Monday, August 29, 2016

Tony



I took my Hasselblad to the Sunday market yesterday.  I had it in a bag and wasn't sure that I would take it out.  Taking pictures so obviously in a crowd isn't easy to do on occasion.  It is the sort of thing you must inure yourself to.  I wasn't alone, which is another piece of the puzzle.  Using a camera is a terribly geekish thing to do, not the sort of activity you want someone watching you perform.  It is also almost impossible to divide your attention between the person you are with and what is going on in the crowd.  And so, I walked around with my camera in the bag trying to photograph things with my eye.  Just as we were leaving, I started pointing out people who would make good photographic matter.  An African-American woman was talking on her phone holding a pineapple in her hand shoulder high as if she were delivering it to a table.

"Like that," I said.

"Take the picture."

I took out my camera and approached the woman, pointing to my camera and doing the pantomime.

"Me?" she asked.  I nodded.

She was pleased to do it.  I opened the viewing hood of the camera and focused and pushed the button, but it wouldn't depress.  Maybe the lock was on.  I tried that.  Nope.  I checked this thing, I checked that.  I was standing in the sun and beginning to sweat profusely with heat and nerves.  I couldn't figure out what was wrong.  I tried to rewind the film forgetting that you don't rewind film in a medium format camera.  I opened the back and exposed the film that was there.  I remembered the picture of the two men holding signs and marching in front of the abortion clinic.  Shit.  I took the back off and when I tried to put it back on, it wouldn't go.  The woman was still talking on her phone holding her pineapple.  I had another back, but I didn't know what was in it.  I put it on the camera and it attached.  I would try this.  Again, though, I couldn't depress the button.  Dripping with sweat, I waved to her and told her my camera was broken.  I went to a bench to sit down and figure out what was wrong.

I figured it out.  It was me.  I hadn't used the camera for so long, I had forgotten almost everything about it.  When I finally had it working, the woman with the phone and the pineapple walked by.  I thought of how good that picture would have been, and I thought of the ones on the film that I had ruined.  A man walked by.

"Did you see his face?  That was a classic."

"Ask him if you can take his picture."

That isn't quite how it works, though.  There is a secret recipe to it, an alchemy.  It is not something easily explained, though there are plenty of articles by people telling you how to photograph in the street.

The man came back and sat on the bench next to ours.  He looked over and said, "Man, this is what I need.  My knees are killing me."

"I know what you mean.  What's wrong with yours?"

"This one is my bad knee.  I hurt it when I was about eighteen.  It swells up sometimes this big."  He held his hands like he was holding a cantaloupe.  "This one, my 'good' knee, is starting to give out, too.  My boss says I got ten good years left in me.  I tell him he's full of shit.  Twenty, I say.  You say ten, I say twenty.  That's the way I am.  Someone tells me I can't do something and I'm going to do it."

"What kind of work do you do?"

"I'm a cabinet maker.  I've been doing that for thirty years.  I'm fifty and he says I've only got ten years left, but I say twenty."

"The good thing is," I said, "your knees will get better with age."  I grinned.

Just then a mom and daughter walked between the benches.  He looked at me with wilder eyes.

"I'm not going to say what I was going to say 'cause the kid is here.  But bullshit!"

He was a rough looking guy, thick upper body, maybe five-ten, a face with miles.

"Look at these shoes."  He held his foot up.  "I came over to see my girlfriend.  Two years. I'm the only sonofabitch out here with dress shoes on.  She's over there, somewhere."  He pointed towards the market crowd.  "She'll find me."

I was looking at him.  He was a little nuts, I think.  I'd grown up around men like him.

"You've done pretty well being a woodworker so long.  You've still got all your fingers."

He held them up for me to see.  People who work with machinery, I know, are proud of that.  He had thick, crooked, working man fingers.

"I've seen some accidents you wouldn't believe," he said.  "I saw a guy cutting molding, big six foot pieces.  That's all he did all day, just cut the molding for the cabinets.  He did it every day, but I guess he wasn't paying attention.  The saw jumped and sent a big piece of wood right through him.  It didn't hit any organs or anything, just pierced him.  He was lucky.  I tell people, 'You can't be afraid of any machine in here.  If you're afraid, your gonna get hurt.'  My boss used to be my landlord.  He's been doing this for five years and thinks he knows more about it than I do.  He'll tell me how to do things.  'Do it this way,' he'll say and I'll tell him, 'I've bee doing this for thirty years, and I'm going to do it this way.  I can do his job and my job and. . . whatever.  I hate that son of a bitch.  Well. . . anyway, he doesn't know shit.  I'm the kind of guy who will tell you 'go fuck yourself,' and you can either walk away or. . . you can do something about it.  I don't care.  I'm not backing down from nothing."

He had worked himself up pretty good by now.  I wondered about his girlfriend.

We stood up to go, and I walked over to say goodbye.  I reached my hand out and said nice to meet you.

"Tony," he said.

"C.S.  Hope you find your girl."

"Yea, she'll find me."

I looked at him, but I could feel my friend behind me.  We walked on down the street.

"I thought you were going to ask him to take his picture."

"Yea, I thought about it a lot."

"Why didn't you?"

"Because you were there.  I wasn't sure how it would go, and I didn't want it to go south in front of you."

"Yea, I can see that.  I can see what you mean now."

It had been a disappointing day with the camera.  You can't take pictures if you don't take pictures.  I need to use the camera more if I'm going to get anything good at all.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Advice



I saw one of my old neighbors at the gym yesterday.  I hadn't seen him for about a year, but he is retired and probably goes at a time I am working.  Yesterday, he was on one of those chair bikes pedaling away slowly.  I was slow myself.  I went outside and took a long walk then came inside to sit in the sauna for twenty minutes.  There were things I just wanted to sweat out.  I never use the sauna, but after using it yesterday, I wondered why.  It felt wonderful.  I've not been getting my money's worth for sure.

When I got out and showered, I saw my old neighbor in the locker room.

"Is it getting any easier?" I asked him.

His reply was predictable.  Everything hurts.  It takes a long time to get out of bed in the mornings.  He can't do what he used to do.

"Remember when you could go out in the heat and weed for four hours and think nothing of it?" he asked me.

I remember a lot of things.  But yea, I remember.  He is turning 75 and still looks good.  That is the new world, I think.  We still look good, but like a store-bought tomato, what's on the outside doesn't tell you much about what's going on inside.  We try to keep that a secret.

I keep going at things like I am twenty-something, but I hurt all the time.  I have to quit it.  I have to be nicer to myself, kinder.  I still look like I could kick your ass, but I couldn't.  Store-bought tomato. I'm going to slow down a little.  I can't go to the gym every day.  It is a horrible waste of time.  I would tell kids that, but they wouldn't listen.  There are other things to do, too.  The inside of a gym is a horrible place.  So is a baseball field or a soccer field.  Not really, but obsessively.  There are other things.  Build a fort or draw something or make something good to eat.  Lie on your back and look at the clouds.  And of course, read books.

No, they wouldn't listen.  Why would they?

I got beautified yesterday before I went to the gym.  My beautician told me about her life, her love life mostly.  She is dating a young kid (that's what she said).  She doesn't care what people think any more.  She just wants to have fun.  Any of us could drop dead tomorrow.  She has taken up dancing and weight training and has transformed herself.  She is pretty.

Her new boyfriend walked into the parlor as I was paying.  Oh, my.  I want to tell her. . . but she wouldn't listen.  Why would she.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Definition of Sultry



Research has shown something that I've known for a very long time.  I couldn't prove it.  I just knew it was true (as Bill Maher might say).  And the thing is, there are more divorces in August than in any other month.  I believe that would hold true for all romantic relationships, not just marriage.

Now I will go out on my own.  Here in the sunny south, it is the heat and the humidity.  It is just too much and frustrations rise exponentially, but there is nothing you can do, nothing at which to lash out against (to end in a preposition).  Nothing rational, anyway.  And so. . . .

For Faulkner, summer was the time for murders, lynchings, and sexual abuse.  Those were things you could just look forward to (two prepositions in a row--ugh).  Forward to which you could look?  Doesn't help much.  Anyway (as my mother would say), they were much like Christmas and Easter in that sense, a sort of inevitable regional occurrence.

August doesn't end until November where I live.  Many of you are living by a different calendar.  I can only look forward to Halloween for relief.  That, I hope, will be the finish of this endless summer.

One other observation today before I go.  It just occurred to me why Florida is so f'ed up.  Too many people moved here from Ohio.  We might call it the Ohio Phenomenon.  Those are two really messed up states, and it seems that the presidential election will come down to how those two states vote.  No wonder North Korea and Iran are flexing their muscles.  Where is this country's leadership coming from (there I go again)?  Whence comes this country's leadership?

So. . . put on your Crazy hats, it's time for an election.  If you don't have one, I have a box, and I can sell them.  They look like a WWI leather flying helmet with a propellor on top.  When people see you in it, they will not have to think twice.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fascination or Obsession?



I become more and more fascinated with William Eggleston.  I new his color work long, long ago.  I have to admit it--I wasn't a fan.  Color film was so unreal and unpredictable.  I hated the Ilfochrome prints made from color slides.  They were plastic looking and shiny.  But I've come around.  I think it is due in large part to my fascination with Eggleston himself.  He is such a throwback, southern gentility in the most Faulknerian sense, embodying all the sin and madness of the corrupt generations that took the land from those already there, who worked the land with slaves, who built a beautiful dream on a bedrock of violence and greed.

O.K.  Maybe I've gone too far.  Maybe Eggleston reminds me of Tennessee Williams, though there was something lighter and more beatific in Williams' personality.  I'd like to meet Eggleston, I think.

I began watching a video Eggleston made in 1973 using a Sony PortaPak (I think this is the same camera Bob Crane used to make early sex tapes).  It is bizarre and reminds me of something William S. Burroughs might have made with the beats.  Here is the link.

I also watched a brief interview with his daughter that is fascinating in its own way (link).

The most interesting thing I learned yesterday is that Eggleston, the father of color fine arts photography, is colorblind.  Perfect.

Here is part of an interview he did with Interview magazine around ten years ago (link).  There is also a very short piece on him in this last December's edition of Vanity Fair from the bar at the Chelsea Hotel where he was reportedly drinking hand over fist.  So. . . this is, as my friend called it, the cautionary tale that caught my interest.

HK: Do you have any favorite bars?




WE: No, I have some that I have become a well-known-even infamous-client of, mostly in Memphis. But a great deal of that is legend and doesn't have anything to do with truth. Many people one meets in life somehow think they know you simply because they're hanging out at the same counter-but they really don't know a thing about you.




HK: Do you have friends that you used to just drink with or hang out with, like, from the '60s or '70s-from the early days?




WE: Unfortunately they're practically all dead. And many were my closest associates: friends, co-directors, whatever you want to say-my partners in crime.




HK: A lot of them died from drinking?




WE: Some, yes. A person can attack that bottle of vodka and drink it like it's a bottle of cold water. Two of my wife's girlfriends died from drinking. They weren't big pill-takers; they were drinkers. So it can't be so simple as to slide away, like Marilyn Monroe-




HK: They overdosed?




WE: Overdone something.




HK: Do you hang out at bars as much now?




WE: Hardly at all. Remember, all my friends are dead. I don't have anybody to meet up with. [laughs]




HK: You outlived them all.




WE: I certainly have.




HK: And why do you think that is? Just genetics?




WE: I think genetics. My mom lived to be pretty old and my grandmother lived to be 100 and ate like a bird. I eat like a bird almost.




HK: Have you ever tried psychotherapy?




WE: Only the few times I've been to so-called treatment centers, which were a complete waste of money and useless. I didn't know what I was doing at the time, because I was always drunk when I checked in.




HK: Did you check in voluntarily?




WE: Half voluntarily, half Winston's older brother [William] would take me in, saying, "Daddy, I think you oughta do this." And I'd say, "I think you're right, maybe I do need it." Sometimes a week later I'd leave the place; sometimes I'd stick it out for a month.




HK: Did you have tough detoxes?




WE: No. Never. I never hallucinated during my d.t.'s. They weren't easy, but not-


And that is how the online interview ends.






Wednesday, August 24, 2016

No Restraint



And yet. . . I don't stop.

From this (link):
“We are not in an analog culture but in a digital culture. And no one really travels any more.” Instead we fly from Point A to Point B, with nothing in between. The Beats operated at a certain tempo, as the name implies. Digital is instantaneous.
 I remember traveling.  It took time, not standing in lines waiting to have your carryon checked, not in order to be frisked and x-rayed, but standing with your thumb out on the side of a road or highway not knowing what the next few miles might bring.  I remember the long, reflective hours on Greyhound buses, crossing the country there and back again.  I remember making collect phone calls from pay phones in bars and restaurants and street corners, brief conversations so as not to run up the bill.  I remember looking forward to the next unknown thing.

There seems much more danger lurking in the digital world, the instantaneous blow-up, ruination at the speed of light.

And still we do it because. . . it is difficult not to.

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

Dance



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.