be around for a few days.  That is fine, of course.  We'll all muddle through the patriotic gore somehow.

See you on the other side.

Friday, June 30, 2017

That's What You Think



Big and Little Edie still inhabit me.  Once you've seen them, they get into you, and once they get into you, you can't get them out.  That is the fear at least.

After watching "Grey Gardens," I rented an earlier film by the Maysles brothers, "Salesman," made in 1968, about a group of traveling Bible salesmen.  I sent links to the film to several people who would remember such times, who would remember when salesmen would actually come to your door, come into your house, and demonstrate their wares.  Vacuum cleaners, encyclopedias, Fuller brushes, makeup, cleaning products. . . .  If you were never subjected to that as a kid, you've missed horribly much.  What shakes the memory in the film, too, is the absence of things.  There were not as many people, of course, but there just weren't nearly the number of manufactured objects in the world.  Rooms were more spare, speakers smaller, things not as loud.  You can feel the "void" in that world.  In retrospect, it is easy to understand why Existentialism was so much in vogue.

And money was tighter.  People were not the consumers that is the hallmark of society now.  My father, I remember, would always order food by the price.  He wanted there to be no mistake.

"I'll take the twenty cent coke."

But that was rare.  We hardly ever ate out.

Gender roles are clear in the film.  What is surprising, though, is how powerful and important the women in this film are.  They handled the household budget.  They were were by far the wiser and lovelier people.  Salesmen sold to wives.  Men were easier as they were less likely to say they couldn't afford a thing.  Male ego.  They couldn't admit to that.

But the film's ending tells the story of men and the consequences of their need to succeed.  You understand that completely in the films final shot.

Oh, it was wonderful.

I couldn't help but think of Beckett after watching three devastating documentaries in two nights.  Yesterday's post concluded with a Beckett line.  And I will end this one with something from "Waiting for Godot."  It is a perfect comment on the present.


VLADIMIR: What do they say?
ESTRAGON: They talk about their lives.
VLADIMIR: To have lived is not enough for them.
ESTRAGON: They have to talk about it.


ESTRAGON: I can’t go on like this.
VLADIMIR: That’s what you think.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Rich Are Different



Last night, I finished watching "Grey Gardens."  I thought I had made it halfway through last evening before falling asleep, but I was wrong.  I woke up halfway through.  I'd only watched about fifteen minutes of it.

If I was haunted before. . . .

"The rich are different from you and me," Fitzgerald told Hemingway.  "Grey Gardens" speaks to that.  Hemingway's response should have been, it seems, "Yes, until they don't have money."  Poverty, perhaps, makes us all mad as hatters.

But Big and Little Edie, they were creatively mad, at least.  They are fascinating.

And once beautiful.

"The beautiful are different from you and me."


But to be both, to be rich and beautiful, is tremendously special and tremendously cruel.  Here's Big Edie.


And here is Little.  One can barely stand it.  I am endlessly fascinated, of course.  Even old and crazy as they were, those qualities brightly shown.

I am worn out with it, though.  I fell asleep too early and woke with madness foreseeing a horrible and pitiless future.

All one can do is endure, I guess.  As Beckett said, "I can't go on.  I'll go on."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bill Cunningham, Hero



I did something I haven't done before yesterday.  It wasn't a good day for me.  I have not been sleeping well, and I was just beat when I finally got up at five after a night of tossing and turning.  I took a long walk, but that left me feeling tired rather than refreshed.  I had to go to a satellite of the factory to work yesterday morning, and after that, I went back to my office.  My secretary had texted me and said she had to leave, that it was an emergency, and since she knows my schedule and I what I need to do next (and I pretty much don't), I fiddled around with things as long as I could.  Then I got up from my desk, picked up my bag, left my office and went to my car, and drove away.  It felt weird, I have to say, but I didn't want to be there any more.

I knew what I wanted to do, and it was something else that I don't really do.  I just wanted to go home and pour a glass of wine and get on the couch and watch t.v.  I stopped at the Greek place and got a big salad and half a chicken and headed home in the heat and the drizzly rain.

Thank god I have spent money on insulation.  It has made a difference.  My house was cool, the t.v. room dark.  On the way home, I heard a report on NPR about the Albert Maysles and a film he finished just before he died in 2015 called "In Transit."  It is owned by Al Jareez Television which has folded and the film has never been released.  

I'd never seen the two documentaries that have made him famous, "Salesman" and "Grey Gardens," so I figured I had the rest of my day planned out.  I have Netflix and Hulu, so surely. . . but no.  Netflix only makes them available on DVD.  But in searching, I came across another that I could watch for my subscription price--"Bill Cunningham New York."  I've never cared much about Bill Cunningham though I used to look at his stuff in the New York Times.  It wasn't him so much as the fact that I do not care about clothing and fashion.  I started the film by accident, really, on my computer, and got sucked in.  I went to the couch, turned on the t.v., and let it play.

Oh, my.

Watch it.  Watch the film.  Holy smokes is all I can say.  Bill Cunningham has become one of my heroes.  What a thing.  What a horrible, lovely thing.

After that, I rented "Grey Gardens" from Apple.  But before it started, I ran to the liquor store just to make sure.

I woke up halfway through the film.  I really liked the first half, but the day and the liquor combined. . . . I will have to rent it again tonight to finish it.

I did not sleep well last night.  Woke at two.  I was thinking about the characters in each of those documentaries.  There is a terribleness to life that people brave onward against.  I could not sleep for thinking about it and thinking about how I may not, somehow, have the fortitude or the courage to do so.  I was not awake, not asleep.  And then a noise outside my bedroom door brought me to.  I jumped up to see whether it was an animal or a human.

It was neither.  The sprinklers had come on which is a problem since I have turned off the sprinklers weeks ago.  There should be no way for them to come on at all.  I stood naked on the bedroom patio watching them and wondering, thinking about the money I spend trying to keep the house up, feeling helpless, feeling doomed.

I went back to bed, but it was useless.  Visions of a cursed future brought on the night terrors.  How does one, I pondered, carry on?

Today will probably be no better than yesterday, and I may want to sneak out early once again to come home, lie on my couch, and watch the rest of "Grey Gardens" and then watch "Salesman."  I am pretty certain of it.

I have less and less inclination to do anything, it seems, other than think and read and look.  I don't want to fix sprinklers or patch cracks in the wall or fix doors that don't close properly.  I don't want to weed and fertilize.  And I fear that I don't have the money to let others do it for me.  I am not a practical man.  I tried it, I think, but I wasn't any good at it.  I am what they call a lazy dreamer.

I'll need to sleep tonight.  I might need help.  It is the season, I know.  This happens to me every year, I think.  There are demons at play after I pass out on the couch, wake up and make my way to bed.  I don't know how it will all work out.  Maybe in the end, I'll just take acid and wander off naked into the wilderness.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Clutter



My mother brought me Xenias in a little plastic Diet Coke bottle on Sunday.  They sit before me as I write.  Pretty little flowers, deep, purplish red and another that is yellow.  They are small, though, and everything in the room distracts from them.  Detracts.  They should sit alone in a bare room, the sole focus of attention.

I am often distracted.  Oft.  I need to isolate so many things.  I live in clutter.  It is time to de-clutter.  Un-clutter.

I get overwhelmed and am not good at organizing.  Things, I mean.  I can organize thoughts and words.  I am good at categorization.  Phylogeny.  Things, however. . . I never know where they go or where to put them.  Down, mostly, on something.  And then they are lost.  Not missing, of course, just lost in the jumble of things.  I no longer discern them.

They are mostly pretty things, desirable things, but then there is the random slip of paper, a receipt maybe, or a box or a plastic container.  There are lamps and candle holders and balls--I have a wicker basket full of weird balls--and vases and clocks and gifted elephant bookends and an ostrich egg.  There are piles of books and framed pictures, just snapshots of life, and the bookshelves are full of books but other things, too. An 8x10 camera on a tripod has sat in my bedroom for six month or a year without being used.  The drawers are full.  I have stacks of pretty coasters that somehow I never use.  Book bags and backpacks and camera bags.

I could go on.

I had bad dreams last night.  Not nightmares, I guess, but I'm not certain where the dividing line is between them.  Bad dreams.  I woke and thought about them and realized I was trying to work something out, and that I had worked it out, at least in my head if not in life.  It is the mind's way of cleaning up the clutter, of organizing the mess.

I guess.

I look across the room into a corner where a clay pot with rattan wrapping holds a bunch of pussy willow branches.  I have had them for--Jesus--maybe twenty-five years.  At least half of the white balls on them are missing.  I don't know that I could throw them away.  They must mean something to me, an extant memory. . . .  They are ragtag now, and I should let them go.  Would I miss them?  It seems to me that I would.

A garage is a shitty museum.  Attics, too.

I might sleep better if I cleaned mine out.

No sun this grey and drizzly morning.  I can no longer linger here.  I must go.