Friday, June 24, 2016

Equanimity



I was almost happy for a moment yesterday, but then I wasn't.  I am struggling now for equanimity.  In reality, I think it is a much more desirable state.  There is more bad than good, so balance isn't really possible.  It is simply the acceptance of imbalance with a calm and unterrified demeanor.

The painter is finally painting.  The prep work amounted to a restoration.  The weather here is of the killing kind.  Today temperatures will approach one hundred degrees with almost one hundred percent humidity.  My air conditioning never shuts off and it cannot keep the house cool in the afternoons.  There are many more things I need after the painter finishes.  I am afraid an a.c. unit will be one of them.

There will be terrible weather ahead.  I've already been traumatized by it once.  I don't know what I would do the next time.  My nerves are already jangled.

There are some things I must do to keep myself intact.  I don't look forward to any of them.  How do people do it?  I wonder this all the time.  I am trying to keep the walls between myself and everything else, but you can't do constantly.  When I look around--even at the passing cars--I am stupefied. How do they go on?

They are stronger than I am, I know.  They weren't always, I think, but they are now.

And so. . . onward.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Laughing Against the Void



Did you ask me how I slept?  I thought not.  Dreams?  Other people's dreams are always so boring.  But the night is full of fears that sunrise mitigates without erasing.  And so the day begins with a residue from the night before, all those fitful hours hiding beneath the new paint, the shower and shave, etc.

I have hours of meetings today.  It is, apparently, what I do.

Meanwhile in the cafes, people eat and drink and talk about their hopes and dreams and desires.  They giggle and they moan and fill us up with envy.  The ancient memory, somewhere, of days we spent in kind when we had nothing but an endless future.

Money in the bank, baby.  Laugh against the void.  It's someone else's trouble.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Two Women Were Walking Down the Street



I knew what I would write about today.  Knew.  I don't know.  It was good and I was excited, but now it is all gone.  I'm sure it wasn't politics.  Was it cultural intelligence?  I read an article about that this morning.  I don't think so, though.  Art?  What do I know about that?  It's gone.  I've lost it.  Into the void with all the better ideas.

Do you want to know what the morning looks like?  What I made for dinner last night?  How well I slept or what I might have dreamt.

We've had enough of that as well as dull talk of work.

I know a story I can't tell about a madwoman.  There are so many stories I am not allowed to tell.  If only. . . I could be a writer.

Two women were walking down the street.  One turned to the other one and said, ". . . ."

I don't know what she said.  I just took the picture.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Like a Lamb



Summer came in like a lamb.  It was the first decent day we've had in a month.  I went to a crack-of-dawn meeting in the morning, but it let out early and I was home from the gym by late afternoon.  I poured a glass of wine and went to the new deck to sit in the shade and feel the breezes as I read a new biography on Diane Arbus.  It is good.  It is really good.  You would like it, too.

Her brother was the poet Howard Nemerov.  How does one family do that?  How do they create two poetic geniuses?

As good as it seems, however, the question remains: would you want to live the life?

Read the first two chapters at least.  Secrets are revealed.

Today John Reuter announced that he would be closing up shop.  He is the fellow who owns the giant Polaroid 20"x24" camera and all that is left of the old Polacolor film stock.  He is giving up what he calls the "Quixotic fight."  He and the Impossible Project and The New 55 Project have tried to keep instant film alive.  I've supported all of them with my money and have workshopped with Reuter and his crew in NYC.  In the end, I fear, all their efforts may come to nothing.  Too much money is required to do what they want to do and only a handful of people really care.  It is like belonging to a cult.

Still, I want to use the giant Polaroid camera once before everything is gone.

The breeze kept the mosquitos away, so last night we dined on the deck, and later, we took drinks down to the lake to watch the Honey Moon rise.  By nine o'clock, we still had not seen it, and though there was still daylight left in the air, we knew the sun had surely set and so we ambled home.  Later we stepped outside to see the amber colored moon low in the night sky.  A few minutes of staring before bed.

I am lazy this morning, but I must go to the factory.  The painter is painting and I am feeling guilty.  I am full of lazy guilt.  There is little to do but revel in it for a minute.  And now. . . .

Monday, June 20, 2016

Honey Moon



I have no time except to say it is the longest day of the year, the first day of summer, and a full moon. It is the Honey Moon, as it will be low in the sky shining through a thick, moist atmosphere.  It will most likely be amber in color.

In all likelihood, I will not see it here due to cloudiness.

I have a super early meeting at the factory.  No time at all today.  None.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Rot



I'm out of everything--money, pictures, words.  I may begin posting simple squares with the phrase, "Your thoughts here" inside.  I'm lying low, laying up, keeping the walls between me and the outside. I don't approve of anything that is going on, but now is not the time to say so.  People sicken me.  I'm certain the feeling is mutual.  I'm trying hard to keep the rot away.  It takes everything I have.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Contrarian



It is so very, very hard for me to join in, to join the crowd.  All the stores in my hometown are sporting "Support" stickers in rainbow colors.  I just can't do what I am expected to do.  I am subversive by nature, I guess.  I have more in common with Bukowski than Gandhi, perhaps.

I am a contrarian.

But I like this photograph.  I will do more with it when I have time, make it richer, give it more texture.

I am likely never going to have more time.  Leisure has abandoned me.  It has taken other lovers, I presume.  I miss it more than anything.  I am jealous, but I would take it back in a moment.  Come back, honey, come back where you belong.

Friday, June 17, 2016

100 Degrees of Madness



Y'all better start laying back some food, 'cause the crops ain't gonna grow.  If you're poor, get yourself lots of processed foods with plenty of preservatives.  Get things that will last a lifetime.  There is no way for all of us to survive with this weather.  I'm just saying.  It is LATE SPRING and the temperature here has hovered close to 100 degrees for days.  To counter it, we are all buying more powerful air conditioners to heat the world outside.  They keep cutting down trees to make room for more cheap apartments with big black parking lots.  Iceland, they say, and Denmark, Finland, Sweden--those are the safe places right now.  There will be food there.  Not for you, though.  I'm jumping ship and going while they will still let me in.  I'm marrying a Swedish woman and becoming naturalized.  No, Icelandic.  I don't know what I'm saying.  The heat has made me crazy.  I live in a town where everyone has gone mad.

I spend evenings with gin and tonics trying to find some peace.  Here is what I listened to for succor.  If you know of any other versions, please let me know.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Worry/Weary



This is the picture I should have posted yesterday.  Princess of the Rodeo.  Well. . . I've not been hitting on all cylinders.  Only three, really.

Like many people I know, I am weary.  I am world weary and weather weary and work weary.  The Three Wearies I shall dub them.  I am ready for a Weary Free Zone.  A zone of no worry.  There must be a poem there.  I leave it to others to figure that out.

I work, and I pay people to work.  Why do I feel so guilty?  I can't do everything myself.  It is impossible.  Still, they work for the price they quote and then they tell me it is more difficult than they thought and then they act glum and I think I should help them.  The painter is working on the house as I write.  I am sitting in my underwear and a t-shirt drinking coffee and reading and writing.  But he will be gone early in the afternoon, perhaps frolicking in a pool or lying in his own underwear reading a book while I am sitting at my desk at the factory.

And still. . . .

I am Jewish.  I know I am.  I am not officially, but culturally, surely.  My father was a worrier.  I am a worrier, too.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Cowboy'ed Out



I'm trying to "cowboy up," but I'm just a whiny little bitch.  The painter told me that the last person to paint my house did nothing except spray some paint on.  "Your bedroom windows aren't even glazed," he said.  "That's a lot more work than I estimated when I started."  O.K. I said, that was not part of the deal.  I'll do the glazing.  I figured it would take me two full days.

I went to Home Depot and got some glazing that shoots from a tube like caulk.  I got a caulking gun and a five-in-one tool.

Yesterday morning, I went out to give it a try.  The tube glazing that I thought would be so easy wasn't, so the painter let me try some of the stuff that comes in a tub.  "Roll it in your hand into a long strand," he said, "then push in between the frame and the window like this.  Once you've got it in there, take this tool (the five-in-one I bought was not the correct tool) and flatten like this, then push it in and pull it down.  See?"

Oh, yea, I said.  The painter went back to what he was doing and told me to practice on a few panes.  I rolled the glaze between my palms just like he had shown me, then I pushed it into place between the window and the pane, then I took the tool and pushed in and pulled down.  The glazing rolled up and off the window as I pulled.  Shit.  Wash, rinse, spin, repeat.  I couldn't do it.

I've made a financial deal with the painter, and now he will do it.  I don't think he is very happy, though.

I don't want to do any more work this summer.  I've cowboy'ed out.  I'm ready for the Bohemian life again of reading and drinking and trying to be creative.  I like these working fellows fine.  I'm just not cut out to be one.  God had other plans for me. . . in his infinite wisdom.  I am more like the sweetheart of the rodeo.

Speaking of which. . . the Senate has approved a bill to draft women into the military (link).  There you go.  Let men be men and women be men and I'll be the sweetheart of the rodeo.  That's a Groucho Marx line, I think.  Look it up.

Today I have early factory meetings, so I must giddy up and go.  Time to be an obedient little buckaroo.  Somehow I've got to pay for all this shit.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Visual Relief



I looked at the footage we shot at the rodeo.  It is good.  Big relief there.  Now the long hours of editing.

I have other long hours, too.  The painter told me that the windows in the bedroom were not glazed, that whoever painted my house last time had just painted them.  The price he gave me for painting the house did not include glazing these windows which will take a couple of days.

Guess who will be glazing the windows.

I am tired and don't want to do anything.  But I will be out there this weekend with a putty knife and a bunch of glazing.  It will take me forever.

The fellows I shot the rodeo with looked at my b-roll footage yesterday.  They were stunned, they said.  The images looked like stills.

"That's what I do," I happily told them.  "I was making photographs that moved."

I just want to be a visual storyteller.  It is thrilling.  Give me some cameras and recorders and notebooks and let me go free.

I'm glad I've pushed the pause button on my Orlando shooting reactions.  Many of the things people first thought they knew are wrong.  People are going to be in a position of trying to justify their first reactions.  Arguments will get all twisted up.

I do have one reaction that I will share, though, because it is something I've always thought and said.  You can't disenfranchise people without getting a bad reaction.  Give people a stake in the culture, in the economics of it, and they will help preserve it out of self-interest if nothing else.  But keep people on the outside and don't give them a stake in things, and they are going to fuck you up and take your shit eventually.

That doesn't explain the shooting, though.  There will be plenty of others who will try doing that.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The National Debate



Everything stops for a bit.  A madman with guns.  Victims.  I hope nobody I know was there, but that is a selfish response.  People call.  "I just wanted to make sure that all my friends were safe."  Putting yourself into the event, having some part in it, so to speak.  My response to it is pretty reactionary.  We either change the constitution or we don't.  Ban both guns and religion and see how that works out.  They are a terrible combination.  Having the best weapons in the place will give you a big advantage.  Just ask Native Americans.  That's why we have the largest military budget in the world.

I've written a lot of stuff here that I have just deleted.  Immediate responses are usually a mistake.

Everything stops for a bit.  I'll just press pause.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cowboys and Villains



Another night at the rodeo.  Another night not shooting portraits with film cameras.  When you are doing one thing, you can't do another.  Again, it was all video.

We did interviews with bareback bronc riders, the #1 and #3 riders in the world.  They were in a different class and a different world than the cowboys we met the night before.  As I was walking around the holding pens and the back rooms where the cowboys were getting ready, I felt small.  Then I realized that I was with the top athletes in the sport.  It was like being in the locker room at an NBA All Star game.

And that was the difference.  The night before was a rodeo for regular cowboys.  The fellows last night were athletes.  They watched what they ate and worked out and trained.  They didn't spend their weeks digging postholes or herding cattle.  And as in any other sport, they were young. Championship rodeos ain't no place for old cowboys.

Except in the stands.

Preparing for the interviews, I did some research on The Cowboy Code of Ethics.  I read about a dozen versions, but they boiled down to a few commandments.  It is the stuff we know but forget.  Be brave but not foolish.  Work hard and finish what you start.  Do what has to be done, and take pride in what you do.  Talk less and say more.  Know where to draw the line.  Be courageous and courteous.

It is a a form of chivalry, really.  It was the code of the west.  Pride.  Honesty.  Courage.

There were others I enjoyed, too.  Never, ever shoot a woman.  Never order anything weaker than whiskey, and always fill your glass to the brim.  Don't make a threat without expecting dire consequences.  Complain about the cooking, and you become the cook.  Always help someone in need.

Just because a man wears a hat and rides a horse, though, doesn't make him a cowboy.  Villains look that way, too.  I swear last night one fellow tried to clock me with an elbow.  He was about twice my size, so I gave him a break and let it go.  I figured he had an event coming up, and really, no harm was done.  He'd just have to live with it, that being a villain and not a cowboy.  Right?

Once again, there were prayers and praises for the men and women who served our country in the military.  At one point, the announcer was kibitzing with the rodeo clown and said, "Well, next year, partner, even clowns will have their own bathrooms."

Yup.  It is hard to uphold the commandments no matter how much you want to believe, I guess.  Cowboys and Villains.

I am truly bushed from the last three days, but now the work really begins--editing.  I am nervous about what we got and how it looks and am wondering if it will all come together.  Hours and hours and hours of coverage now has to be boiled down to something that makes sense.  That's hours and hours and hours of looking at a computer screen.

But a cowboy finishes what he starts, and I want to be a good little buckaroo, so tomorrow the second part begins.

The sun is up, and the day is hot.  There is plenty of work to be done around the house, too.  I think I will take a walk, though, to clear my head and let all the visions dance through.  In walking, there is clarity.  I will amble and prevail.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cowboy Culture



Another night at the rodeo.  Cowboy culture is something else.  I like portions of it--a lot of it, really--and it makes me wish I'd done some things differently.  I don't mean to speak as if I think "the cowboy" is a monolith.  There are nice cowboys and cowboy assholes, but cowboy culture is a real thing.  It's values permeates every behavior.  I like it much better than biker culture, I can say.  There is an underlying danger in each, but cowboys are, on the surface, much more well-mannered.  Being around bikers is like playing with someone's retarded pit bull.  And unlike bikers, cowboys are productive.  They are not afraid of work.

"Hey Bob, we're gonna move Rusty's house to the back of the property this weekend.  Can you come?"

"Alright."

Last night, I interviewed a father and son, two rodeo participants who had driven about a hundred plus miles with their horses to compete in the. . .  can't remember what the event was called.  It involved horses and cows and ropes.  I'll get to that in a minute.

I was a bit anxious to interview them as they were the first cowboys after a string of rodeo queens with whom I was quite comfortable and witty.  They got a kick out of me, I think, in the way that some women do.  I wasn't expecting the same from the fellas.

They walked in looking like actual cowboys: worn boots, jeans, cowboy shirts and cowboy hats.  They were thick, and when we shook hands, I had no doubt about their strength.  I don't whether cowboy life makes you that strong and thick or whether only the strongest men get into it, but without fail, cowboys are physically different from you and I.  One of my cameramen was a young power lifter.

"Jesus Christ," I said, "did you feel that handshake? These guys have never been to a gym in their lives."

"I know," he said.  "I know."  His eyes told me he got it.

The father was the talker.  He had a handsome face and clear blue eyes that were friendly but that also held a warning he wasn't a man to suffer much foolishness.  The son was kind of shy, and he said "yes sir" and "no sir" in a classic way.  Both of them were wide shouldered and broad chested with strong, calloused hands, but the dad was bent in that cowboy way.

"How many bones have you broken?" I asked him.

He smiled.  "A few, I don't know."

"Well my body hurts from playing sports on hard courts," I said admitting that I was a sissy, "so I figure a cowboy has to hurt a bit more."

"It takes me a while to get started.  But I'm still good after I put on my braces and bandages.  I think I can still win a few," he offered with a challenging grin.  I wan't going to say different.

I asked them about Cowboy Culture, and what they talked about most was the friends they have made.

"I could call them up for help any time and they'd be right there."

That for me summed it up.  In theory, these guys help each other out.  It is sort of "them" and everybody else.

With my press pass, I had access to everything.  I was where the cowboys were, where the horses shit, where they prepared to ride bulls and broncs.  And I'm going to say one thing--movie cowboys are no exaggeration.  The young men are silent and handsome.  The young women are just as pretty.

I wanted to be a cowboy.

Except for a couple things.  Well, except for about everything else.

The rodeo began with a recognition of men and women who served in the armed forces.  They were the backbone of America, the announcer proclaimed, and they had sacrificed so that we could have freedom of religion, and tonight, they were going to proudly use that freedom in the service of the lord.  Oh, the prayer was rich, all about the final rodeo that inevitably awaits us, about the green pastures and clear waters and abundant herds that God will provide.  And for all those who have served, he said, when they get to the Golden Gates, they will walk right in.  Their union card has already been punched.

And, of course, the rest.

There is one thing I know I don't ever want to be: a rodeo animal.  I especially don't want to be a cow.  Man, they rope 'em and jump 'em and twist their necks until they just about snap, then they tie them up and leave them there wailing while the crowd goes wild.  And the animals they ride, the bulls and the broncs, aren't treated any sweeter.  I kept remembering something from the Bible that said God made animals to serve man's needs.  Or was it desires?

No, man, I don't want to be no rodeo animal.

Today's photo is of the chute just before they released the cowboy and the bronc for an eight second thrillorama ride.  I was standing in my sissy clothes in a serious place, not sure exactly how to move, stepping in horse shit and slipping in mud.  Cowboys looked at me in glances and out of the corner of their eyes, but they didn't stare.  I was hoping that they wouldn't stare.  Like any crowd, there were some wild cards and jokers, and I was hoping not to piss them off.  In my head, I was practicing my best gangsta shit: "Yo, yo, yo, cowboy, what you looking at, motherfucker?"

I'd have been like one of those calves in the steer roping contest.  I could envision myself lying in the mud, the crowd cheering.

I go back tonight for the BIG event.  The top eleven cowboys in the country.  The evening's events will be televised on CBS.  I have interviews before the competition and the press pass behind the scenes once again, though we have been warned to stay out of CBS's way.  No doubt.

I'm worn out with the chemical rush and anxiety of it, the worry of not getting the footage we need, of trying to charm everyone while stressing about everything.  But tonight will be fun.  I'm getting better used to it all.  

Now, I will do some yard work.  That's what cowboys do--they work.  There is no shortage of that.  And I'm not kidding when I say I'm hoping there will never be a shortage of cowboys, either.

Until tomorrow. . . this is Cowboy C.S. signing off.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Rodeo



I'm wiped this morning.  I stumble around without awareness.  I was at the rodeo last night working on a video piece.  There was no rodeo last night, but we did interviews with the rodeo's head boss (who was a woman) and with some rodeo pageant queens.  Oh, yea. . . there was a pageant, three age groups, a stage, an MC, a crowd of moms and dads. . . and there were horses.  I got confused for awhile as the publicity people kept telling me that there were going to be a lot of old queens in attendance.  What they were saying and what I was picturing were two different things.  I got it when they led in a bunch of girls with cowgirl hats and sashes.

We interviewed the current state pageant queen and the current rodeo queen.  They were in full cowgirl bling, hair teased and blown. . . and I never took a photo.  After it was over, I kicked myself.  But I was doing the interviews and was totally focussed on making video, and you can't divide your attention and do justice to either thing.  I have no photos evidence to share with you.

Now I know you want to ridicule the idea of a rodeo pageant as it is not part of our modern sensibilities, but I was not there to judge nor to criticize but to record the thing before me with love and respect and proper attention.  Even if I wasn't, however, I would have been won over by the two seventeen year old girls I interviewed, and you would have been, too.  They were poised and sharp and full of personality.  They were sweet and funny.  And they were both headed off to college helped by the scholarship money they had won.

O.K.  I tossed them softball questions, but this is a Chamber of Commerce sort of piece and not the dark underbelly of the rodeo investigative thing.  Either way, though, I would not have smeared either of these girls.

I just wish I had taken photos.

But last night, there was lots of loving America and honoring the veterans and those serving in the military.  There were prayers and The Star Spangled Banner and inspirational sayings.  I didn't see many Bernie supporters nor a transgender bathroom.  But I go back again tonight when the real rodeo begins.  Maybe I'll ask.

Tonight's interviews will be with cowboys.  Tougher crowd.  I like cowboys plenty.  I have a suspicion, though, that the feeling may not be mutual.  I hope I'm wrong.

The thing about doing a run-and-gun documentary this way is that nothing is planned, nothing ready, so you have to be hyper-aware of everything going on, mind and adrenal glands cranking.  Driving home, it felt like I'd run out of crack.  The only thing I wanted to eat was sushi, so I drove half an hour out of my way to get some sake and tuna and sit alone at the bar and think.  When I got home, the cat was hungry and the whiskey bottle nearly empty.  After a trip to the store, I finally sank into the couch and watched a little t.v.

This morning, I'm wondering why I ever wanted to start this project.  It was a lark, really.  I haven't done any video work for years.  But I am in it now for three more days.  Nights, really.  Oh, but I remember now.  When I pictured the rodeo, it looked something out of "Gunsmoke."  I envisioned wooden corals and fences and horses and bulls and all the cowboys old and new standing in chaps with one foot on the bottom of the fence, leaning confidently on a post, etc.  I live in a fantasy world, though.  This rodeo takes place in an indoor arena.  You can't find a piece of wood.  You don't see the animals.  There are laser lights and mega sound systems.  I don't know if you can find the old outdoor style rodeo any easier than you can find a tent circus.  They are still around, I guess, but not at this level.

And so it goes.

I do not get to rest today.  The wrecking crew comes and the house painter is on a ladder chipping and banging away.  The lawn man will be here soon.  I have to go get samples of paint and look at a new security door (that the painter broke yesterday), and I need to check on the price of new windows and fax (fax?  who the hell uses faxes?) my signature to the awning company.  I'm not sure what the final bill for all of this is going to be.

And all I want is for everything to go away, all the maintenance and repairs and gardening and rodeos.  All I want to do is put on some music and sleep.

But such is not the case, and so I must clear my head and go.  And so. . . .

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Chinese Curse



This is a familiar image to me.  I won't be seeing it much this summer with the Zika virus around, though.  I love sitting outdoors and watching as the world walks by.  Selavy.

I may have images to post here soon.  I am going on a photo adventure this weekend--maybe.  It may all be ruined by rain.  I have performance anxiety, too, knowing how easily I can screw it up.  It will take chutzpah.  Or, rather Big Balls in Cowtown.

I'm not allowed to talk like that anymore, though.  One of the factory workers came into my office yesterday yelling, "Hey privileged white male, how about that!"

"Are you talking about Shrillary and the Clintones?" I asked.

"Oh, you're threatened.  You can't stand it.  A woman gets the nomination and you resort to sexist language and refer to her as "shrill."

"I was just talking about one woman," I said.

But I know what she means.  It is historic, just like Obama's election.  I get that.  I voted for Obama even though I thought him way too conservative.  I will likely vote for Clinton, too, though she is much too conservative for my tastes.  I had The Bern, but he is seen by some as another privileged white male.  Old White Man.

People are susceptible to categorical thinking, even those who denounce it.  Our minds are too small to hold billions of individual ideas together at once.  Derrida recognized this when he proposed attacking the assumptions about the category in order to categorize in a different way.  For him, it was a never-ending process.  For others it has become an offensive strategy.

Whatever.  We now all have The Chinese Curse.

"May you live in interesting times."

I've always preferred the third curse, though, for it is more individualized.

"May you get what you wish for."

Old tales have tried to teach us, but I have never learned.  It is very, very dangerous to make a wish.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Aftermath



Man, I am glad that the storm that came through my own hometown was hyperbole.  Since Hurricane Charlie wrecked my home, any hint of a storm sends me into an anxiety-ridden depression.  PTS, I guess I suffer from it.  That and many other things, too.  But suffering is universal and there is enough to go around.  Best thing to do would be to keep it to myself.

The morning is gloomy and there will be rain.  Gloomy mornings don't bother me.  I just need to quit thinking about the future.  After spending a lifetime of not thinking about it, it has creeped up on me with a viciousness, though.  Why didn't I listen?  I thought the story of the grasshopper and the squirrel was funny.  I've fiddled away the summer and winter's coming.

I've never thought about the past, either, but it has overtaken me as well.


I should have been a pair of ragged claws 
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Tropical Depression



It is hot here--too hot.  All I can do is drink wine spritzers and take to my bed with a book for the afternoon.  There are worse things.  At least I can do that.

But today, the tropical storm has brought clouds and rain.  The house painter said he would have to wait to begin, but he was here on time to get the money.  It is O.K.  I have a good feeling about him.  Just as I did with the fellow who just redid my mother's yard.  500 jasmine plants and a yard full of sod.  Before they put them down, they came in with a backhoe and tore out the thick matt of oak roots that had choked out the old grass and then threw in a dump truck full of new, rich dirt.  He repaired irrigation lines, even coming out on Sunday to fix something he was not obligated to do.  When I met the fellow, I thought my mother had chosen the right guy.

Still, I am having anxiety nightmares every night.  My heart is in my throat.  I am going to need either therapy or yoga.  I'll choose yoga.  But summers are always like this for me.  Some people get depressed in the winter.  I get depressed here in the summer.  It is when the bad things happen--hurricanes and floods and divorces.  I think I have been conditioned over the years.

I get up early now and do the yard work before the heat is too great.  And everything is looking lovely.  My neighbors smile and wave and stop to chat to tell me so.  It is a wonderful feeling to be so popular with the natives.

I bought a new grill this weekend, and that is a bright spot.  It is a dandy with five burners.  I turned it on to see how it would do, and it got HOT--almost seven-hundred degrees!  So last night was the inaugural.  Mother came for steaks.  I have not had one for months, not since I charred them on the old grill.  And man-o-man, can I cook a steak.  Last night's was the best steak ever in the history of the world.  Everyone said so.  It was my masterpiece.

I am doing everything except making photographs.  I am in a creative straightjacket at the moment, but I have some plans to remedy that to some extent.  Just a bit.  I won't spill the beans here as there are great chances that I won't get around to doing it.  But there are some chances that I will.

And now I must prepare to go to the factory.  Summers are slow there, and time drags.  I am anxious to get home tonight to read more of "Sweetbitter."  The opening chapter was a great promise.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

By Way of Explanation



I am destined to grow old poor and terrified.  My nightmares are terrible.  I work at the factory, then I work at home trying to put things together.  I am trying to do much on my own, but I can't do everything, so I hire people.  This year I had to have my house re-plumbed.  That was thousands.  I had to completely replace the wall and tile and part of the floor in the bathroom.  That was thousands.  I had the trees trimmed.  That was thousands.  I replaced the deck.  That was thousands.  Yesterday, I hired a fellow and his wife to paint my house and apartment.  That is many thousands.

Now the a.c. is pooping out.  It is not keeping the house cool in the afternoon as temperatures reach the mid-90s.  It runs and runs and never turns off, but the temperature inside goes up steadily.  Yesterday, it reached 77.  It didn't turn off until sometime after midnight.  I am looking at buying another a.c. unit.  That is multiple thousands.

Yesterday, though, I saved $75 by fixing a broken irrigation pipe myself.  I have another to fix today.  Ili and I weeded for a couple hours in the morning.  Not just weeding, but planting and fertilizing, etc.  For all the money I am spending, I am still a busy, busy boy.

This is all by way of explaining to you who wonder, "Where are the new photographs?  Why no new stories?"

I am cancelling all vacation plans again this summer.  I have spent enough on the house this year to have gone around the globe several times.  I could have bought such lovely camera.

I guess I am lucky that I closed up the studio.  That is a hell of a kind of luck.

You might think I'm done, but I am not.  I still need a roof, and it will be very expensive as I have a tall, A-frame roof on which you cannot stand.  Cha-Ching!  And I had planned on trading in my 2005 Xterra for a newer one.  I will have to limp along with this one for a couple more years, but that won't be free.  It is making some expensive noises now.

So I am psychologically frazzled.  My nerve ends are frayed and raw.  The heat here is ruthless now and there is no escape.  I am sitting on gunpowder and lighting matches.  It is hard to relax.

Of course, that is just the tip of the volcano, so to speak.  I still face all the traumas that each of you faces on a daily basis as well.

Anyway. . . have I explained?  Today's picture is one I took when I first gave up the studio when I was running the streets with film cameras.

"Hey. . . can I take your picture?"

How did I ever do it?  Where did I find the time?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Champion of the World



I'll do it.  I'll say something here at Mohamed Ali's death, too.  You probably haven't heard enough already, right?

So here it is:  It's a shame people die.  I hate it.

This is probably THE most famous photograph of Ali.  He could knock a man out.  That is what he was good at.  It made him famous.  He was a simple folk poet, but that hardly mattered.  He was asked to teach all over the world (link).  Fame will make you smart.

I used to argue with my father about Clay/Ali.  My father was of a generation that though Rocky Marciano would kick his ass.  He was silly, of course. He came to be a great Ali fan.  It took awhile for people to have Ali in their faces.  Ali was indicative of the changing society.  I wanted to run the football like Jim Brown.  I wanted to box like Mohamed Ali.  They were heroes for young white kids.    That was how they changed America.

In the 1970s, Mohamed Ali eclipsed Charlie Chaplin as the most famous person in the world.  Ali was later eclipsed by Michael Jackson.

Ali is said to have had a mean streak.  He was a womanizer, too, they say.  That hardly matters, I think.  That was just the person, not the figure.  As Fitzgerald had Gatsby so famously say, that was merely personal.  It took me a very long time to figure out what that meant, but I eventually did. . . and it stuck.

Ali transcended the merely personal.  Anyone whose most famous picture is of him towering above and taunting a man he has just beaten and who becomes known to the world as a champion of peace. . . well, maybe there is hope for all of us.