Monday, July 16, 2018

A Day of Respite



I gave myself the day off yesterday.  I mean completely and totally off.  It wasn't much different, really, than other days except psychologically.  "Today I don't need to do anything."  That kind of off. I could do anything I wanted, but I didn't have to.  No exercise.  No need to make pictures or even look through files.  I left my mother's house and went to mine to watch the World Cup.  I sat on the couch alone but texted my friends.  It was fun--the Hillbillies vs. the Imperialists.  The Hillbillies went out like the house was on fire.  The Imperialists stuck with finesse.  The Hillbillies had the ball on attack at least 3/4s of the time, but the Imperialists used set plays to score.  In the second half, the Hillbillies had no legs.  The little brutes were spent.  And then it was done.  I hoped to see the next World Cup as I have seen them all since I watched Germany play Argentina in Mexico City.  I was in a little outdoor cafe high in the Peruvian Andes.  People were crowded around a little black and white t.v.  It was the first time I'd watched a soccer game.  It was fun.

I thought I might have a let down after the game.  It was one o'clock and the day was steamy.  I have forgotten what to do, really.  What do people do?  I checked out my old Polaroid cameras to see if they worked.  Some did.  Some didn't.  I had film for my cheapest camera, a One Step.  I loaded the camera and put it in the bin under the Vespa seat, put on my expensive sunglasses, and took a ride.

I headed downtown on some back streets I don't usually or even ever take.  I came across a Buddhist Center that looked very unremarkable.  There was a garden attached.  I turned off the bike, walked in, and sat across from an Indian Buddha.  There was nobody around.  Everything was still.  Maybe, I thought, I'd come back.  I took one photo before I left.  Take only photos, leave no trace.

I was kind of lost in the route.  Everything was new, and I wasn't certain exactly where I was, but nothing like that lasts for very long.  I came out on the "wrong" side of the park.  The view was different.  I found a place to park my scooter and joined the crowd.  I had my camera, but I didn't want to take pictures.  And I didn't have to.  I was off.  I just watched and listened and absorbed.  I tried to write it, the people--their haircuts, their clothes, how it spoke to who they were, what they thought, how they lived.  I watched people line up before a pagoda to take pictures of one another with the lake in the background.  Unremarkable photos.  Keepsakes.  Its what they wanted.  I watched the jugglers and some wacky kind of Nerf-ish archery and the usual group of circus-acrobats-in-training.  I saw pictures.  There were lots and lots of pictures, but I didn't have to try to take them, for I had taken the day off.

I got back on my scooter and drove downtown.  Lots of people were in the bars, probably the remnants of the World Cup.  A fellow sat on a big electrical box with a sign.  I eased up beside him.

"Hey, if I pull in here, can I take a picture?"

"Sure."

It was the first time I'd done this sort of documentary stuff in a long, long time.  It felt liberating, exhilarating.  I could still do this, I thought.  I could still talk to strangers.

I'll show you one of the two pictures I took tomorrow.

On my way home, I stopped at the Cafe Strange.  It was jam packed full.  I ordered a drink and wrote some things I didn't want to forget.  I had forgotten to bring my phone.  After a bit, I turned to the fellow sitting next to me with his girlfriend.

"Excuse me, do you know the time?"

This took effort as I have forgotten how to talk to people, how to approach them.  Sounds silly, but that is the way my life has turned.  He gave me the time and it was later than I thought.  I needed to buy groceries for dinner and get back to my mother's.  My day off.

I cooked.  We ate.  I'd had enough of "Naked and Afraid."  Usually, I don't say anything, but it was my day off.  My mother said I could watch whatever I wanted.  I put on a documentary.  "Disfarmer." Oh shit, was it good.  Not so much the documentary but the subject.  Google Disfarmer and look at the photos.  He was a loner, people said, an outsider.  People came to him for photographs.  He died in his studio surrounded by rats.  Nobody really knew him.

I watched another documentary about a photographer after that, but I will tell you about it later, if at all.  It, too, was wonderful.  Again, not the documentary but the subject.

My day off.  I took four photographs.  I liked three of them.  Not a bad percentage.  The Polaroids are expensive.  You can't just snap away with abandon.  You have to be reasonably sure.  It is a good way to work.  I like that.  It was the first day in a while that I didn't feel some incurable hollowness and disappointment.  I was almost refreshed.

Almost.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dystopia


Anaïs Perry
It must be the weather.  Surely it is.  Summer here is always dull and flat and ugly.  The streets are barren.  Everything is beat--and not in the beatific way.  Air conditioners hum as the hothouse world grows moldy.  Rot and decay abound.  Any hopes of glamor are dashed.  The dress of those poor people you do see is over-washed utilitarian.  There is no point in getting dressed.  There are no smiles.  Jaws are set in anxious irritation.  Anyone with money or sense has fled, if nothing more, to the beaches.  Water and alcohol are the only refuges.  And money.  If you are a working slob or a wage slave to the factory as I am, there is only the long, grim waiting for an end to the horror, waiting on the next catastrophic storm that will not cleanse but bring pestilence and disease and recurring misery.  This is, as Trump likes to say, shithole country.  The lakes are toxic.  Even the beaches are plagued with sea lice.  Algaes of all hues attack the digestive and respiratory systems.  Native plants die as new exotic weeds take root.  Developers are moving at light speed to build that last giant monstrosities on the remaining bits of spoiled land before the big crash.  Cars creep along decrepit highways as radiators boil.  The poor sport tattoos and weirdly designed haircuts and aggressive neighborhood attitudes in defiance.  The rich stay behind country club walls.

It looks and feels like the 1970s.

I've never been much of a dystopian.  I'm having a very hard time.  I sleep through as much of the day as I can and narcotize myself at night.  I try to remember my dreams of being a flaneur, but there is no place to wander.  I imagine it is me, my situation, stuck inside these padded rooms, my world shrunken to a few hundred feet with an unescapable "Gunsmoke" soundtrack, commercials selling grave plots and catheters.

"They never show old people on these shows, do they?"

She'd rather watch reruns of "The Golden Girls."  She laughs along with the laugh tracks.

I can't look in the mirror.  I shrivel.  I shrink.  I fade away.  Going. . . going. . . .

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fascinated by the Wrong Thing



Last night, I watched a movie on Netflix about the photographer Bert Stern.  He was not the kind of photographer ever mentioned in my photo classes at the university.  He was a commercial photographer and had no place in our fine arts curriculum.  The fine arts program, however, was a different world from the places you bought photo materials, cameras, lenses, etc.  It was confusing in many ways.  The aesthetics were completely different.  I met people who studied at commercial art schools, and they knew about lighting and scrims and things our professors never talked about.  I'd never heard of David Bailey and his ilk.

I had begun to buy books about photography.  I had the Time-Life photography series.



I had Edward Weston's "Day Books."  I had "Women Are Beautiful" by Garry Winogrand.  And for some reason, I had this.


I must have bought it at the photography store.  It sat on my shelf for decades.  I may still have it somewhere.  I'm not sure.  Over time, I thought it an embarrassment but kept it as I do most things, a testament to some stage in my development.  The pictures in that book really had no meaning.  They were just photo tricks.

So when I ran across "Bert Stern: Original Madman," I almost skipped it.  But it was early in the evening and I had everything in the pots preparing dinner for mom and myself, and I said, "Let me watch the beginning of this.  I won't watch long."


I was wrong.  I was fascinated.  He is the wrong man for the time, no doubt.  He is the antithesis of everything a man is supposed to be today.  The documentary is a revelation of the archetype.  Mad Men, Bad Boys, etc.  I just couldn't turn away.

The film was made by a younger woman who had been his lover and muse.  She nails him, really, in an affable way.  Stern was friends with Kubrick.  I never knew he took the photos of Sue Lyons that promoted "Lolita."  He was the perfect photographer for that.  He was a cad.

When it was over, I wanted to watch it again.  I may.  Though it was not so long ago, it is like looking into the prehistoric past when dinosaurs ruled.  Hemingway and his generation were feminists by comparison.

In "White Hunter, Black Heart," Clint Eastwood playing John Huston says to his more sensitive friend, Peter Viertel, "Sometimes you just have to do the wrong thing."

I guess that pretty much sums it up.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Shall I Wear My Trousers Rolled



 Sometimes even atheists feel like God just hates them.  That is the only conclusion you can draw at a particular point.  And then the only thing that matters is your response, or, as Bukowski said, how well you walk through the fire.

I've always been amazed that some people will tolerate torture.  Like Lenny Bruce, I know I wouldn't.  As soon as the pulled out the funnel and the hot lead, I'd tell them anything they wanted to know.  I don't kid myself.  I'm not brave like that.  I don't want to take a beating.

Once in a graduate class, the professor, who was an enigmatic cult stud with whom almost every student was enamored, asked me, "Would you rather give someone your money or take a beating?"

"Well. . . I'm not much for beatings.  I'd surely give my money."

He looked at me like a dog will when you ask it a question it only understands part of.  I used to do that with my dog.  "Do you want. . . ."  She understood that part.  If I said "a walk," she understood immediately.  If I said "to go with me," she excitedly headed for the Jeep.  But sometimes, I'd fuck with her and say something like "a cucumber?" and her head would twist this way and that as she kept her confused eyes on mine trying to understand.  That's what this professor did.  He just couldn't comprehend.  After what seemed an interminable time, though, his face relaxed and he sat back in his chair for a moment, grinning, before he said, "Ah. . . I see. . . you want the girls to think you're the sensitive type."  But that wasn't it.  I just don't relish taking a beating.

Whether you like it or not, though, the beatings come, and the thing is, you are not asked to give up any information or even a confession.  As far as you can tell, there is nothing you can do to make the beating end.  It is just a beating pure and simple.  You know that because you give up the information.  Over and over again, you confess.  And your mind turns on itself like a starving cannibal.  And that is when it occurs to you that God just hates you.  There is no other explanation.

So, cursed among men, you go about stubbing your toe and running into doorjambs and tripping over breaks in the sidewalk.  Nobody likes you and you are sent to the back of every line.  And eventually you are broken.  You resign yourself to the fate.

"It's nothing you did.  It is just age, bad luck. . . genetics."

You think of the lucky ones like Camus, and the others who couldn't take it any more, and then you think of the hideous Mr. Beckett--"I can't go on.  I'll go on."  You didn't want to read him, then you didn't want to keep reading him, but you did.

Nobody enjoys this sort of talk, of course.  Not in a complete way.

I just realized that it is Friday the 13th.  Not good when you already sense doom in the air.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.


In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.


I think I'd better take it easy, watch my step.  But there is not avoiding the inevitable, which, when you realize what that means. . . . 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Power of Positive Thinking



One day, the mind just turns on itself, and you can only wonder why.  It becomes darkly analytical about you, your past, your behaviors, and all its conclusions are negative.  You tell it no.  Try thinking nice things, happy things, positive things, you tell it, but it simply focuses on the dying ember.  That's when the inevitable fatigue sets in and there is nothing left to do but drug it.  You wonder, after a lifetime of otherwise healthy activity, why your mind rebels against you now.

I guess I've never understood mental illness and true hopelessness.  I've had a glimpse.  I don't need any more than that.

The thing to do, I think, is just what they tell you to "Leave It To Beaver" style.  "Father Knows Best."  Etc.

"What do you learn from happy?" I've always asked.  "Pull aside the curtain.  Happy is but an illusion."

I understand "The Wizard of Oz."  Dorothy was happier back in the old symbolic black and white than she was in technicolor.  Alice was happier on top of the proverbial rabbit hole.

The world just wears you down.  It's not your fault.  That is what the doctor told me about physical health.  "It's nothing you did.  It is a matter of age, genetics, and luck."

Not matter.  You can't fix a lifetime.  There is nothing you can do about it.  It is a matter of age, genetics, and luck.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Bad Dark



Bad night.  Worst ever.  The darkest places.

No place to run.  No place to hide.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Ghosts and Nightmares



Jesus.  What a horrible end to a five day "vacation."  It is back to the factory for me now.

Last night, I somehow turned off my mother's a.c. instead of setting the temperature down.  I woke up at two soaked with sweat.  I never really got back to sleep.  I just tossed around with ghosts and nightmares.  When I woke and opened the "paper," I read this (link) then this (link).  I'm on the same retirement plan as Hemingway and Thompson and Bourdain, but with less money.

I watched an interview Thompson did with Keith Richards yesterday (link).  It should be an after school special for kids showing what drugs can do.  It is weirdly fascinating.

Yesterday afternoon, I rode my scooter around with my camera.  Ha!  Just carried them, that is all.  Hungry, I stopped in a downtown place to get an eggs Benedict and a mimosa.  The place was packed with drug fueled hangovers, so sitting at the bar with nothing but derelicts to look at, I decided I'd get an Instagram account so I could see what photos were popular with the internet crowd.  In the middle of setting up my account, my eggs came, so I shut off my phone and ate.  Later, when I tried to continue, I was blocked.  I tried several times, but it seems I have been blocked from Instagram.  Their message said that some materials were deemed unsuitable.  What materials?  My Instagram name?  If I think that I was blocked by mistake, they want me to send them everything but a picture of my starfish to get "back online."  Back online!  I was never online!

I was bored the rest of my last "vacation" day.  In the late afternoon, I came back to my mother's to fix dinner and watch t.v.  We finished the last season of "Justified."  Six seasons, 78 episodes.  We watched it in two months.  My mother is sad that it is over.  "What will we watch now?"  I don't want to be mean, but I don't see any way out now.  My last vital days will be like this.

I lie in bed with ghosts and nightmares.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Realm of the Righteous



I wish I hadn't ordered the Olympus XA4.  I don't think I can do it any more.  I was excited.  I thought, mistakenly, perhaps, I could make those Mark Cohen pictures now, so I grabbed my little XA and took to the streets of my own hometown.  I parked the Vespa, took out the little camera, walked across the street, zone focused, and pushed the shutter as a couple walked by.  The shutter noise is hardly a noise at all, a little "zip."  Sometimes, depending on the surroundings, it is inaudible.

It went off like a firecracker.  The woman turned and sneered, then said something to her husband.  I walked back across the street, got on my scooter, and went away.

I didn't take another picture all day.  Well, I did stop and take a picture of a couch sitting on a sidewalk.  But certainly, I didn't take pictures of any people.

I'll have to figure something out.  I'm working on it.  I have an idea, but it will take Big Balls in Cowtown.

And so, too early in the afternoon, I found myself at the Cafe Strange with a drink and a journal and some bad punk rock playing too loudly.  The weather was fairly stunning, but I had nothing to do.  The rest of the day was a waste.

I'm left with pictures of creamer packages.


 It used to be easy.  You could take a photo of a shirtless boy and not look around for a cop car.


You could take a flash picture of a man in a park feeding his friend, the squirrel.  Now, I think, I should feel ashamed.  It's the internet, I guess.  We are all prisoners of it now.  Or beneficiaries.  It has been responsible for correcting our behavior.  Zuckerberg is God.  Facebook morality rules.

In an age where ideology is the predominant art form, Banksy is a cultural genius.  I shouldn't say that too snidely, though.  I like Banksy's work too much.  I became a camp follower after watching "Exit Through the Gift Shop."  Yea, Banksy's the shit.  All he has to do, though, is make one false move, and everything will turn against him.  He has to continue to serve the predominant counter-culture to survive, and that crowd loves a feeding frenzy.  Look what it did to its poster bad boy Ryan Adams.  Once he did the Gap ad, they tore him apart like a pack of rabid dogs.  He lost his mind and never recovered.  It is important to understand the crowd you want to worship you.  Be careful of what you use for bait.  It will determine what you catch.

For now, I'll stick to creamer packages.  I'll keep looking for a country without internet.  Haiti, perhaps, or anywhere that migrants are desperate to leave.  Otherwise my choices are watching t.v. or code word Bourdain.  I just can't take living in the realm of the righteous.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Normal 2.0



I took another step toward "normal" yesterday.  Feeling the need to be among "the throng" and not having much imagination, I went to the mall.  It was a horrid thing.  The interstate that takes you there is under construction, and there was an accident, so traffic moved so very slowly through the downtown area and beyond.  But I was chill, just sitting back and listening to a newer Nobel Prize for Literature recipient's album and taking photos out the car window.  Just normalizing.

Friday afternoon at the mall during the summer is what you would expect.  Retirees and teenage girls.  I knew which group I was supposed to identify with. . . but the old people seemed always in the way. I thought I might step up my wardrobe a bit, but it looked like the same clothes on display since I was last there a year or so ago.  I guess that's good.  I got the eye from a girl who was with her boyfriend in the A and F store.  Several times.  Awright, awright.  Even if I only imagined it (as I know you are thinking), it was what I needed.  And I didn't.

I don't see, though, how the mall can survive. I looked at things I might want and thought that I would check it out online.  Amazon would get it to me cheaper by tomorrow.  I didn't want to commit to carrying bags.

The only store that looked like it was booming was Apple.  There people were shoulder to shoulder.  The closeness and the herky-jerky movements put them into a vicious feeding frenzy.  It was frightening.

Yes, malls are doomed.

I left with a t-shirt I got on sale at The Gap.

The drive home was hideous.

I've been fascinated by Mark Cohen's photography again.  I was once before, a long time ago before I had much access to his work in the days before the internet when card catalogs were split between the Dewey Decimal and the Library of Congress systems.  His photographs got me using flash.  I studied with Jerry Uelsmann, Todd Walker, and Doug Prince, and none of them ever taught us to use artificial lighting, so my flash pictures were fascinating to me.


I also was influenced by his framing which I will evince in coming posts.  All of the old pictures are gone though.  At least the negatives are.  My mother threw them away.  I believe she thought they were the work of the devil.  All I have left are some scanned images from disintegrating contact sheets, and not all of those have survived.  It is sadder than sad to me each and every time I think of it.

After the mall, I was looking through a Cohen book I have entitled "Frame."  The pictures. . . oh. . . I couldn't make it through the book.  I would get overwhelmed, take a break, then come back, but even then, I only made it about a quarter way through.  I wanted so much to go back and make those photographs, pictures that cannot be made now.

When I got back to my mother's, I went on eBay.  I had a camera in mind, an Olympus XA4.  It is a tiny camera that was only made for one year in 1985.  It has a 28mm lens that focuses down to 12".  I found one at a good price and bought it.  That, I think, is what comes of going to the mall, an online buying spree.

But that camera will be my constant companion.  I swear it will.  And if I like it, I will tell everyone not to spend money on cameras.  But I'll probably never do more than carry it.

We'll see.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Difference



I had a bit of a break-through yesterday. . . maybe.  I got up and almost went to work.  I felt like the day was just going to be a rehash of the past, a waste of time, and wondered why I would want to sacrifice a day of leave for that.  But I couldn't make myself go.  Nothing in life appealed to me, but nothing in life appealed to me less than going to work.  I did the "usual" thing, went for a long walk, went to the gym (Jesus, the telling of it sickens me), then came back to my mother's to shower.  She was sitting in the garage when I got there.  Her sprinkler system wasn't working right and she has a lawn care service who tried to replace the timer but couldn't get the new one to work so they put the old one back on--which didn't work in the first place.  The repair guy had just left.  They don't know what they are doing, she said.  I went back to look at it.  It is old, but I told her I would Google it and see what I could find.  That didn't cheer her.  She wanted me to put a new game on her phone, but I couldn't because she can't remember her account password.  I tried every password she told me, but none of them worked.  I tried to recover the password, but I needed another password that she didn't know to do that.  I was growing peevish and decided to go to my house to shower.  I was not liking myself and my growing impatience, and I didn't want to act like more of an asshole than my tone was already indicating.  I have a lot going on in my shaded psyche right now.  I decided to bail.  I got my stuff and went to my house to shower.

After showering, I grabbed my Hasselblad in which I have a new and temporary interest.  It would rain in a bit, but I believed I had time, so I grabbed my scooter and blew.  I took the quickest route which was on the busiest highway, and I felt the trouble I had was distracting me.  I wasn't paying attention, wasn't noticing the environment.  I'd "come to" and think, "You'd better watch out.  You are about to make a mistake."  The darkening skies, my brooding mood, my month's long exile from the outside world all, I believed, were conspiring against me.

When I parked my bike, I looked through the big plate glass windows of the dance studio next to the photo store.  Chubby young teens were practicing awkwardly in the wall-long mirror.  A couple of them saw me and giggled to one another.  I wondered.  I slung my camera bag over my shoulder and hurried into the store where I was greeted by two younger photographers who worked there.  I have always had some kind of reputation there, one, I hoped, that was enviable.  I needed an attachment for my tripod that would allow me to mount the big Hassie.  The woman who helped me find it was Hispanic.  "Quanto es?" I queried.  Oh, shit.  Why?  I hadn't meant to ask in Spanish, but she found it amusing and answered back with a smile.  In Spanish.  I wasn't quite sure what amount the words added up to, so I pulled some bills out of my wallet that I thought would cover it.  She handed me the change and said "Luego amigo."  Everyone said goodbye when I left.

O.K.  They hadn't frowned or spat in my direction.  Maybe things hadn't changed that much.  I was feeling better.

I was hungry, having eaten only a small yogurt after the gym.  I had a decision to make.  I thought that sushi sounded good.  I hadn't had any for a long, long time, and though I don't usually have it for lunch, I had the opportunity, and it was sounding good.  But in the east, a dark bank of clouds was rolling in.  Rain?  Maybe I could make it to the sushi place before it hit.  I'd start riding and decide.  In a few minutes, though, my mind was clear.  Get the car.  I was happy.  The air was cooling, the rain was coming, but I thought I had timed it right.  Then it began.  First a few light drops, then the hard ones.  I speeded up thinking I might get home without getting soaked, but the big rain stung my face as I creeped the scooter up to fifty.  I was almost home.  I'd missed staying dry by minutes, and I was laughing.  It was a game.  It was fun.  It was good.

I wasn't in it very long, and when I got home, I changed, dried my hair, and jumped into the car.  The rain had stopped.  It was just a joke.

Lunch.  Lunch out.  An upscale place.  No Cafe Strange.  This was where the Republican wives of attorneys came.  And attorneys themselves.  Quaffed.  Well-dressed.  Clean and smug.  The bar was clean, the music soothing, the food spectacular.  I just felt good to be out again.  I laughed to myself at the conversation at the table behind me, two men in ties.  I hadn't laughed in weeks.

A new rain was coming.  I went home--to MY home--and took a nap.

Maybe, I thought, I could manage a small trip somewhere.

When I got back to my mother's later in the afternoon, she prepared dinner for me.  She heated up the leftovers from the night before.  "Good enough," as the hillbillies say.  "It'll do."

My mother grew up on a poor farm as a kid in house that had been a barn.  No insulation, chinked walls.  She slept with her brother and sister until her brother was too old to sleep with them any more and was sent up the hill to stay with his grandparents who owned the farm.  Her father was a bitter man.  He'd been blinded in one eye by a thorn while helping to clear some brush.  He was never the same says my mother.  He didn't work.  He'd go to town and hang around the pool hall all day.  They lived on the scraps her grandfather sent down the hill from the farm.  Her brother had it better.  She'd wake up on winter nights freezing, the snow blowing through the walls.  It is almost too much for me to believe.

She got a job when she was 16 working at a restaurant.  Her father, she says, would sit outside in the car to make sure she didn't go with any boys.  He was mean to her, she says.  She saved her money and put it in a drawer.  Her sister stole it from her and denied it.  She bought an exercise book at the dime store, and she and her friend began doing exercises every day.  She never quit.

I'll tell more stories about my family, but not today.  I am running out of time.  My mother married my father.  They were a handsome couple.  Here they are one New Year's Eve in the early '60s, my father in his early 40s, my mother in her late 20s.  I barely recognize my father in this photograph.  He worked every day as a tool and dye maker.  He fixed the cars, did house repairs, and mowed the grass.  He worked hard.  My mother worked for a defense contractor.  She got up in the morning and exercised before work.  Then she made breakfast for my father and me.  Years later, I realized that she picked up my clothes and made my bed.  She came home after work and cooked dinner and did the dishes.  No dishwasher.  She washed our clothes at the laundromat.  She did the grocery shopping.  She worked harder.  I went to school, watched t.v., and played ball.  I didn't work at all.

It is wrong for me to complain about my mother.  At 86, she stumbled and broke her shoulder.  She does the exercises she is allowed to do.  In ten weeks, she has had much improvement.  She just got into her car and drove herself to therapy.  She lives on a fixed income and makes the most of a dollar.

And me?  Oh. . . you know.  You've known for a long time.  I'm an asshole who tries to be charming.  It doesn't always work out.  Sometimes, I'm just an asshole who complains.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Independence



Late in the afternoon, I asked my mother if she could remember any 4th of Julys from the past.  She said she couldn't.

"I don't know if they even celebrated it out where I lived as a kid."

That's possible.  It was hillbilly Ohio pre-WWII.

Later, as the first popping of fireworks from locals began, the local news station was reporting on the crowd of 100,000 people expected to attend the celebration downtown in the park surrounding the city's featured lake.  I called out to my mother,

"Remember the time my band played there?

"Sure," she said.  "I got to sit in the front row.  I thought you guys were pretty good."

I don't know how we got booked for that gig.  We were the only entertainment before the fireworks.  We shouldn't have been playing it.  We were a political band who wrote songs of anarchy.  Maybe we played some country that night.  I don't know.  We did that sometimes.  But the crowd was 100,000 that night.  Take that Mick Jagger!

 A friend of mine posted this today.

The Face of the Statue of Liberty , Liberty Island, 1886
It is crazy to me how much Lady Liberty's face looks like Donald Trump.  Put some orange hair on that and a big pot belly covered with an expensive suit and see.  I don't know, man, things are getting weirder.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Random



Hillbilly randomness.  You can see it in the arrangement of things.  Hillbilly landscaping, for instance.  There is no discernible plan.  Shit just goes in the ground.  Furnishings.  A piece here, a piece there.  Colors, patterns?  Mix in match, baby.  A 65" t.v. in a small room.  Meals?  Whatever is at hand.  My mother is back to cooking again which should be a good thing.  Whatever is at hand.  No rhyme.  No reason.  Two nights ago I had a turkey burger and some boiled cabbage.  Table water.

It's O.K.  It is a heritage.

Last night, my mother put on some analgesic rub all over her body before she made dinner.  The whole house smelled strongly of liniment.  There is nothing like the odor of mentholatum and an overcooked pork chop with green beans boiled into mush.  Table water.

It's O.K.

Why are there always little bits of paper towels or tissue lying in little wads around the house?

Q corrected me yesterday.  "It’s 'gradually, then suddenly' not 'slowly, then quickly,'" he said.  I knew he couldn't stop writing forever any more than I can.

Another friend wrote, "The only thing worse than having a girl, is no girl."

It's O.K.

Not really.  I'm in a bad place.  Sleep is no peace.  Mal a la tete.

My friend wrote that he hasn't had alcohol in nine days, doesn't watch the news, goes to bed at nine and walks five miles every morning.  Not drinking is good for a while, I wrote back.  It brings clarity. But after awhile, clarity reminds you why you were drinking in the first place.  There is no winning with it.  But I will return to the alcohol free zone for a while and see if I can lose another five pounds.  It has become a mania since I went to the doctor.  Jesus, I should never have gone.  All I see are the levels on my lab report.  Every moment, I wonder where they are.  Glucose?  Sodium?  LDL cholesterol?  Blood pressure?  Fuck me, I'm not kidding.

Levels.  I wish I could draw cartoons.  I want the back of a guy's head who is sitting in front of a graph of blood and urine lab results, slump shouldered, anxious.

Many people, I hear, enjoy the Cracker Barrel.  It is not difficult to imagine why hillbillies are so in love with shooting one another.

Hard times make hard people.

This old Polaroid was in a box of pictures, disintegrating.  I had to scan it to save it.  Grandparents on the hillbilly side.  They are dressed up.  Christmas day, I presume.

Heritage.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Tether



A friend texted me this from a book he was reading yesterday.  I want to go/see.  I think.  But there is some condition, I believe, that is related to the Stockholm Syndrome where the captive comes to love the captor.  Shut-ins begin to love their cages and fear going into the outside world.  They love the control and predictability of their cages.  After a certain period, I remember, prisoners cannot function in the outside world.

I think.

The world "out there" has begun to scare me.  My life is incredibly routinized now.  The news tells me how dangerous the world has become.  The Weather Chanel informs me that we are in the middle of a climatic Armageddon.

All that protects me are these walls--and Amazon.

I do get out, usually on Saturday and Sunday.  It is brief, though, and again, I am incredibly routinized.


I'll take a scooter ride with a camera bag that allows me imagine that I might make a photograph.  But as I have already reported here, I have grown crowd shy, and I never stop the Vespa, too terrified to take that chance.  And so. . . the afternoon mimosa at the Cafe Strange, but that, too, run as it is by lethargic hipster trash, is frighteningly unpredictable.  This weekend they had forgotten to order champagne.  I ended up with a glass of sparkling rose instead, as accurate an indicator of things as I can imagine.


When the afternoons are rainy, as they more often are, I travel by car.  In a town like this, it takes fortitude to stop anywhere.  It is daunting.  The slow, blurry world of congested roads through beaded windows are the Plato's Cave I know, the veil through which I see the world without being a part of it.


Lacking courage, unable to approach people, I photograph things.  Even so, my camera brings me trouble.  In the world, I am much too visible.  People in cars look at me suspiciously, even hatefully, it seems, if I put the camera to my eye.  In a parking lot, a group of strangers stares at me.  Why would a man be taking a picture of a car?  There is certainly something wrong with that.  What do you think he is doing?

Where once I had confidence of body, mind, and spirit and could look their way to make them know that whatever I was doing was fine, I now feel a beating in the offing.  It happened two ways, this condition.  As the infamous Mike from "The Sun Also Rises" says, it happened "first slowly, then quickly."  Every day, I understand more viscerally this lost generation's love of self-immolation.

Frustration between these walls.  My mother and I have been here for months now, she recuperating slowly, me slowing in time.  The muscle is falling from the bone.  Yesterday, returning to work after a four day leave, I was incapable.  I did nothing.  I have returned to a hillbilly randomness where meals are not planned, where there are just things to eat.  A turkey burger with boiled cabbage because that is what there is.  There is nothing wrong with that, but I begin to break.  My mother's day was bad, and I begin to snap.  I go to the store and buy beer and potato chips.  I drink whiskey.  At night, to make it stop, I take some meds.  I wake up too late, too groggy, and so the morning is gone.  Back to work.

I will take the rest of the week off like many this 4th of July.  But I will do nothing.  An afternoon drink.  A nap, trying to sleep away the hours.  Too afraid to get in the car, to go somewhere, to travel just to travel.  Maybe knitting or stamp collecting would interest me while I listen to "Judge Judy" and the endless ocean of commercials playing in the background.  All my life, it seems, I've been running in the other direction without feeling the bungee cord attached to my back.  I've stretched the tether to its limit now.

The recoil on this baby is powerful.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Daily Moan?



That meal I had at the noodle place, the one with a bowl of noodles, sake, and (forgot to mention) a cup of green tea ice cream which I followed with some scotch at home, added up to three pounds.  That is how much weight I put on the next morning.  And that is why it is impossible to lose weight.  All you can do is try to keep from putting more on.

The photo is of the vented chimney that serves the kitchen.  I took the photo on the way in.  It just looked interesting.  It is part of the World of Things that go mostly unnoticed.  We see them, of course, but don't look at them.  The more I look, the more I wonder.  There are people making fortuned from manufacturing these objects.  How does one decide to go into such a business?  Do people get rich or go broke?  I wouldn't know where to research an answer to that question.  It would probably make as good a topic as any for one of those reality t.v. shows.

I worked on this photograph.  I put as much work into it as I put into any of the Lonesomeville pictures.  After riding around at noon on my Vespa in the baking sun, after cruising streets and boulevards that looked abandoned in the melting heat, after wondering where everyone goes on these hot summer weekends when only ghouls and miscreants litter the sidewalks, after a mimosa at the Cafe Strange watching World Cup Soccer, I went back to my house and took a nap.  I guess I only wish to hide away from the world in unconsciousness.  Lacking resources and imagination, wine and a nap are all that I can fathom.  When I woke up, I dumped the few pictures on my SD card into the computer and did this.  The computer ran slowly, far too slowly, and I realized there are many ways I need to spend my money.  The a.c. couldn't keep up with the heat, the temperature in the house slowly rising.  No new camera for me.  God has plans for my money.  

I have to keep a stiff upper lip, though.  These are the killing months in the sunny south, a time when rain and heat and rot conspire to dull the body and smother the brain.  I am especially susceptible this year.  I must find some zen or I could be in trouble unlike the trouble I've known before.

Is this why I began writing again?  Just to piss and whine and complain?  That is the reason I quit writing.  Maybe I'm forcing it with the daily postings.  I'll need to consider what I say and the way I say it.  I will try to find something more spectacular.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Rehab



Yea, I know.  Jesus, it's looking like Facebook here.  But this was significant.  I'll get to why.

The past couple days, I left my mother's house for some hours to go out on my own.  I thought to run about town with my camera, but each day storms came hard and there was no point in going out.  I was left alone in my house, a place I haven't really been for months.  It was like a museum.  I didn't know where to start.  There were remnants of my past life, of the recent and distant past.  There were pictures of Ili on the fridge, drawings she made on the blackboard. The maids had been here, so everything was neat and tidy.  The bed was professionally made.  I sat in a chair not wanting to mess anything up.  I got hungry, but there was no food.  I poured a drink.  I don't imagine that liquor goes bad.

All in all, it was desultory.

As usual, before I left to go back to my mother's house, I called her to see if I needed to pick up anything at the grocer's for dinner.  Last night, she said that she wasn't hungry but that she would cook something for me.  Oh, no, I said.  I would just get something out.  When I hung up, I realized this was the first time I'd gotten out at dinner time for months.  I have been desiring two things, sushi and a noodle bowl.  Now, opportunity at hand, I was stymied.  Paralyzed, really.  Catatonic.  I sat in a chair and thought.  I wasn't sure how to proceed.  Parking would be difficult, but there was no use in riding the Vespa.  My timing was off.  Both places were sure to be full.  I really couldn't afford to wait for seating.  I sat longer thinking I should just go to the grocery store and buy something to cook up.  WTF had happened to me?  WTF indeed.  The door to the cage was open.  All I had to do was step outside, get into my car, and go into the world.  The good old world, though, seemed frightening.  I would be a freak out there, outside the bubble of conditioned living, out there with randomized behaviors.

I decided to try the noodle place.  I've had a stomach thing and was wary of raw food.  Something was going around.  Noodles were cooked and served near boiling.  I'd try.

When I got there, though, the parking lot was full.  A hipster crowd stood around outside sipping cocktails and waiting to be seated.  They looked menacing, like wolverines.  What if they wouldn't let me through the door?  I shuddered.  I was only one, though, a single.  Maybe, perhaps. . . .  I drove around back and found a spot, and without much hope walked up to the hostess stand.

"Hi, how many?"

"It seems hopeless," I said turning to the crowded lobby bar, "but I'm just one."

She looked around, smiled at me and said, "Do you mind sitting on a stool?"

What could I say.  She seated me at the kitchen counter, the only one there.  A row of backed chairs was empty.  I raised my eyebrow.  "I can't.  They already have their names on the waiting list."

A waitress came over right away and took my order.  I was awkward like a patient just released from a long stay in the hospital, or, perhaps, a man just released from a sentence in the county jail.  My movements were jerky, unnatural.  My eyes danced, my head bobbed on its own.  I felt like everybody's country cousin.  But--I had moved to the front of the line!  The pretty hostess had smiled conspiratorially and taken me first.  It was a victory of sorts.  For a brief moment, I had been privileged.  The natural order, for however short a moment, had returned.

After dinner, I went to my mother's and snuck myself a scotch.  I'm not supposed to be drinking, it seems.  She pretended not to notice, I think, and once I was seated on the couch, we returned to watching season five of "Justified."

I am glad not to have spent money on a Leica M10.  I have found some good deals, but I have demurred.  Rather, I decided to use my Sony a7riii.  Even its name is clumsy.  But it is small and lighter than the Leica, and I was able to put it and four lenses into one small bag.  The lenses weigh nothing which may not speak well of the glass, but walking around with the entire kit and caboodle  gives me many more options.  Well, walking around nowhere with it.  As I have said, it has been raining.  I will try once again today, but the weather report is not encouraging.

Point being, you get a phone pic of my dinner last night because I don't have much else to show right now.  The picture is merely illustrative of a brief but significant period of hope.  I am going to try to spend more time "out there" as my mother's recovery continues.  It is scary and quite lonely, but steps must be taken.  First my mother's recovery, then mine.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Blurry, F'ed Up



I just love blurry, f'ed up pictures that show me something that I otherwise wouldn't see.  When I come across them on a proof sheet (this was shot on film), I am drawn like a bear to honey.  Unfortunately, my taste in images is not popularly shared.  And maybe that is how it should be.  Sometimes, not very often, I imagine a world where my vision is welcome, a world where I am understood and adored.  It is as if the Beats had won the culture wars or that folk music scare had actually succeeded.  Try to imagine a lifetime of "Hootenanny."


Some things are best left in the margins of history.

But the mainstream of American life has completely worn me down.  Even the margins.  I go to bed tired and wake up tired.  I am confused.  Why do gay people like Disney so much?  It befuddles me.  And why have they become so boring?  Again, in tribute to Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, you can't out-weird America.  They have become absorbed into the mainstream the way "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" absorbed a sanitized version of beat culture through the character Maynard G. Krebs.  I was going to give a link, but it isn't worth it.  Watching any of it is awful.  In a world where drag shows are the last vestiges of sexual femininity. . . well, I guess its no wonder they have become so popular.

Don't listen to me.  I'm frustrated at having aged prematurely.  I am living the 86 year old life.  I am an angel.  I am a saint.  But not really.  All I dream of is a vacation where I can run amuck.  I want all that I can't have.  I know now how boring the lives of saints can truly be without the opportunity to visit decadence and depravity.  Just a visit, not permanent residence.  Just a peak over the wall.

I feel something like Reinfield in "Bram Stoker's Dracula."

Friday, June 29, 2018

At Odds



The fireworks tents are up.  We will here the little poppers all about the neighborhoods soon.  We used to get these little firecrackers called "Lady Fingers" when I was a kid.  They were smaller than the regular firecrackers.  You couldn't buy them here in our state, but people would go to Georgia or North Carolina and come back with them.  We used to prove our manhood by holding the Lady Fingers between our fingers and letting them explode.  The key was to squeeze as hard as you could.  If you didn't squeeze hard enough, the skin on your fingers would split open.  That's the kind of macho fun little cracker redneck kids have in the Sunny South.  One kind, anyway.

No wonder I have never really enjoyed the 4th.

But I loved this circus looking tent.  I wish there were still tent circuses around.  I tried hooking up with a Mexican circus once.  I wrote to them, but I never got a response.  I'd probably have to go to Eastern Europe or Asia to find what I am looking for now, and I'd probably have a hard time even finding them there.

I'll bet there aren't even any headhunters any more.

(link)

Last night was the Strawberry Moon.  I slept through it.  I have lost touch with the natural world.  Even my sleep was not natural, fueled as it was by Advil P.M. gel capsules.  The gel caps are the ones to get.  They will surely be illegal soon.


A cow on a roof.  Indeed, it is a T.C. Boyle world.  There is nature and there is human nature, and they are constantly at odds.  I think I'll take a walk.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Gift



Let me go ahead and piss a lot of people off today--Hillary is the gift that keeps on giving.  I don't want to talk about politics.  My opinions are in the 2% bracket there.  But really, how much has the world changed since Hillary's campaign?  People blame Trump, but there is only one way that clown could get elected. Still, the anti-Trump people just want to double down.  An upset in Queens now drives the agenda for the left.  And Trump is about to stack the Court.

I am starting to believe more profoundly in astrology.

I think the future will all come down to who wins the World Cup.  It won't be due to talent as much as the alignment of the stars.  Soon we will know our fate.

I was pulling for the most boring team in the world, but they have been eliminated.  If Sweden ends up winning. . . but there is little hope of that since the corruption of the Nobel committee.  Even Sweden?

Next we'll find out that yoga is really bad for you.

Hunter S. Thompson was right, of course.  You can't out-weird America.  Even the outlaws are absorbed.  All you crazy pot smokers, etc.

"There was a time when courtesy and winning ways went out of style, when it was good to be bad, when you cultivated decadence like a taste. We were all dangerous characters then. We wore torn-up leather jackets, slouched around with toothpicks in our mouths, sniffed glue and ether and what somebody claimed was cocaine. When we wheeled our parents' whining station wagons out onto the street we left a patch of rubber half a block long. We drank gin and grape juice, Tango, Thunderbird, and Bali Hai. We were nineteen. We were bad. We read André Gide and struck elaborate poses to show that we didn’t give a shit about anything. At night, we went up to Greasy Lake" (T.C. Boyle).

When will we see the Clintons hawking elder drugs on one of the cable channels my mother likes to watch in one of those million commercials that show during "Gunsmoke" and "Bonanza," Bill speaking to the benefits of a popular brand of hearing aids, Hillary warning of the dangers of osteoporosis?  No, there would be more money in a Viagra ad, both women's and men's.  Hell yes.  And ads for the Bernie Sanders Sex Camps.  

"And now, here's Harvey Weinstein with a word about Zoloft."  

Too soon?  

Obviously the aged are the only white people who are interested in sex any more.  And James Franco, of course.  

This is not the Age of Aquarius.  

The world has become too much with us.  Micro-dosing with lysergic acid is all that can possibly help now.  I've read all about it.  I'm going to try it on my mother first, just to see.  If I can find some, I'll start slipping it into her breakfast.  If she seems happier and more alert, I'll begin my own regimen.  It is the logical next step now that criminals have convinced the world of the benefits derived from tetrahydrocannabinol.  

You know the rumor, of course.  Trump, like Hillary, has been micro-dosing all along.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Bad Advertising



Depending upon the make and model of your car, you will see some variation of this.  It could be "Check Engine" or something similar.  All of these messages need to be standardized so that we, the consumers, know what they mean.  Here is what I suggest flash across the screen.

$$$

Because that is what it means to the fix-it shop.  My light was on yesterday when I took my 2005 Xterra to the dealer.  I swear to you, the service agent or whatever they are called got a boner when he looked at my dash.  His breath became slightly audible and his voice creamy when he asked, "Do you want us to check that?"  Oh, baby.  I'd gone it for an oil change, a tune-up, and a detailing.  "Sure," I said.  He'd call me, he said, and let me know what was going on.

Catalytic converter--$1,500.  Oh, and the timing belt, he elated, was wearing out--$2,000.

Not today, I told him.  He was rude when I picked up my car as if I were some sort of cock-teaser.  I'd be sorry if I didn't give in, he insinuated.  I needed his service of which it would be a mistake to deprive myself.

I stopped by my house before I went to my mother's.  The heat index was over 100 degrees.  My a.c. couldn't keep the house at the temperature I'd set my thermostat.  It hadn't healed itself since last summer.

I was glad I hadn't bought the Leica M10.

All I want is that Leica M10.  Now more than ever.

On his last day in the White House, President Richard Nixon ate a lunch plate of pineapple and cottage cheese.

I was pleased to read an article about the resurgence of cottage cheese this morning.  They are beginning to make it in small batches now.  There is a lot wrong with that branding.  "Small batch" is too similar to "low flow."  Both make me think of old men's prostates.


They will probably brand it "artisanal," a word that has been  as overused now as the word "haptic."  They are mixing it with fun stuff, though, berries and nuts and maybe even barbecue.  They are taking their lead from the yogurt companies.  A change of name has been suggested since "cottage cheese" has an association with dieting.  Perhaps frommage de la petite maison.  Surely they will begin making it from goat and sheep milks.  There are tons of naming possibilities there.  Everything is marketing.

I've stolen the image of the sexy older guy from an ad for marino wool t-shirts.  They are expensive as hell, of course, which is, I assume, why they chose the image of a "sexy" older guy.  Ain't no kid gonna buy it.  But this could be an ad for Cialis or Flo-Max or any other elder-drug.  Or maybe Harley-Davidson.  Surely the fellow has that 1965 red convertible Mustang.

I'm cool.  My t-shirts come from the sale table at The Gap.  O.K.  Not so cool.  Haynes would be better, I guess, but they are too bulky for the sunny south.

Don't get me wrong, though.  I love me some good advertising.  If the dealer's were smarter, they'd make that "Check Engine" light a lot sexier.  I have a few suggestions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Old Dog



The problem with writing in the morning is that usually there are only two things on your mind--how you are feeling or, having just read it, the news.  Then you begin, either to complain, justify, or comment.  You either write about yourself and the state you are in, or you write about how you feel about other things.  Neither of these were originally your intent, but that is, in the popular vocabulary, "what you've got."

I never wanted to be an old guy with a clipped white beard smiling with weird pride as he drove a carefully preserved, well-kept 1965 Ford Mustang convertible around town.  The idea has always sickened me.  It is not that I don't appreciate the craftsmanship and design of the thing.  It would just feel too similar to putting a sign on an old dog that said, "Old Dog."

There is a reason why young people only want to see old people portrayed in a certain way.  It is self-preservation.

See, when I look at that picture, I think, "Man, his girlfriend is cute."  I'm not supposed to think that way, or so I'm told.  Whatever.  You can think whatever you want.

O.K.  So Balthus looks like he is gasping for air like an ill guppy struggling for survival in a dirty aquarium.

Jesus, I have to quit this.  But it is difficult when every day the N.Y. Times is running articles on depression and loneliness and CNN wants to make sure Anthony Bourdain doesn't kill himself again.  Apparently young people are more miserable than ever, Americans feel a lack of meaningful endeavor in their lives, and yoga is saving some farming communities in China (link).

I'm opting for Door Number Three.

Life is what you make of it, they say.  Some say.  Those who think in cliches and live their lives as mandated by them.  I took my mother to the doctor yesterday.  Oh, she is healing up swell and doing fine.  She'll need me to help her with therapy for another month, he said.  That put an end to any thoughts I had about going anywhere for a getaway.  I read.  I walk.  I go to work and come home and cook.  I really need to get back to yoga.