Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When They're Gone

The thing is, you probably won't even remember these when they are gone.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Prattle of the Internet

I'm thinking of reducing my electronic footprint.  Technology is too easy and it is too hard.  I don't want to be a dinosaur, of course, and I don't want to not know what the public mind is like.  But as easy as the internet makes things--well, there is a price for every convenience and every medicine.  For every action, etc.  Mostly, though, I don't like the feeling of being manipulated by giant corporations, governments, hackers, and spy agencies.  It is not a game I want to play.  The old internet was like the wild west, but warlords and gangs and government agencies have taken over, just like old Deadwood.  There is too much money at stake.  I dreamed the last couple of nights of having a simple notebook, some colored pencils and pens, maybe an instant camera or a digital one with one of those Polaroid paper printers, and a book.  A book, not the hundreds I cary on my iPad.  Maybe I don't want access any more.  There are too many ways to get frustrated electronically, too many voices, too many (bad) opinions.  Mine is part of that lot.  A notebook seems appealing once again.

I don't want to "update" things so often.  I don't want to learn to use the new software, download the best malware protections. . . whatever.  A slow walk with a cool bag full of the goodies I need is so much more appealing right now.  The internet just seems like prattle now.  I don't want to sit down to the computer again for a long time.

We'll see.  That was the weekend dream.

I begin another week of workday hell.  I will cloak myself as comfortably as I can so to take joy from what my threads are saying.  I'm going to look for that cool new bag, too.  Online, of course.  It is difficult to make a clean break.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Lesson Learned

I stayed up late last night after a day of too much drinking.  At the last moment, I decided to buy the pay-per-view UFC fight, Diaz vs. McGregor.  It was a drunken decision, I'm sure.  I wish I hadn't paid the $60.  I hadn't watched a fight in a very long time.  I'm done with watching fights now as I am with watching most sports.  It's the same thing over and over, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.  I read that finishing fourth in the Olympics ruins people's lives forever.  There are few true amateur sports left.  Only the ones we make up and play, really.

"O.K.  So we'll put the basket here and you have to stand on one leg facing the other way and throw the ball into the basket without turning around."

Something like that.  I saw a graphic in the N.Y. Times showing the winning times in the men's 100 meter sprint from the first modern Olympics until present.  I would have enjoyed those first Olympics more.  The winning time was twelve seconds.  He was just faster than everyone else.  Now swimmers have water with the exact chemical formula to allow speed.  WTF?  Every condition must be perfect so that people can set new records.  It doesn't interest me.

You know those countries that don't take home a single medal?  I like them best.  Bill Murray said that every event in the Olympics ought to have at least one "normal" human just so we can have an idea of what the other's are accomplishing.  I think they should all be "normal" humans.

I doubt I'll ever pay money to watch another sporting event.  The fight last night really bored me, and I am tired this morning.  They interviewed the fighters after the fight.  Oh. . . that was fascinating and insightful.  Life lessons there.  Sort of like watching back to back to back episodes of Beavis and Butthead.  Only less interesting.

I'm a sourpuss this morning.  I would like to take yesterday back.  I want a do-over.  Oh well.  Lesson learned.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Missing Summer

O.K.  Two nights ago there was a full moon.  I thought the cycle would end, but yesterday morning, walking through my bedroom, I hit my toes on the leg of a chair that has been sitting there forever.  There is plenty of room around it.  To hit my toe, I had to walk right into it.  I did.  And I broke my toe.  It is purple and points in the opposite direction that it did before I hit it.  It hurts.  It is swollen and ugly.  As much as it hurts, though, it doesn't hurt as bad as my daily pains--knees, hips, back.  It makes me realize something.

Many people must have it.

I am underwater at the factory.  There is a new union contract that I thought I would be cool with since I was one of the people who instigated the union drive before they made me management.  I am a proletariate.  I was happy about the contract.  What could go wrong.

Nothing.  Except being on the wrong side of the line.  It doesn't matter how much I don't care.  It is nothing but a pain in my ass.  It is more work.  Much more work.  And I. . . I am that other thing.

Jesus Christ with a popsicle.  What can you do?

Today begins my short little weekend stint.  I just slept ten hours.  I am beat.  Somehow, I have missed the summer.  I didn't go anywhere.  I didn't even go to the beach.  Not once.  Everywhere I look (in the N.Y. Times), there is nothing but summer fun.

Sorry, but I love that sort of thing.  I want beautiful days and dinners on the beach.  What I have is a weedy jasmine bed and dead plants in the pot garden on my patio.  I have, however, been wearing seersucker pants.  That, at least, is something.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bowels of Work

I'm just in the bowels of work hell right now.  I'll be back.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A World of Work

What matters, my friends, but getting up in the morning to feed the chickens, slop the hogs, and milk the cows.  Maybe a fox got to the hens or one of the hogs is down.  What matters but coming back in for a big breakfast then going out to mend the fence or tend the garden or repair some piece of essential equipment.  What matters more than a big dinner at noon, more work, and cleaning up for supper.  Not when you want to, but every single day.  Maybe you go hunting some days and bring back rabbit or squirrel or possum, or maybe you go fishing and bring back a stringer full of fish.  That's what it takes.  You are tired at night and go to bed knowing what you will do in the morning.

I won't complain about going to the factory today.  I am of the working class.  There is always something to be done.  I will go and do it.  It is important to keep the belly full.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Old Film Cameras are for Young People

I just deleted a big complaint.  Good for you.  It was clever, but it was stupid.

I bought a comb for the cat.  She loves it.  I didn't think she would, but it paralyzes her.  She will lie still for as long as I will comb her.  She won't move, afraid that I will quit, I guess.  I am a horrible man.  Why didn't I get her a comb years ago?  It is good for me.  I don't have to get her dander on my hands and I comb off a lot of what probably makes me sneeze.  She loves me more than ever now, and I guess in a way it is good that I have waited to get her a comb.  Her life just keeps getting better. I probably just added two years to her life.

Good thinking, there.

I have to remember to do this for people, too.  I will get them a comb and make their lives better.  They will love me.

I have a couple hell weeks at the factory, then I am ready to take a long weekend trip.  Tell me where.  Quebec?  The shore?  NYC?  Nashville?

Yes, Nashville.  I've never been and I want to go.  Remember, this is just one long weekend.  Tell me if Nashville is a good thing.  I know Quebec would be.  I need to see something old and something new.  Let me know.

I got a new part for my Polaroid processor yesterday.  There will be some 8x10 things coming soon, I think.  I am percolating ideas.  Meanwhile, the fellow who made my Black Cat Liberator has it back for repair but hasn't said a thing about it all week.  I see from his website that he has put a rare old lens on a digital camera and is shooting with that.  Oh, yea, John, that's the ticket.  Sell me on an expensive film camera and then go digital.

He is right, though.  I may sell off all the film cameras and do that myself.  When I bought my house, the old fellow who sold it to me said, "Old houses are for young people."  I'm starting to think the same thing about film.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Victory of Microbes

In the end, it will be what we call "disease" that will win.  I read a story in the N.Y. Times this morning about the comeback of malaria in Venezuela.  It is spreading like, well, like a pox.  Disease doesn't go away.  It just waits.  Everything we have ever wiped out comes back.  With a vengeance.

The story of malaria wasn't as interesting as the story of financial collapse and the transformation of lives from prosperity to struggle.  Wildcat goldmines have popped up all over the jungle, and men who were once office managers and lawyers and druggists have gone to live in shanties and tents lining mud streets, where Chinese grocers trade food to one-time university students turned prostitutes.  That is not exactly the facts from the story, in case you read it, but my own extrapolation.  I've been in those towns, so I am speaking from a tiny amount of experience.  No matter.  The crazy turn of fortunes in Venezuela are a cautionary tale for everyone.  If you come from the underclass, you can't help but be thrilled by the thought of once arrogant businessmen in thousand dollar suits driving to their million dollar homes in their seventy-thousand dollar Benz' wielding pick axes and a shovels in the slick clay mud trying to put some food on their tables in a town ruled by illiterate gangsters.

For others of us, it is horrifying.

I read this after a nightmarish night highlighted by the pain in my knee and outsized worries about the amount of money and work it takes to maintain this lifestyle.  My freshly planted and very tended jasmine bed has been overgrown by exotic weeds, as have my rock driveways.  Sections of my lawn have died.  The potted garden on the patio has burned up, withered, and died.  Vines have entangled the shrubs on all sides of my house.  Branches are blown out of my newly trimmed trees.  The pain from my knee has spread throughout my body, and the night aches grow larger.  I am driven from my bed in the dark.

The car has a new everything.  There are new creaks and rattles in everything they've fixed.  The car and I are like Miss Emily and her mansion (link).  Maybe not.  The whole town knew the Griersons. Mine is a much more pathetic tale.

I remember lying in a cheap spring bed in a tiny block of a room fronted by a dirt road in a Peruvian gold town with my own fever and chills, waiting for an airline strike to end so that I could leave that place and return to the mountains.  I was alone in a town where men wore guns on their hips, where you bought tins of food from shanty stores, where miners spent their wages on whores and beer, all of us sick with something, one thing or another.

Microbes will win in the end.  Those little bastards will outlast all of us.  Read this and see (link).

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Gray Sunday morning.  It cheers me as did this book review (link).  I always fear I've taken the wrong path in life, but in the end, all paths lead to the same place.  And there is your equality, Q, the great equalizer.  I don't know.  Maybe all deaths aren't the same.  Maybe they are.  Maybe some people are happier to escape this shit show than those who might look back fondly.  It would be much better if we all just went together, I think, at least I would feel better about it.  I simply don't like the idea of other people hanging around after I'm gone, eating and drinking and falling in love and feeling swell.  It doesn't seem right to me somehow.

But there is much about life that doesn't seem right.  There.  I'm telling you something you hadn't realized.  You always thought it was just as it was meant to be.  But I will tell you an old tale that will make you see things differently.

Yesterday, I went to lunch at one of the restaurants I like to have my usual wahoo and red cabbage sandwich (a Wahoo Rachel they call it), and was sitting alone at the bar when a woman I've known for too many years planted a big kiss on my blindside.

"Hello darling."

She is like that.  When she was young, she was a trademark.  She was the Paris Hilton of our town.  Her father was fabulously wealthy and she was remarkably blonde.  When she graduated from a very private high school, he bought her a magazine to run (that didn't last long).  She drove a gold Mercedes convertible and always looked like she had fallen out of the pages of Vogue, even when she had just woken up.

I was friendly with her then as we were all friendly with one another in a certain large circle that made up the fun part of our boutique town.  In the days before cell phones, we had a certain mythical bar we went to.  Everyone was there.  There were always tales.  Life was endlessly entertaining.

Our Paris ran with a group of beautiful blondes I dubbed the Boulevard Lizards.  They never paid for a drink (as she confirmed at lunch yesterday) and fortunately for me, they were happy to buy me drinks on someone else's tab.  Between the Lizards and the female servers, I rarely had to stand for my own drink, either.

I tell people a thing that they always forget because it doesn't seem true to them or valid in some way, but it is true, and it is this--I've never asked a girl out in my life.  Not once.  Some people will criticize me and say I'm being a braggart, but it is not true.  What is true is that I hung around with females who were very desirable and I got to see how the show works.  I got to see men approach them, buy them drinks, flatter them and flirt with them.  I've seen the power men come with their cars and boats and trips to the mountains.

And I've heard the talk from the other side.

I never wanted to be "that guy."  That, plus I am super shy.  Paranoid shy.

And so, the tale.

I was sitting with two of the Lizards at a table in the mythical bar.  Suddenly one of them looked away and said to the other, "Shit, here comes Slick.  Give it two minutes, and then come pull me away, say we have to do something."

Just then Slick sidled up.  She was all smiles and sweetness and light as they hugged and he bought her a drink.  Then the stopwatch ran out and the other girl came up and pulled the trick.  Oh, she was so sorry and sorry to go, but she'd be back, love you. . . .

Yea, that's how that goes.  Cruel trick covered in sugar.

She is no longer a trademark.  Her life went much like others.  The money ran out, life got hard, a daughter that is gone now, a job. . . .

A friend of mine took another path, got married, good jobs, then a kid that needed special care.  He had a heart attack this summer, then a stroke.  A month later, his wife died in the hospital from a weird asthma attack.  He is left to take care of the boy on his own now.  It is a terrible, haunting thing.

I worry about my life, I guess, as much as anyone and maybe more.  Old Brando died in Greece broke, worn out, and alone (though they say a young woman had been his companion there).  I should stop worrying for the roads, narrow and converge and become one.  I just listen too much to criticism.  It all seems valid and true, and it is paralyzing.  The trick is to hear it and move on.  Even with a bad Achilles and a torn up knee, I've got to remember to dance.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

How To Be Broken

I picked up my Xterra yesterday.  It was ready when I got there, but the paperwork wasn't, it seems.  I sat in a lobby full of angry people complaining about how the dealership had changed, how they had never had such bad service in all the years they'd been coming there.  So, it wasn't just me.  I don't know how long I sat there watching the silent Olympics on the ubiquitous t.v.  The service manager came back into the room and asked what I was doing, why I was still sitting there.  He seemed exasperated.

In a little bit, I paid a lot of money and they brought my car around.  I looked at it like it was something foreign.  I got in.  It started up.  No "check engine" lights came on.  I put it into gear and pulled away.  Somehow, it didn't seem like my car now.  I listened to the gears shift, hyperaware of all sounds and shudders.  I waited for it to fall apart.  I am anxious over my decision.

After about fifteen minutes of driving, I decided to relax and turn on the radio.  All the stations went to Latin music.  I called my mother to tell her I had the car.  We chatted.  I told her I was on my way to the gym, but just then I looked at the clock.  It was 6:15.  It had taken longer at the dealership than I had thought.  I told my mother I was uncertain about the gym now.  I wouldn't be out until way after seven.  It didn't seem like something I wanted to do.  I decided to pick up some Thai food and just go home.

It was six-thirty when I pulled into my driveway.  In the house, I poured a drink and fed the cat.  I put away my things and changed clothes.  I cleaned the litter box.  I sat down at the computer to check my email.  I wrote a few messages.  My drink was almost gone.  I didn't want to drink too much too fast, so I checked the time.  It was almost six.  WTF?  I wondered if my computer was fucked.  I got up and checked the clock in the kitchen.  Yup.  Oh.  They must have disconnected the battery or something so that the clock in the car was off.  I was pissed.  I should have gone to the gym.  Instead, I had started early a night of drinking.

That is how my life is going, though, one bloody thing after another.  I have a 2005 Xterra with $7,000 worth of repairs.  Now I have a car worth $7,000.  There were no good choices.  I had to make a decision.

And that is it.  Suddenly, there are no good choices, just decisions.  Do this or do that, one thing being bad, perhaps, the other being worse.  Maybe.  You can't tell, really.  You just have to choose.  That is the human condition.  So I have always said.

I never really knew what I was talking about, I guess.  The Achilles and the knee are still bad.  I have pains I can't explain.  There are not unlimited choices.  I can't choose how to be whole.  I can only choose how to be broken.  That is what I will decide.

Friday, August 12, 2016

In Need of a Good Life Coach

I just read Q's post before I sat down to write this.  Man, don't worry, I'm telling you it's a cycle.  Things happen in the summer in bunches.  August is the cruelest month.  How many kids have been killed in amusement parks in the past week?  Right?  What you need is a life coach, somebody who can tell you all the things that are wrong with you--just so you can work on them.  Face up to your problems and you'll be happier.

Or do like the Olympians do and get cupped.  Cupping will get your good juices flowing again.  You'll be fine, old chum.

Though, I have to say, I've had two friends speak of suicide this week.  I'm telling you, this time of year is dangerous unless you are up in New England spending lazy days on cape beaches.  That's where CC is, and another friend is going today.  Be like a Kennedy, Q.  Get a summer house on the shore.  It is the cure to all your worries.

For me, though, there is no choice.  The factory is cranking up the dial.  This is a busy time of year.  Summer's lease has all to short a date (or something like that).  I haven't been able to sleep--I have a bad cabeza.  Muy malo.  My left Achilles is torn and my right knee is so painful, I wake in the night with pain that drives me from the bed (I'm sure I'm in for another surgery).  To wit: I can't do Yoga with Adriene, can't meditate this shit out of my head.  Awake in the darkness, I see myself a failure, all washed up.

So Q--you got nothing on me, pal, or probably ten million other people right now.  The entire country is on the verge of a nervous collapse.  Everyone is losing.  Step up and take your beating like everyone else.

But I'm telling you, get a life coach.  You think Nurse Ratched didn't love those boys?  She only wanted to help them.  Nope, it is the thing you need.  It will do you the world of good.  You don't want to end up like Randle P. McMurphy.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Patterns and Cycles

There are patterns in the universe, and there are cycles.  I am caught up in one.  I must be.  The shit keeps happening.

I need a car.  I can't keep driving an Xterra with a bad transmission.  It just doesn't look right on my dating site profile.  It will definitely hook me up with the "wrong" kind of woman (though it is probably the most accurate description for me I can think of).  I had to make a choice, and though there are many possibilities, I could only take one.  So. . . I am driving a brand new Nissan Rogue.  I didn't buy it.  It is the loner that they gave me while they do another $5,500 worth of repairs to my Xterra.

I can feel a lot of you flinch.  You would have chosen another possibility, perhaps.  This was the cheapest one, though.  And like I say, I have to have a car.

But I have doubts.  I drove the short distance from the dealership to the grocery store in my neighborhood.  It was raining hard, but was letting up as I pulled into the parking spot not too far from cover.  Sitting in the Rogue, my foot was twisted at a different angle than I am used to, perhaps, and as it is lower to the ground, getting out is different as well.  Whatever, I got out quickly and headed for the grocery store.  And that is when my "good" knee went.  There was no pop or tear, but I suddenly had a very sharp pain that I thought might be temporary.  I twisted and kicked my leg thinking that something would pop back into place.  All that did, however, was send lightning bolts to my brain.

God is punishing me.

I put liniment and such on my knee before bed, but at one o'clock this morning, I woke up wide-eyed.   The pain in my knee was intense.  I couldn't move it without the lightning bolts again.  I had to take something for the pain and to make me sleep.  And so. . . .

This morning, I am muzzy mush.  My knee still hurts, but sand is running through my veins.  I have to go to the factory, but I will be a mess.  I will give the knee a few days, but if it continues as it is, I will have to see the sawbones.  The pain is real and deep.

Shit, this had to happen during the Olympics.  I was inspired yesterday sitting at my favorite bar having a drink.  I hadn't been there for many months, but yesterday afternoon, there was nothing else to do and no denying it.  The bartenders still remembered what I drank.  And as I sat there alone and brooding, I watched the silent Olympics playing on the inevitable t.v. screen at the end of the bar.  I saw the best of the games, perhaps: either rugby or Australian rules football (I couldn't tell), women's table tennis, and fencing.  I was ready to get into fencing/ping-pong shape.  But I think that is out of the question now.

Blame this post on benadryl or whatever chemical they put into those p.m. tablets.  I need to shower and head toward my blighted fate.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Instagram Smiles and Synthetic Muscles

School starts today for kids here in my own hometown.  WTF?  It is barely August.

"There is too much school.  I've heard people say it.  People are saying that there is too much school.  I don't know, but maybe people ought to do something about it.  Those officials, you know, those officials who are in charge of schools, maybe something ought to happen.  Maybe the people who think there is too much school, maybe they will do something."

Seriously, though, studies show. . . .

When I was a kid there was no school until after Labor Day.  Labor Day was the unofficial end of summer.  My life was marked by seasons and milestones.  Where are the seasons?  Where are the milestones?  Society has been uprooted.  Why hasn't Obama done something about the time changes twice a year.  Nobody wants them.  Pick one.  Studies show. . . .

My secretary is a kid.  We talk a lot.  She is a millennial and doesn't know a world much different than this version, 10.1.  When I tell stories about hitchhiking around the country without a cell phone, she gets a confused look on her face.  How'd I know where I was going?  How'd I get in touch with people?  You mean I just got into cars with people who pulled over on the side of the road?  I went to their houses and ate and slept with strangers?

I think everybody should have to do that, but we'd need to install pay phones again.  You need to be able to call somebody collect.

I had to explain that one.

I haven't watched any of the Olympics.  It used to be a big deal to me when I still believed I could train for it and have a chance.  You laugh?  You are not the first.  I've been told I have an outsized vision of myself.  That's o.k.  Truth is, I have competed against professional athletes and know the deal, and it is different now, too.  Look at the medal standings.  It takes a lot of money to be an Olympic champion, or a runner up, or a runner up to the runner up, etc.  You don't just decide to go train for an event, get good at it.

"Well. . . I remember when I was a kid, professional football teams in need of players would go to construction sites. . . ."

That is really not a joke.  Professional athletes had jobs in the off season.  They came to training camp fat.  We all had the fantasy that maybe we had a chance.

I don't like sports much any more.  My mother has a friend whose son started his daughter playing golf when she was five.  Now, at eight, she is the world champion for her age group.  That is all she does--play golf.  Before school.  After school.  Weekends.  Every trip she takes is to a golf tournament.  It is a kind of child abuse, I think.  There are moms and dads everywhere who have their sons and daughters playing one sport every day.  Oh, they are good at it.  They are really good.  But what's the point?

We are apparently better at teaching kids sports than we are at teaching them in school, though.  At least we are winning medals.  For all the school we put kids through, they can barely read and write, and they certainly can't do math.

And they are not happy, either.  Teenage suicide rates are the highest they have ever been.

If I do watch any of the Olympics, I am going to be rooting for some kid from a country that doesn't have a big emphasis on sports, some country kid who was just naturally strong or fast, who only trains three months out of the year, whose school days are short and who looks happy and seems to have fun.  No Instagram smile.  No synthetic muscles.  Some kid who likes to paint and read books and hike in the mountains and who doesn't want to go chasing Pokemon with a cell phone.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Life Is Good Blues

This was the last candle. 

This was the last song. 

The flame's blown out.  

The song plays on .

Slow Crawl

Here is the picture I tired to make over and over again with the Impossible Instant 8x10 film--without success.  In the end, just before putting the big camera away, I stuck in some regular black and white film  just because I wanted to remember what it was that I worked over all afternoon.

You can see the bellows intruding on the right side of the picture.  I don't know how I missed focus on this, really, except that the depth of field with big cameras is much shallower than on small ones.  I am learning that.  The furthest tire is sharply focused.  It is only inches from the tire in front of it, but the falloff is steep considering I shot this at f11.  Still, there is something intriguing about the way the image looks.  I'm not giving up on the 8x10 yet.  I got an answer from China and the bellows they can sell me is long enough.  There is that.

I gave in and ordered a $200 plus dollar part for the Polaroid processor from a fellow in Israel.  As punishment for this, when I took my Black Cat Liberator to the FedEx office to ship to John Minnicks for fixing, the transmission in the Xterra wouldn't shift.  Needing a car but buying photo stuff.  True idiot, me.  Don't you like the picture though? That is the patio off my bedroom.  Looks like a little piece of France here.  The power of big black and white.

Sunday--my last day of "vacation"--was big.  I went out of the house!  True.  I woke up early in spite of taking two Aleve PM after drinking. . . well, let's not get into that.  I woke without waking, though, and stumbled my way through the morning darkness.  In spite of that, I went to the exercise course as I had planned.  I felt bad but good and had a better run than I have in years (which isn't saying much).  My knee was fine, but as luck/fate wants it, I tore my left Achilles tendon.  It is bad.  I know you don't want to read my medical checklist here, but that is not the point.  The point is that my run was like my luck with the cameras and the house and the car and with everything else.  I am cursed.  There is no winning.

The good part about the run, though, was that it made me hungry enough to want to go to breakfast.  I'm saying that on the last day of my un-vacay, I finally started to move.  I went to the greasy little joint I keep swearing I'll never go back to but always do.  Bacon, eggs, grits, and toast left me feeling like a heart attack.  The place was crowded, and after a week in the house, all that movement was kind of freaking me out.  I don't feel myself yet, don't feel my usual cockiness and confidence, so I was ducking and bobbing like Barney Fife.  I wasn't ready to go back home after the meal, though, so I went into the record/bookstore next door, the little hipster place with all the cool bric-a-brac.  I looked at the CDs that were in the listening rack and saw one that looked intriguing--Case/Lang/Veirs--and put on the headphones.  And suddenly, I was winning.  It was a small pot, but better than taking nothing or continuing to lose.

It is music for headphones with the volume turned up loud.  And it is music for a moody boy at the peak of his menstrual cycle, all emotionally disjointed.

After listening to that and looking through the hipster books of things I'd read when I was in my twenties (fun, that), I decided to drive downtown and see what some other people looked like.  I had cameras, and I thought that maybe, perhaps, I might. . .  but then, that didn't matter as a light rain began to fall.  It hadn't stopped people from being out, though, and my heart beat faster as I drove past the crowds and past new restaurants on side streets that hadn't been there last time I went downtown, and suddenly the world seemed like someplace I might want to go to again.  I parked the car on a distant street and grabbed my cameras after all, but I caught a glimpse of myself reflected in the car window, and I knew it wasn't right.  I was not ready for engagement with people yet.  I knew I was through for the day.  I got back in the car and made my way back home.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Shit Show

The Shit Show continues.  Here is the last photo I took with the 13th Liberator 4x5 camera ever made, the Black Cat Edition.

I was using some OLD Fuji color instant film.  They haven't made it for a while now.  You can see why I like the Aero Ektar lens on the camera.  There is a super nice out of focus area with it.  That lens is why I had the camera built.  It is old  enough to have radioactive glass in it.  The Black Cat sure is heavy, though.  I mean really heavy.  Still. . . I have/had plans.  I wrote to the man who made the camera, John Minnicks, and he said to send the camera to him, that he would fix it.  Great, but another heavy expense.

With the Liberator down, I dedicated yesterday to working with the 8x10 camera.  Now that is a REALLY heavy camera.  I have it on an old, wonderful tripod, but it is not made from modern light materials and so moving the camera and tripod around was awkward and tiring.  The only way to know how to do a thing, though, is by doing it enough times, so I took the camera into the yard and began to work.  There I was in a t-shirt and a baggy pair of boxer shorts fooling around, ducking back and forth under a big red darkcloth cape, my hands flailing about trying to find the right knobs to turn.  Trust me, on the Toyo 8x10 there are about 100 of them.  There are sliders and knobs and cranks and handles that move the camera and the tripod in an infinite number of ways.  Making one photograph takes a very long time, but I have aspirations.  After I made a couple of exposures, I took the film holders (oh--I forgot to describe the pleasure of loading those with sheet film in the dark) back inside and mixed up some new R3 developing monobath.  I had gotten the formula wrong the last time I made it.  I forgot to add water.  This time, on the table pictured in the photo above, I did my alchemy as the neighbors looked on.  I think they always wondered about me, but now I am sure to be referred to as the neighborhood nut.  "Double N" for short.

When I had the formula made and siphoned into the big plastic bottle, I poured some into a tray and put it in the big changing tent that covered my dining room table.  Zip.  Hands into sleeves, pull the film, put it into tray.  8 minutes later--this.

Holy shit--it worked!  Sort of.  The negative was not transparent but had a purple cast to it.  It also had something at the bottom, a blur.  I knew what it was, though.  I had feared it.  The bellows of the camera is drooping.  Something is wrong with the accordion function.  Some of the pleats are inverted.  I thought for awhile, then decided to man up and see if I could fix it.  I took the bellows off the camera and flipped it.  That is one of the things about an 8x10 camera.  It is like leggos or tinker toys.  It is just a dark box with a bunch of stuff attached, just a composite of components.  Taking it apart, I started to feel like a real pro, you know?

After the bellows was turned, I thought I might have fixed the problem.  I took the camera out into the yard to try another picture.

Back into the house, eight minutes of development, and. . . you can still see the bellows in the frame. That and the exposure is way off.  The morning was gone.

I decided to go online and see what it would cost me to buy another bellows for the camera.  $600!  WTF?  I started looking around on sites to find out if there was a way to fix the bellows.  By that, I mean an easy way.  I found out all sorts of things about bellows.  You can make your own if you want (and are handy and patient and all sorts of other things that I am not).  I also found out that they come in different lengths, and I needed a 30 inch bellows for what I am doing.  Realizing I was not going to be fixing the bellows, I went to eBay to see what I could find.  For under $200, I could buy a new one from China.  It looked short, though, and not the 30 inch one I need.  I wrote the seller asking the length of the bellows, but I have gotten no reply.

It was now afternoon and hot as hell, and I was growing weary of loading film holders and dealing with chemicals, and I thought about the 8x10 Impossible film I had in the garage.  The old Polaroid film processor was broken, but I thought I would try it and see.  My memory was foggy on this.

So I lugged the camera onto the back patio off the bedroom and pulled out the processor.  I had forgotten how to work with the film from start to finish, I realized, so I went inside and watched a YouTube video that got me back up to speed.

Sort of.

For the rest of the afternoon, I tried to make an instant image, and each time, the processor almost but didn't quite work.  Each time, I had to take it apart and clean the horrible chemical paste off everything, put it back together, and try again.  Failure, failure, failure.  Each one was to be my last, but I went through about $200 of film.  Sweat was pouring off my face and dripping onto the film, the processor--everywhere.  I had chemicals and rags and waste everywhere, but not a picture to show.

I went inside and Googled "Polaroid Processing Tray Repair" and found a shop in Maine who might. I wrote him an email and he responded immediately.  Within a few minutes, he had guessed the problem and told me not to bother to ship it to him.  It was probably the pins and he would have to break it and then see if he could fix it.  He didn't sound interested.

A new processor will cost about $800.  Not new.  Another from the 1960s.

It was about five o'clock when I had everything packed away again.  I really missed my studio.

I don't know if I want to work with film any more.  I might just sell all of the film cameras and stick with digital.  I have specialized Polaroid film cameras that they don't make film for any longer.  I have 8x10 and a couple 4x5 cameras.  I have a Hasselblad and a Rollei.  I have a Leica M7 and a Leica R5.  And all the lenses.  I have a Hasselblad Xpan.  Jesus, the more I think, the longer the list gets.  I have Olympus X cameras and drawers full of old rangefinders and a mess of Holgas and old Dinahs.

It is Sunday, the last day of my "vacation."  It is back to the factory tomorrow.  I did nothing.  I will make dinner for my mother who I haven't seen for two weeks.  I have been a hermit with his head either in the sand or up his ass.  I need a car.  I need a lot of things.  The curse is on me.  The "Shit Show" continues.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Just Make It Stop

O.K. It just got better.  I set out to experiment more with my 4x5 Black Cat Liberator this morning.  The shutter broke.  I will have to ship it back to John Minnicks for repair.  Another expensive thing.

Please. . . just make it stop!

The Collapse

"Why do you always talk about yourself?"

Eight days now of being alone on "vacation."  I thought I was getting zen.  I truly did.  Then something just broke inside, went all to pieces. . . crumbled.  It happened suddenly, or at least the realization of it.

"You're so self-absorbed."

When I woke this morning, it was still dark.  I waited until five o'clock to get out of bed.  I went to the bathroom and pulled up the toilet lid.  It came off in my hand.  The maids were here the day before and had broken another fucking thing.  On my way to the kitchen to make coffee, I smelled something and went into the other bathroom.  There sat the litter box, freshly changed and clean.  For some reason, though, the cat had pissed all over the floor.  Then I did something bad.  The cat and I aren't friends any more.  She lives outside.

"Do you think anybody is interested?"

I've been doing the yoga with Adriene every day, but my back hurts very badly--very badly--this morning.  And I haven't lost any weight.

I spent yesterday afternoon working with my Black Cat Liberator camera, 4x5 black and white film, and the New 55 formula for R3 monobath developer.  I spent hours shooting then developing.  Nothing worked.  I am poorer in time and money now.  I must start over again today.  Maybe.  Or I can just sell all my film gear.  I'm not sure it is worthwhile now.

I was beginning to believe that my car had healed itself.  I was almost ready to chance driving out of town.  But yesterday just before dark, driving back from the grocer's, the transmission stuck in gear.  Cars don't heal themselves.  That is what my mother said.

So I am going stir crazy.  I need to get another car or fix the one I have.  I don't want to do either.

"Really?  You are a narcissist."

Maybe it is simply that it is summer.  Everyone I know is on some sort of vacation right now, not at home, but traveling.  I messed this summer up badly.  Not me so much, though.  Did I tell you about the house repairs, the tree trimming, the lost cameras--all the money?  And now a car?

I've said it before, but. . . I am sure of some curse.

And so. . . a collapse of sorts.  The sun is coming up now, a new day.  I'll have to think.  Surely I can think of something.

Friday, August 5, 2016

They Don't Want You To Be So Free

Freedom is terrifying. . . for most people. . . I think.  It is especially terrifying in others.  How much can you trust other people?  Especially to make a moral choice.  Most of us don't even trust ourselves.  That's why we have shamans and guides and good books.

And that is why it is so hard for people to be alone, I think.  They become unhinged.  Their moral compasses go spinning wildly.  As much as they say they don't want it, they need somebody to tell them what to do.  They need it and they despise it.  And then. . . after awhile. . . they begin to resent it.  And then things begin to fall apart.

What they resent, though, is their own lack of moral courage.

Out of one thing, they want to put themselves into another.  Wash, rinse, spin, repeat.

I like being alone more than most.  I don't fight with myself much.  My moral compass is pretty steady.  Not saying that is good or bad.  Just saying.

A part of being unhappy, I am beginning to think, is not being allowed to be your own hero.  We all have this hero in our head who we think we are, but too often, we are not allowed to act it out.  In love wars, it is usually one of the things that gets attacked.

"You think. . . ."

And so you bury it, covering it with more soil, ashamed that you ever thought you were a hero at all.  But one day, you slip into the car and the James Bond theme comes on. . . or whatever. . . and you feel that little surge in your plasma.

For me, yesterday, it was Bob Dylan's "Billy 1" from the "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" soundtrack.  Well, it was the whole soundtrack, but "Billy 1" really.  I've been trying to find an online copy all morning to post here, but there isn't one.  Not that version.  So I uploaded my copy to YouTube and they took it down right away.  WTF?  I just wanted you to hear it.

It's probably better, though.  Here's what happened.

It was nearing sundown, and I was driving home from picking up some dinner at the Greek place and some whisky for the liquor store.  Traffic was bad, but it wasn't heavy.  There were just so many driving impaired on the road that. . . well, I may have made some nervy moves.  Yea, I might have thrown the middle finger, too.

Off the main road, I looked into the rearview mirror and saw a cop car two cars behind.  Oh, shit, I thought.  But the car between us was driven by a white-haired lady, and she didn't look like she was going to get a ticket.  As we approached a stop light, I saw the cop swerve a bit to get a look at my car, but he had to pull back into the lane before we stopped.  Now, I thought, if that lady will just be real careful, I can put some distance between us.  And sure enough, she was.  I was making some distance toward the next light.  If I could catch it green. . . but shit no.  And so we were stopped again.  I could make a right on red, though, and if the lady was going left. . . . I made the turn and punched it.  I had to go two blocks before I could make another left and get lost in the curvy morass of streets in my neighborhood.  Just as I made the left turn to get away, I saw her car turn after me.  More speed, a right, and then a left.  The cop would have no idea where I had gone.  Screeching into my driveway. . . .

There’s guns across the river aimin’ at ya
Lawman on your trail, he’d like to catch ya
Bounty hunters, too, they’d like to get ya
Billy, they don’t like you to be so free

Campin’ out all night on the berenda
Dealin’ cards ’til dawn in the hacienda
Up to Boot Hill they’d like to send ya
Billy, don’t you turn your back on me

Playin’ around with some sweet seƱorita
Into her dark hallway she will lead ya
In some lonesome shadows she will greet ya
Billy, you’re so far away from home

There’s eyes behind the mirrors in empty places
Bullet holes and scars between the spaces
There’s always one more notch and ten more paces
Billy, and you’re walkin’ all alone

They say that Pat Garrett’s got your number
So sleep with one eye open when you slumber
Every little sound just might be thunder
Thunder from the barrel of his gun

Guitars will play your grand finale
Down in some Tularosa alley
Maybe in the Rio Pecos valley
Billy, you’re so far away from home

There’s always some new stranger sneakin’ glances
Some trigger-happy fool willin’ to take chances
And some old whore from San Pedro to make advances
Advances on your spirit and your soul

The businessmen from Taos want you to go down
They’ve hired Pat Garrett to force a showdown
Billy, don’t it make ya feel so low-down
To be shot down by the man who was your friend?

Hang on to your woman if you got one
Remember in El Paso, once, you shot one
She may have been a whore, but she was a hot one
Billy, you been runnin’ for so long

Guitars will play your grand finale
Down in some Tularosa alley
Maybe in the Rio Pecos valley
Billy, you’re so far away from home

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ed Ross Tribute--All F'ed Up

I tried.  I made my start.  I got out the big 8x10 camera and began to work.  There are a lot of locks and slides and levers and buttons on the camera and tripod head, and I turned all the wrong ones over and over flipping and flopping the camera up and down, left and right until I finally got it somewhat level and upright.  I was doing this in the garage and the tenant came down to put in a load of laundry, so I asked her to stand for a picture.  She didn't understand how long it would take.  Neither did I.  I went under the black cloth and began to frame and focus, again moving all the wrong dials and levers.  Five minutes later, I clicked the shutter.

I took the big film plate back to my house and set up a super huge changing tent that I bought a while back and set it on my dining room table.  I took the New 55 R5 monobath developer and heated it in a metal container on the stove to 75 degrees, then I poured it into a tray and set it inside the changing tent.  I hadn't quite cleared the table, so there were a few small items underneath, but I am lazy and thought it would be o.k.  I put the film plate in the tent and zipped it up and then reached my arms through the elastic armholes and opened the plate to extract the film.

There wasn't any.  I had assumed that it was already loaded.

I took my arms out, but as I did, I moved the tent.  Shit!  I prayed I hadn't spilled the tray.

I had, of course.  Liquid chemicals sloshed around inside.

I picked up the tent and took it outside and dumped the chemicals, then got paper towels and began mopping up and cleaning.  The chemicals had somehow gotten into the elastic sleeves.  It took a while.

I left the tent sitting in the sun to dry and went to the garage to get some film.  I couldn't find it, of course.  When I moved everything out of the studio, I just put it all away in boxes as tightly as I could on shelves and in drawers.  Now sweating, I searched in drawers and boxes for about fifteen minutes before I found a box of Ilford film.  It had never been opened.

I took it back to the house and brought the changing tent back inside and then couldn't remember how to tell which side of the film was the emulsion side.  There are notches on the top of the film, but I wasn't sure on which side they should go.  I Googled it.  Ready, steady--I loaded two big pieces of film into the holder and headed back to the garage.  I opened the big double doors and prepared to take a picture of the street.  All I wanted to do, really, was see if I could make an image.  Just as I was setting up, the tenant came in.

"I didn't have any film in the camera," I said.  "Want to try again?"

I didn't take as long this time.  I snapped one, turned the holder around and snapped a second.

"I don't have any developer left," I told her.  "I spilled it all.  I can make some, but I won't be able to do it for awhile."

I took a drive.  It was the first time I'd really been into the world in a few days.  It was bright and hot. The traffic was bad.  I tried to chill, but man-oh-man, people are stupid.  I got to the photo store without a fight somehow, though, and went in to buy the chemicals.  Bad traffic, but I still had to get the fixings for the evening dinner.  Fresh Market.  Edamame and garbanzo bean salad.  Fresh, beautiful tuna steak.  A banana bread loaf for the morning.  Some chocolate.  I had everything else.

It was six when I got home.  Time for yoga, I thought.  Yoga first.  But I was not feeling well.  I hadn't for a while.  I ached and felt sore and weak.  Still, Adriane was gentle and waiting.  I lay out my yoga mat in the subdued light of my bedroom and put the laptop on a little stool.  Move a little this way, move a little that.  Twenty-five minutes later, I felt refreshed.  Oh, Adriene.  Three days of yoga down and I was feeling ever so very much better.

I drank some water and poured a glass of wine.  Time to make some developer.  I went to the garage again and got the beakers and funnels and measuring tools.  I looked at the formula and carefully poured.  Ammonia.  Developer.  Fixer.  I poured the mixture into the metal tank and put it on the stovetop.  Heated, I took it back outside and poured the serum into the developing tray and put it inside the tent that I sat on the deck top table.  I zipped the film plate inside the tent, reached in, and put the film into the developing tray.  I rocked it back and forth for a minute, then took my arms out of the sleeves and set the timer.  I picked up my wine and waited.

"It won't work," I thought.  "Surely not."

I was right and wrong.  It worked.  I bit.  The image was very thin.  Underexposed or underdeveloped?  I wasn't sure.  I went online to see if I could find any answers.  Oh.  I hadn't made the formula correctly.  I had forgotten to add water.

So I added water and started again.  I developed the second sheet of film.

It looked the same, only worse.

I put the two sheets of film in the tray to wash, then realized I had no place to dry them.  I took two clips and taped them to a shelf above the washer and clipped them there to drip dry.  It looked fine.

That had only taken an hour.  Jesus.  An hour for two failures.  If you didn't count travel and searching time.

This morning I got up and did the routine.  When I looked above the washing machine, there were no negatives.  They had fallen.  My jerry-rig had not worked.  WTF?  I scanned them anyway just to see.  They were full of dust and scratches and the bottom of them had no image.  There were swirling patterns on the scans from the glass on the scanner, I guess.  I am sure I didn't scan them right.  I imported them into Photoshop and Lightroom and made them viewable.  I didn't try to fix most of it.  They are wrecks.

They are my attempt at 8x10 photography.

I don't know if I want to do it.  It is too hard for a single image.  I think the bellows of my camera is hanging down and blocking part of the image.  I think it needs to be replaced.  I am a sloppy man and don't know if I will ever be able to do something that is dust free.  I am simply too careless.

I looked out over my new deck this morning.  I had dropped chemicals on it.  It is stained with drops everywhere.  I will have to repaint it.

So that is it.  That is my Ed Ross tribute.  I am going to try it again today and see if I can do better.  I doubt it, but I will try because I have nothing else to do.  Without a car that I can trust, I am stuck to a few miles driving in any direction.  I can't even manage the beach.

What is there to look forward to?  Working out, eating well, drinking less, and yoga with Adriane.  It is a hell of a life.