Sunday, July 22, 2018
Maybe I'm not supposed to take pictures anymore. No matter what I try, I get into trouble. Yesterday it was pretty much that I had a camera in public. Hardly public. I was one block from the photo store. I'd gone in to buy some strap rings for my Leica Monochrom. I had a 21mm lens on it and a flash, and I was experimenting with it outside the store just trying out exposures. I walked down the block and took a picture of some garbage lying on the ground. I looked up and a shirtless fellow wearing fatigues and carrying a military backpack was throwing a shitty look my way. He was obviously homeless, sweaty-greasy and dirty, but he was jacked like he was on 'roids. I've always been amazed at how hardy a lot of homeless men are. This is, by far, not the first or only time I've been confronted by one, and each time I think to myself, "This isn't right. I eat well and work out, and this guy sleeps under a bridge and eats shit. He should be afraid of me." But they aren't. I watched one homeless guy get aggressive with a neo-nazi power lifter in front of my old steroid gym one day. He stepped up into the fellow's face. The neo-nazi hit him right in the jaw. This fellow could hit like a ton of bricks, too. I'd seen him on the heavy bag. But the homeless fellow, who didn't look like much at all, didn't go down. He didn't even show a hint that he'd been hit. He simply looked at the neo-nazi with the swastika tattoos on his neck and said, "I've been hit harder than that before." Then he walked away. I think it was Q who said to me, when I spoke of these things, that these guys are genetically different than we are, tougher, built to survive. And I realized he was right. They are like the 500 fellows who Cortes took with him to conquer Mexico. Try to imagine what that was like.
Anyway, I walked on down the block looking for something else to photograph, and when I got to the corner, the fellow turned and started threatening me. He was Asian, or partly so, and I could barely understand him, his missing front two top and bottom teeth maybe a contributing factor. I just looked at him. Now this is the part where it went wrong. Rather than smiling and waving and going on about things, I looked at him and said, "What?" He kept talking about my camera and got himself really worked up. Or maybe I did when I said, "Fuck you, I'll take pictures wherever I want." What did I think? That I was going to win this argument? That he was going to say, "Oh."? So now, I was in the shit. He was talking smack and I was thinking. That was the difference, I believe. I was doing an inventory. He was half my age. If we came to blows, it was going to hurt me more than him. I wondered if he had been trained in hand to hand combat. Surely he'd had his front teeth knocked out. He was completely batshit crazy and I was sure of a low I.Q. Even though I was living with my mother, my life was about 10,000 times better than his. Why was I standing on a public street jawing with this whacko? He must have seen it in me, this uncertainty. We are like animals that way. A moment of doubt. I had regrets. I'd gone pussy. I was ashamed. So I made my decision. It wasn't a rational one. It was a stupid one, the kind that guys suffer for all the time. Whatever little bit of testosterone that still boils in my veins was activated.
Now I have forgotten to mention that I had my largest camera bag, a big thing, holding three Leica's and a number of Leica lenses. I thought about that, too, in my moment of consideration. But now I sat it on the ground and put the camera I was holding in my hand inside. I turned and faced the maniac, spread my arms and said, "O.K. What the fuck you want to do?"
And that was the end of that. He said something about the camera, turned and walked away.
And I felt stupid. Ashamed and stupid.
What is wrong with me?
But I was done for the day. I didn't want to take pictures any longer.
I got on my scooter and headed for a drink. I didn't want to sit with the freaks at the Cafe Strange now, so I headed to the upscale cocktail bar where I used to spend too much of my money. I wanted an Old Fashioned and a little luxury. And that's just the way it is. I have that. It is hot and unnaturally humid here, and walking around a city street with your possessions in your pack looking for a place to rest. . . well, that was not me, and I was glad.
I have to learn to have a sense of humor. But I don't. Sitting at the cocktail bar, a group of young men, frat boy types, were being loud and stupid. Their laughter and self-assured smugness. . . well, I wasn't enjoying my drink. I wanted to. . . .
Rather, I had just the one and called for the check.
I told Q yesterday that other people's happiness may oppress me. He quickly agreed. I think I may criticize him most for the things he likes the best. I'm sure I do it on purpose. It is just part of my charm.
Yesterday was Hemingway's birthday. He was a fucker, too. I've probably been attracted to all the wrong types. Ghandi was never my thing.
I tell you all this in the strictest of confidence, of course. My confessions are not to leave this room. There is nothing worse than being convicted by your own confession. Pinky swear?
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:16 AM
Saturday, July 21, 2018
I wish I'd taken this picture. I didn't. She did. It was a self-portrait. I like it much. Of course, it is old, some thirty years or so ago. As Q says, all the good people live in the past. It is easy to believe when I watch the news. Many of you were young back then. Remember? Why didn't you have me photograph you? You could have been forever young. But no, all you have are those horrible drugstore snapshots of you smiling at a birthday party or on a vacation. Sure, you cherish them, but nobody else wants to see them. Had you let me photograph you. . . .
Or your daughters. You know who I'm talking to.
I've been reading and thinking about the power and the meaning of a photograph.
Sorry. I captured this with my phone. As well as this.
But if I wrote like that here, I'd probably cut my readership from ten to five, or maybe less. All I am trying to do, though, is understand why photography moves me and why I am moved to make photographs. Is it a sickness or something more philosophically profound? Those are not, I know, mutually exclusive.
I've been interrupted too many times while writing this morning and have no idea what I intended to say or ended up saying. I will just have to stop writing and post. I'll just leave you with an anthem. Enjoy.
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:57 AM
Friday, July 20, 2018
I hate that I didn't take this photograph. Who did take it, though, is surprising. William Eggleston. Why did he quit making photos like this in favor of photographing wires across ceilings and ketchup bottles? Sure, he wanted to do something new. He wanted to give the world "new knowledge." But I like this one and am terrified that I can't make an equivalent.
Of course, mine would be derivative, but it would be "new knowledge," too. Maybe. Most likely not.
I've been on a shopping tear recently. I've been buying photography books. They are very expensive, but I've been shopping around and have gotten some good deals. The used books that show up are almost all in great shape. I have stacks of them lying about now. I'm sure this is my way of "getting out" of my mother's house, a reaction to my condition.
I may have mentioned I watched a documentary on the photographer Disfarmer the other night. He is fascinating. Afterwards, I went online and purchased two books about his photographs. One of them came yesterday, "Becoming Disfarmer." There is a lot of text in this one, and because it is fairly new, the discourse problematizes the meaning and theory of things. I tried reading it, but between the t.v. and my mother's comments and questions, I wasn't able to retain much. I will have to read it in quietude, but one thing that I do remember is the comparison between Bellocq and Disfarmer, both of whom died in obscurity, both of whom shot glass plates, and both of whom who were "discovered" in the 1970's to much fanfare and acclaim. And since I've already been influenced by Bellocq's
Who knows if I'll have the guts, but I should try. I'll make the sign today and figure out how to display it. Tape it to a stick, probably. Anchor it in a sand filled can. I should probably wear suspenders, too.
But why, I wonder, do I care about doing any of this? To what end? I can't figure that out. I know that I am tortured, though, by trying and failing and by not trying at all. It causes me great anxiety and it has never brought me anything good, really. Why do I torture myself over something as minuscule as the making of pictures?
Ask Freud, I guess. Or Jung. Or maybe even Camus.
But don't ask my mother. Don't even let her know about my photographs. She throws them all away.
Alright. A new day begins. I am off today and can't wait to take a nap. How's that for inspiration?
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:29 AM
Thursday, July 19, 2018
Yea, we all need weed. Or butter or oil or something. Life is hard. The earth is dying. As my mother says, "What can I do about it?" I don't have much of an answer for her. I've been trying since college in one way or another, and things have only gotten worse. Its not my fault, but my puny efforts sure haven't made things better. We have small victories and cataclysmic defeats. "What can I do about it?"
My poststructuralist friends have taken on language. That's been their contribution. They prescribe what you can and cannot say. It has made a world of difference. Trump is a great deconstructionist. The whole right side of the political spectrum is. But there were achievements. I mean. . . Caitlyn Jenner got to be sportsperson of the year. But Hillary went down in flames.
I'm burnt and bitter. I didn't think I'd be this way. What you learn eventually is that you can't see what's coming, but it is better to live in hope than to live without it. Is it hope that springs eternal?
I broached the subject of taking a short trip to my mother. I had to rescind the idea immediately. She looked scared and crestfallen. I will not be going anywhere this summer. All my plans are out the window.
As I write this now, I am also texting with Q. I sent him a story about a new camera that I think we should get. "It's the future," I said. "Things only go in one direction, and it isn't back." I hang onto analog things, but I keep up as hard as that might be for the aged.
I understand, though. There will come a time when you just get tired, when change seems to come too quickly, and you just want to quit. That is when you know.
But enough of this. I saw an article in the N.Y. Times about the joys of canned fish, and I was enamored of a recipe, so I made it for my mother and I. It was the happiest I've been in months. It was a cold tuna salad marinated in lime juice and smothered in olive oil and freshly chopped cilantro and basil and crushed salt served with a loaf of rosemary bread. I still have a food buzz.
O.K. Q keeps texting and I keep responding and now I must rush just to be mildly late for work. For now and until then. . . .
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:28 AM
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
These ARE uncertain times. There is no doubt about THAT. But the times have always been "uncertain." Each era (whatever definition) is composed of unique circumstances and forces that dictate the public demeanor. We often tend to overlook that.
O.K. I've stated the obvious oafishly. I am, however, in search of a point. I have one and I'm going to make it. "Make" it might be overstating. I'm going to try to say it. I haven't really spent much time thinking about how to "make" the point organizationally. I am hoping, however, that the truthiness of it will be clear.
I'm tap-dancing around it, I know. Basically it is this. Quit condemning my culture if you weren't raised in it. Yes, I do. I have a culture. Too many people believe they understand it because it was "dominant." It had its own language, they say, that silenced the "other." It was bad.
There is too much "reach back" of the sort my "people" used when criticizing "The Greatest Generation." We did it, and it was wrong. My generation did not understand their parents' generation, but we didn't feel we needed to be in the right to criticize. We invented a new language, scripted new creeds, followed new leaders.
We had different drugs and we had sex. That's right, we invented a new kind of sex that had never been dreamed of before.
O.K. I've lost my tongue somewhere in my cheek and lost my point altogether. Like I said, I haven't thought this through. I just felt it when I saw this yesterday.
"Candy." We had a copy of the book in our Jr. High School. Not in the library, of course. Some kid had apparently stolen it from his or her parents and it passed from clandestine to secret hand, worn, dogeared, stained, appropriate passages underlined and annotated with crude marginalia. I doubt that many read the entire book. I did. I was a reader.
When I saw this in the New York Times yesterday, I wanted to take a shower. Look at those fellows. And why did it take TWO of them to write it? Did they have to pool their sexual "knowledge"? Who knows. But as an anthropologist, I can only wonder at costuming and plumage and what it might say about their tribe. There has been, perhaps, cultural transference to members of the Russian Mafia tribe who had a big influence on similar peoples in Eastern Europe.
That, at least, would be my preliminary thought.
What I remember of the times, though, (to try to get back to my point) is that boys envied girls. Sexually. They had a power we would never know. If I were a girl, boys would say with desire and longing, I'd screw EVERYTHING. You see? They could. As a boy of the times. . . well. . . as it was for Southern and Hoffenberg, sex was an almost unobtainable myth. We knew that the act revolved around a few girls who we only knew through reputation. If I were a girl, I thought. . . .
So. . . OK? Are we clear? Boys wished that they were girls. But we weren't, so we had to fight with other boys all the time. But that isn't what we really wanted to do. Nope. Hell, our parents and the school officials wouldn't even let us grow our hair long. If you did, you had really be ready to fight. We were considered transgendered, I guess.
When one of the school's badasses stripped in gym class and revealed he was wearing his girlfriend's underwear, however, we all went mad. Jesus Christ, Ricky. Holy shit.
Candy, the male fantasy. It's easy to criticize now. We're culturally superior to all that.
Oh. . . the picture. This was a girl from college in an advanced photography class. I didn't really know her. I'd seen her around the lab but we had never spoken. One day she asked me if I would help her with her photo project. She was doing self portraits with a medium format camera and needed someone to make sure the framing was right and to trip the shutter button. This photo is one of the ones I took for my project before I helped her with hers. I was a bit shy. When I had finished taking a few, we set up her camera on a tripod very close to the ground. Then she squatted down before the lens, legs akimbo, and I just about shit myself. Really. My bowels went loose. Here she was. . . in the flesh. . . and I could merely concentrate on my sphincter. I'd never met anyone like her before. I was astonished.
I never saw the final prints from her project. This picture--well, a real print of this image, not this, which is a scan from a disintegrating proof sheet, the only remains after my mother through away all my negatives from that time--was chosen for the student art show that term. It and a photograph of my girlfriend and I naked as John and Yoko.
Those were different times, different values. Like so much else, they've been drawn as political cartoons.
Posted by cafe selavy at 7:54 AM
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
The world is too weird for me now. Trump is a genius. He has liberals siding with America's intelligence agencies. We're pulling for a porn star/stripper to bring him down. We're a hell of varied menagerie.
My Zen didn't last long. My mind began devouring itself around 2:30 last night. There is no stopping it. It has become Jabba the Hutt--insatiable. In the darkness, I think there is no way to survive. In the morning. . . just one thing at a time.
Of all the things I've lost, my self-confidence. . . yada, yada, yada.
I never mentioned the first roll of film I shot with the Olympus XA4 I was so excited about. It sucked. Not the camera. It worked fine. But there wasn't a single image I would pretend to use for any purpose on it. Since I got the film back, the camera has stayed in the bag. I figure that if I want to be a good photographer, I better by another camera. Right? That's how you get to be a great artist. You just have to keep buying things.
Having not slept, I lay in bed too long this morning and now must make myself start the day. I have been desperately lazy for days and have gotten nothing that I needed to do done. I looked it up. It is called a "malaise." I have it, I am certain.
It is nice to write to you in the mornings, though. You are my only friends. You are all I have.
(Oh, the poor old fucker.)
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:22 AM
Monday, July 16, 2018
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?"
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.
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:17 AM
Sunday, July 15, 2018
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. . . .
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:25 AM
Saturday, July 14, 2018
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.
Posted by cafe selavy at 9:12 AM
Friday, July 13, 2018
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. . . .
Posted by cafe selavy at 9:02 AM
Thursday, July 12, 2018
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.
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:02 AM
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018
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.
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:34 AM
Sunday, July 8, 2018
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.
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.
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:21 AM
Saturday, July 7, 2018
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.
Posted by cafe selavy at 8:53 AM
Friday, July 6, 2018
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.
Posted by cafe selavy at 9:41 AM
Thursday, July 5, 2018
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
Posted by cafe selavy at 7:42 AM
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
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.
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."
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.
Posted by cafe selavy at 9:11 AM
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
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.
Posted by cafe selavy at 9:26 AM
Monday, July 2, 2018
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.
Posted by cafe selavy at 7:55 AM