Monday, December 11, 2017

The Lost Weekend



This year in Santa Fe.  Jeez.  Still doing the same picture.  Whatever.

My weekend went as planned.  The weather forecast turned out to be wrong enough that the trip to Miami would have been a good-enough one.  I mean, the workshop would have been good.  But I stayed at home and moped, as predicted, probably in a much deeper and more meaningful way than even I had expected.  I didn't eat as much junk food as I thought, but that is because I didn't eat much at all.  I DID buy some Ruffles Potato Chips, though, and some French Onion Dip, and I bought a cherry coffee cake, too.  I ate half of the chips and half of the dip, but not so much of the coffee cake. I ate some mac and cheese with tuna in it Saturday and only ate dinner with my mother yesterday.  I don't think I drank as much as usual, though I may be mistaken.  I went to the gym and showered and scanned old photos, and yesterday late in the afternoon before I went to dinner, I made myself go out with a film camera and take a roll of film.  My mother and I watched "Harvey" at dinner, and I wished I had a pooka, too.  James Stewart is wonderful as the "rum pot" who has given up on reality.

"Well, I've wrestled with reality for thirty- five years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it."

How marvelous.

I didn't know where I was going when I left the house with my camera.  I drove toward the city.  I tried going on the scooter, but it was no good, far too cold, and I turned around within a few miles.  Parking a car in the city near anyplace you want to go is perfectly impossible, but I had hopes on a Sunday afternoon.  Not high hopes, you know, but hopes.  On the way, however, I drove by a big block party/street fair.  I immediately thought of a Bill Burr bit, but I stopped anyway.  I had watched a Joel Meyerowitz documentary the night before, and was all about using my camera in a certain way, more direct, more composed, so I took my little Leica CL with a 28mm lens.  Get close.  Put the camera to my eye.  And I did.  Sort of.  At least some.  I walked through the crowd of old freaks and hipsters past their prime, not really worried about what they would think of an old guy with a camera.  Some people smiled.  I felt an authority, of sorts, as if I had been summoned there for the purpose.  I went through the roll of 36 exposures in nothing flat.  I looked in my camera bag, and much to my chagrin, I didn't have another roll of film.  I did have, though, my little Fuji X100, and so I took it for a little spin, too.

I was home within the hour, and since I had a little time before going to my mother's, I decided to develop the film.  When I hung them up to dry, I scrolled through the images.  Disappointing, of course, and I wondered one more time why I bothered.  It is so much easier to shoot digitally.

And why bother even doing that?  I am starting to wonder about myself and my sense of purpose.  Again, I am carving ducks in the garage, collecting old coins and rare stamps.  I mean, I could be watching t.v. news obsessively like the President.

After dinner with my mother, I came home and cut the negatives and scanned them in their holder to make proof sheets.  Then I poured a scotch and sat down on the couch and watched two episodes of "Downton Abbey" for comfort.  Hmm.

I like what the "hoax artist" Zardulu reportedly said: “Deep down, we don’t care about the truth. We want myth. We want our feelings and emotions to be represented in symbolic forms.”

O.K.  I'll try making more pictures.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

First Camera



Here is the first known picture of me that taken with MY first camera.  I bought it with my own money.  I am not really sure why I did this.  I don't even remember where I bought the camera now.  It was a Mamiya.  I had two lenses, I think, a 50mm and a 24mm.  It had a hard black plastic case with a handle.  I never bought a soft case.  I know I had seen "Blow-Up," and maybe that had something to do with it.  But I started taking pictures right away with the help of a Kodak guide.  You know, put the sun over your shoulder, don't put the subject in the middle of the frame, etc.

This was taken in my first apartment.  I had a third operation for a cyst at the base of my spine.  The doctor I went to for this operation was pioneering a new technique--on me.  It required me to be in bed for months and to have a v-shaped wound that my mother could put her hand into bathed, dried by lamp, and powdered three times a day.  That is all I could do.  So I had an apartment near to where my mother worked, out on the edge of town, in a brand new single story complex.  I had a bed and a dresser, a lamp and the radio you see in the mirror, and a black and white portable t.v. the rabbit ears of which you can see, too.  There was no furniture in the rest of the apartment.  My mother came by before work, at lunch, and on her way home to feed me and take care of my wound.  Once a week, I would lie down in the backseat of her car, and go to the doctor's office to have the wound scraped raw with scissors so that it would not heal but would keep filling in.

Does that sound awful?

It must have been for my mother.

So for those months, I lay in bed and watched the little black and white television and listened to the radio and played chess against one of the first chess computers made.  It was a smart assed little computer that would insult me when I made a silly move.  It was 1973.  Texas Instruments had not been making pocket calculators for very long.  Bobby Fisher had won against the Russian, Boris Spassky, to become the chess champion of the world.  I bought a bunch of chess books and studied openings and mid-games.  I never got to the end-games.

So early in the morning, my mother would unpack my wound and I would get into a bathtub that she had laboriously cleaned and sanitized, and I would lie there for half an hour.  Then I would lie on my stomach on the bed with a heat lamp shining only inches from me to dry the wound.  After that, my mother would sprinkle a yellow sulfa powder into it, pack it with gauze, and tape it.  Breakfast would be ready, usually bacon and toast and eggs.  Then she would go to work and I would turn on the morning shows.  I probably watched "Dialing for Dollars" until ten, then "Andy Griffith,"  "The Beverly Hillbillies," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Bewitched," and "That Girl."  After that, the t.v. would go off as the only thing on was soap operas. My mother would come and eat lunch with me.  I was big into triple decker sandwiches.  Then she'd leave and I'd turn on the radio and nap.  I would wake up later in time to watch "The Merv Griffin Show," and then my mother would show up for the second round of sitz baths, make me dinner, and leave.  I would watch t.v. again.  I especially remember watching "An American Family" on PBS and being enthralled.  The Loud Family, episode after episode.  I didn't know the show was in color until a few years ago, I think.  I'm sure I watched the staples, too, "All in the Family," "Bob Newhart," and the NBC quintuplet of mystery shows including "Columbo."

Weird life.

People would drop by to see me occasionally, but as I say, I was on the outskirts of town and it was a hike to get to me.  One girl from school came by often, though, and I guess I was grateful.  Eventually, I was healed enough to begin sitting for short periods of time, and I realized that I would have to take her out.  I didn't want to.  She was o.k. for in the house, I thought, but I didn't want to be tied to her.  I realized I was a louse.  She was sweet and we ended up dating for seven years.  But that is another story.

When I was able to leave the house, I really couldn't.  None of my pants fit.  Something happens to you when you lie in bed and eat for months.  Your arms grow slim and your belly swells.  I couldn't get into any of my pants.  My waistline was atrocious.  I had put on five inches in girth.  I was horrified.  I went out and bought a bench and some weights and put them in the living room. That became my gym.  I had never worked out with weights before, or very little, so I followed the instructions that came with it.  Funny, but this was in the days prior to gyms.  Only certain kinds of people lifted weights, and they weren't normal, or so it was said.

Once I could get up, I would go lie by the pool in the late afternoons.  I'd never had a pool before, so it was something exotic and romantic to me.  I would go before people got off work, around two-thirty or three, and there wouldn't be anyone there, or, occaissionaly, some women a little older than I.  I felt sophisticated.

Eventually, I was able to return to school but I could not leave town as I was still under the doctor's care.  So for a few months, I went to the local university.  Each day, I'd drive home past one of the two topless bars in town.  One day, I got nerve enough to stop.  It was scary.  It was a mistake.

Oh. . . I went a few times.

Eventually, I was healed and ready to go to the university town a couple hours to the north.  No more mom.  No more dad.  Just a skinny hippie headed for a hippie town.

One Sunday afternoon, I rented a U-Haul trailer and put my few belongings in it.  My mom and dad and new girlfriend came over to help.  I said goodbye to my parents, and then it was just me and my girl.  We would see each other on the weekends, we said.  She cried and it broke my heart.  And then I got into my car and headed north, the highway, the darkness, the headlights, the unknown. . . .


Footnotes:  I used that camera throughout college and beyond.  I used it in all my photography classes, and I used it afterwards when I did my three month trip around the country.  When I came back to the university and showed the pictures, my profs were wowed.  You don't need a bunch of great equipment to make good pictures.  This is my mother in 1973.  That is my two-toned Chevy Nova in the background.  The film must have been developed at the drugstore.  The negatives are very flat and without contrast.  I've done my best to punch them up here, but. . . .

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Mood Indigo



Solitude



Crummy day, dark and cold night.




Fragments



Saturday morning at home rather than at a street photography workshop in Miami.  A bad decision, no doubt.  One in a series of bad decisions.  I will try to be as productive here at home as possible, though, will try not to sit with that million mile stare.  Who knows.

I watched a Bill Burr comedy special from 2008 last night before bed.  It was great.  It will never be great again.  New optics.  That one will be only for those who remember.

We live in disproportionate times now.  The penalty need not fit the crime.  Or, perhaps, the accusation.

I am preparing now for the Perfect World New Order.  I think it is one I may have had a hand in making.

Oh why, I whine, didn't I go to Miami?

I think I've forgotten how to eat.  My diet has been shit for about a week.  Not necessarily bad, but forgetful.  I don't have the right food in the house.  When I go to the grocery store, I get confused and buy silly things.  When I get home, I remember what I went for.  I'll cut up an avocado and whatever I can find to go with it.  There are some cherry tomatoes in a half empty container.  I forget how I like to dress them.  Salt.  Lime juice.  Balsamic vinegar.  The avocado too soft, the tomatoes just edible.  Another glass of wine.  Still hungry, I look in the fridge.  Cookies.  And scotch.  A couple, then I remember peanut butter.  What can I put it on?  No bread in the house, of course.  I find an apple in the bottom of a bowl.  I wash it, the skin wrinkled and pulling away from the fruit.  It should be o.k.  Fuck!  The peanut butter jar is empty.  Is it worth stirring up a new jar?  I hate stirring the new jar.  I do a bad job and slather some of the very oily peanut butter (I'll have nothing but the dry stuff when I get to the bottom of the jar) on a slice of apple.  O.K.  Not bad.  A glass of milk.  Some more slathered apple.  I look back in the fridge.  There is some soup I made last weekend.  Would that still be good?  Another scotch.

When I get up in the morning, I am hungry.  I think to make oatmeal, but I only left enough milk in the carton for coffee the night before.  No breakfast, I decide.  I'll need an early lunch, but at work, everyone has brought theirs.  I salvage a tin of Louisiana Hot Sauce Fish Steaks from a drawer.  I have some stale crackers.  I go to the coke machine.  I eat with the others.  Hungry, I raid a secretary's candy dish.  I'll have to make this all up at dinner.  First the gym.  When I get to the grocery store, I don't want to cook.  Amy's macaroni and cheese.  A can of tuna.  I remember I need wine.

Etc.

Fragments of memory and meals.  Fragments of thought.  I need sleep aids.  I need to quit taking them.

Friday, December 8, 2017

'Tis the Season



I've decided not to go to Miami in order to stay home and mope, so of course, the weather is not what was predicted.  There will most likely be plenty of time for shooting in the streets there this weekend.  Selavy.  That was predictable.

I shouldn't be anywhere around people right now, anyway.  They irritate the shit out of me.  In light of the new Puritanism, the righteous are cannibals eating their own.  You are either on board or shut the fuck up.  And that's the part I don't understand.  Why can't you argue?  When people piss me off, I don't get up from the table and leave, but that is what happened to me last night at a weeny roast for some of my friends at the factory.  I don't dislike people just because they have an opposing viewpoint.  I just want to be free to express my dissent.

I'm not.

So a plague on all their houses.  Their righteousness (on both sides) is troublesome.  No matter who, they are speaking only to their base.

These are deeply troubled times.

I want my blankee and a bottle of wine.  I'll lie upon the couch in a stoner haze for hours watching t.v.  And I'll eat whatever I want, things I have eschewed for years.  I may have a liverwurst sandwich with onions.  Maybe I'll fry up some bologna and put it on white bread.  Maybe I'll get some ruffled chips and swipe them through a creamy onion dip.  Peanut M&Ms.  I don't think I've eaten anything like that since the '70s.  Well, except for the M&Ms.

Can you imagine?  I almost get chubby thinking about it.

I've spent hours and hours scanning and post processing old negatives.  I've sent Q the ones that involve him.  He's posting those pictures in bunches (link), so I am almost devoid of things to use here again.  No matter, though.  They were of him and his girl, so they are his. . . sort of.  I really didn't think he would post them, though.  They are sure to bring him trouble.

O.K.  The factory calls as sure as shittin' as my father used to say.  I got a little drunk last night and slept in this morning.  It felt fine.  I haven't been to the gym for three days, and given my desire for bologna and chips. . . well, 'tis the season.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

No Respect for the Aged



These are my friends C and Q back around the turn of the century on the rainy streets of NYC.  They were in their teens and twenties.  I hated Q but I loved his girl.  She wrote an email to me before I met her.  I thought Q had made it up.  It sounded just like him only more clever.  I wouldn't believe that he wasn't just jerking me around.  Then I met her.  She was much smarter than he and a whole lot better looking.  It is wrong to envy your friends for their girlfriends.  I think it might be one of the Ten Commandments.

Stupidly, when they broke up, I chose Q.  It was a redemption, of sorts, on my part, I think.  I've regretted that choice ever since, but loyalty is a good quality.  That's why we like dogs.

I have many pictures of the time I spent with them.  Q was working the night of the Ryan Adams concert, the now infamous one where he had his meltdown and effectively burned out his rising star.  Still, it was a wonderful concert, the last of his good stuff, in the newly renovated Beacon Theater.  C was going to meet me but never showed.  They should have been there.

But Q was off the next day and we had the weekend.  We went to museums and lunches.  It was a different NYC then, full of Cole Porter tunes no matter where you went, a late '90s hangover.  It was all about to change.  It was a new century--her century to anticipate.

I last saw her again some years ago.  She was in town to see relatives for Christmas and asked if she could stop by.  After Q forgave her and became her friend again, I felt free to keep somewhat in touch.  I hadn't seen her for around a decade, and I had just gone through a breakup and was feeling about as blue as. . . well, it seems I am always feeling that way.  We opened a bottle of wine and then went to a hip little restaurant for dinner.  By then, she had travelled the world quite a bit and was living in Europe, so I wanted to go someplace where I wouldn't look like a total rube.

That was the last time I saw her, and maybe the last I heard from her.  I was rather worn and beat by that time, I guess, not so interesting as I might have been.

No worries.  I still have Q.  And he her, I think.  They are still friends.  He was sending her the pictures that I was sending him last night.  He sent me a second person message from her, but I am not sure if I believe she said what he told me.  That's the way he treats me, however, even when I am digging up old memories and emotions for him.  He has no respect for the aged who have done so much to make him who he is.  I guess that is my only revenge!




Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Maybe Another Animal



Here are the same girls from yesterday's post.  See what I mean?  This is what happens if you ask people on the street if you can photograph them.  It turns into a FaceBook moment.  Every picture has the same quality as the last.  This is not the way to document the world.  For now, at least, I'll keep shooting from the hip.

There is no denying it and no help for it.  When a relationship ends, you just feel like a loser.  Your self-confidence is stripped away.  But how would I know that?  I can only speak for myself.  Others may feel liberated.  It takes me some time.  But day by day, a new old self emerges.  It is painful, though, this transformation, and now it is particularly scary.

I realized last night one of the problems.  I've never been alone in the house before.  There has always been a dog or cat, and I now know that it makes a huge difference.  Last night, I looked around for Bella the Cat.  I wanted to say something to her, or maybe just say something.  I guess what I was looking for was a reaction.  I am realizing why people have pets.  There truly is something about it.  I don't want another pet, of course, for I want to be free to come and go as I please.  I want to be able to travel without guilt.  Having said that, though, I sure wouldn't mind having my dog or cat back.  It almost makes me weepy.

On the traveling thing, though.  I have a chance to go to Miami this weekend for a three-day street photography workshop Harvey Stein, but I have pretty much pulled the plug on it.  Why?  Oh. . . the weather is going to be bad.  Art Basel is taking place, so the cost of hotel rooms has tripled and I would be staying in a very expensive dive that has a Tom's Peanuts and Crackers dispenser in the breezeway as an amenity.

And, apparently. . . I just want to stay home.  I might as well get a pet.

Or a project.  Which one, a pet, a project. . . a pet, a project. . . .  Which would be more trouble?  Which would make me happier?

Maybe I should decide to go to Miami in the cold rain.

Or maybe I should get an assistant.  That is what I really want.  Someone to scan all my negatives and to develop my film.  Someone to organize all my files and prints.  Someone who would do it just to be able to use my gear and be around such a genius as I.  Yes, that is what I need, even more than a pet.

Maybe I'll put out an ad.

I think I'll start leaving my phone number on 4x5 cards with the message, "I want to photograph you."  I'll just put it up in laundromats and convenience stores and anywhere else there is a community board and see what happens.

Sure I will.  Sure.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Wooden Ducks



More turn of the century photography.  I've been scanning old negatives that have never been scanned.  Things that once didn't seem to have much of note in them are beginning to look better now.  It may be a little too soon still, but some of the cultural touchstones in these images are starting to look interesting.   All it does for me is make me regret not having done only this, or at least much more of it.

It is difficult, though, as I have found out over and over and over again, to find someone who supports such interests.  It is hard enough to have confidence in yourself, but when everything else in your life is scoffing or telling you, "no, no, no," it is easy to cave.  Someone like Stephen Shore who got a major major show at the age of seventeen. . . well, we can't all be Stephen Shore, now, can we?  Or Eggelston who never had to work one day of his life.  I mean, that makes it much easier to pursue your interests.

But for those who take a timid step into the creative world, uncertain and unsure, those looking for a little approbation but finding, instead, only repudiation for any number of reasons. . . .  It is probably for the best, though, I guess.  There is so little talent, right?  Or is it that there is so little courage?

I think of modern art, the painters who struggled and carried on against all the criticism and complaints even at the cost of their economic and even physical existence.  Monet.  Modigliani.

But I was never fucked up enough to pursue it against the household strictures, so what I have are the photographic equivalents of the wooden fowl carvings done by the old guy in his garage on Saturdays.  You've seen him, sitting in front of the open garage door with his tools and a driveway full of perfectly polished life-sized ducks and geese and seagulls.  There he is, sitting in his plastic webbing lawn chair, fine grit sandpaper in hand as he puts some finishing touches to his latest masterpiece.

Somewhere, I think, he has a carving of a nude figure that his wife doesn't allow him to display.

And so. . . the ducks.  Mine, I mean, not his.

I became something of a standout in my university photo program when I brought back my images from my 3 month long hitchhiking and bus trip around the country.  But then I was out.  It was time to begin making a living.  There would have to be something wrong with me to continue pursuing snapshots.  Who would do that?

Oh, and there is, I am convinced.  Who, indeed.  Only those people like Lauren Greenfield who somehow have gotten away with it (link) (link).

I don't doubt that I would have sucked at it and would have ended up without either good work or a career, would have ended up trying to piece together some semblance of an economic existence.  I am not complaining, really.  But I am.  Really.

You see, I didn't start out with confidence.  I surely didn't develop any along the way.

C.C. speaks of his own creative desires and how they were met by his friends, family, and community when he was starting out.  He should have gotten a job at the rubber plant where the rest of his family worked, he says.  They all thought there was something wrong with him.

There was.

But it is not a good idea to tell somebody else's story for them, so I'll leave this alone.

I'll continue the scanning.  I'll pass along the occasional image here and there.  But I'll have to leave town if I want to make pictures now.  People look at me like a strange dog if I try to photograph in my own hometown.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Permablues



Last night was the Super Moon, a term that was invented like Secretary's Day.  I saw it last night when I walked my mother to her car as it began to rise above the trees, but I was full of feelings and did not care to stay and stare at it awhile.  This morning, though, before the sun came up, I walked out to look at it staring backwards at me.  The Old Backwards Moon.  It didn't seem quite round.  But it was still large and lit the earth with its reflective glow.  Good lesson there for beginning photographers wondering about the use of light reflectors.

I'm stumbling into the future.  I have to get my feet back under me.  I have become arthritic and my joints hurt, so it is difficult.  I just don't have the agility I used to.  I need an open field now to make my way.  But the future doesn't look like an open field.  As Ali said in training camp before his last fight, "I'll figure out something.  I'd better figure out something."

He took a beating.

I guess you can only live on luck for so long.

But perhaps last night's sleepless despair was a result of that old moon.  It might be that.  When the black ass hits, its best to wait it out and see what happens.  Good advice, right?  I mean, what else is there to do?

I could blame it on the season, but there doesn't seem to be much of a season here.  How do you tell the difference between "the season" and every other week anymore?  There are always lights in the store windows, now, always some sort of celebratory decorations.  The streets are always lined with little strands of light for some reason.  Christmas decorations just seem small and dull by comparison.  No, I don't think it is the season.  Not yet anyway.

But it could be the real season, the darkness and damp chill.  I'm not handling the short days very well this year.  I don't know how people in the north don't just go crazy.  Maybe opioids.  That seems to be a midwest and northern thing.

One of the ways out for me has been Amazon.  Q is right.  It is the new crack.  If I don't have a package to track, now, I feel lost.  I got one yesterday and have three coming today.  Photo books.  Yesterday's knocked me for a loop.  "Selected Works," by Stephen Shore.  His photographs look like random bits of imagery, but I have tried to photograph his way.  Try it.  It is hard.  After looking through the book, I went out and tried my hand at it.  My images didn't have any of the impact his do.  I used to hate works like his, but I am coming to appreciate them now.  I am often late to the party if it runs counter to my romantic notions.  There is nothing romantic in Shore's photography.  But there is something terrible and awful about them that is both hard to look at and hard to turn away from.  Maybe I'll write more about him after I've lived with the book awhile.

Today I get my first copy of Robert Franks' "The Americans." That is hard to believe, but it is true.  I'm also getting William Eggleston's "Guide."

But once they are here what?  I haven't anything else on the horizon.  All I have to do, however, is click a button, and I can have something here tomorrow.  I'll be broke before Christmas.  Shopping online really is like smoking crack.

I need to find another solution to my semi-permablues.  I'd better find another "cure."

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A White Christmas



I got a lot of responses to yesterday's post, none of them negative.  What sort of people come to this blog?  We're just a collection of misfit toys, I guess.  Perhaps you love as much as I do the idea of people acting badly?  I like living in Middleville, but I love taking day trips to the Land of Misbehaving.

One must be careful these days, though.  Such talk can land you in the slammer.

After I wrote my piece yesterday morning, I set out on my little scooter for the Boulevard where the hometown Christmas Parade was about to take place.  Yes, we still have Christmas here.  And it is a white one.  Really, really white.

I first took pictures of the parade forty years ago.  Black and white film, funky pictures.  If you've been coming here for awhile, you've seen them before.  Back before the Great Invasion, when this was still a small community for the small population who lived here, I used to go down and see my friends in the morning.  There was Betsy, still in last night's clothes, wobbling on heels, looking like something out of yesterday's Vogue.  We would grab a table at a Boulevard Cafe and eat breakfast while we watched it all passed by, people stopping at the table to tell last night's tales.  This used to be a town chock-full of tales.  It was a better place to live that you could ever imagine.  Now, it is like a lot of other towns that have been Disneyfied.  It was Google Maps that did it.  The Boulevard used to be a difficult street to find, and once you found it, you were shunned for not belonging.  You didn't have fun.  But once the developers got in, the zoning laws changed and the population went up and they started coming here by buses and cruise ships.  Now the Boulevard has become a bit of a tree-lined, brick street, outdoor mall.

So yesterday, the Boulevard was packed.  Still, there is a heavy town influence, and the groups marching in the parade or riding in convertibles or on the few flatbeds are from here.  The Vespa was just the thing for driving in, though, and I parked a block from the parade.  Getting off the bike, however, my back seized up.  I mean it gripped.  I could hardly straighten up.  I had to walk slowly and had to grimace.  This adds an element to the story to come, I'm sure.

I mean, if you really want to get into trouble, be an old guy with a camera at a Christmas parade.  But no, it can't be true.  Everybody had cameras.  People were taking photographs all over the place.  But me. . . somehow, I drew a lot of looks, and they didn't look like they were full of pity for the poor guy in pain.  Worse, however, there were plenty of people in the crowd who recognize me.  I'm telling you, it is a mistake to photograph in your own hometown.  But the crowd was large, as I say, and I've been taking pictures at the parade for decades, and I wanted to continue.

I had taken my digital Leica M 262.  I don't shoot with it much, and I spent a lot of money on it, so I wanted to see what I could do with it.  It is a beautiful camera and makes lovely images, but yesterday cured me of dreaming of owning the Leica M10.  As wonderful as the cameras are, almost every other camera has better features.  Manual focussing sucks.  In a crowd where everything is moving, trying to capture focus takes too long.  And I know how to use depth of field on a rangefinder.  I was shooting at f11 and f16 but things still turn out not to be tack sharp.  Any camera with autofocus will beat me using a manual focus lens.  I like the camera, but not for how I'm shooting now.

Luckily, I had my little Fuji 100F with me.  It is great for quick crowd shots.  Point and shoot.  Bam!  And I found that I like my hip shot pics much more than when I put the camera to my eye.  There is something in those weird angles with images falling out of the frame in awkward ways that appeals to me much more now.  They have the elements of a peep show and have more of an offhanded "On the Road" feel than the others.  I've had much practice and can really anticipate a shot just by pointing the lens without looking through it.  At least that is how I feel now.


Today's pictures, though, are both taken with the Leica at my eye.  I haven't messed with the images much, just simple light and contrast adjustments.  Leica really does have a "look" even in its digital images.  I am not saying I could pick them out in a blind test, but their processors work differently, the colors have a different saturation and hue.  All cameras do, Canon, Nikon, Fuji, or Sony.  The images just come out of the camera with different qualities.  If I end up spending money on another Leica, it will not be an M.  It will be one of the new automated ones with autofocus.  I am giving in.

At one point yesterday, I noticed my $200 sunglasses had fallen out of my pocket.  My heart fell.  I walked up and back the quarter mile I'd been since I last knew I had them, looking over the ground I had walked thinking, "No fucking way.  Someone found them and picked them up and now has a beautiful new pair of expensive glass."  I walked up and then back.  And when I came to the last place I'd been, I decided to give up and accept my fate.  And just then, as I turned around in despair, there they were.  Someone had set them up on a little wall to put them out of harm's way.  I couldn't believe it.  I wondered about the person who did that.  Did they see them fall out of my pocket?  This is a wealthy little community.  Was this the way the people who weren't economically desperate behaved?

I turned my attention back to making pictures.  I was looking for places where the rising sun made deeply contrasted shadows.  It was difficult to find a spot.  After a bit, I found a piece of curb I could sit on.  I would just take photos of the parade from there for awhile.  My back was getting worse.  And so I put the little Leica to my eye and half-heartedly tried to find something, anything, of interest.

And that is when I saw a group of little girls in orange tutus marching with their mothers.  They were the kids I had been photographing at the place I found my sunglasses. And there, leading the group, was my ex-wife.  No shit!  She lives here, but I NEVER run into her.  I haven't seen her in several years.  Then I wondered--was it she who saw me drop my glasses?  Jesus, the odds were very, very high.  My skin began to crawl thinking about it.  I KNEW not to try to photograph here.  I turned the Leica on her as she paraded by.  Did she know I was there?  It seemed to me she did in the way she never looked where I sat.

After they passed, I sat on the curb a bit, wondering.  This had been a weird, bad morning, I thought, even if I did get my glasses back.  My back was really getting stiff, so I got up and took little baby steps back toward my Vespa.  I was certain the pictures I got were not worth the trouble I'd gone through to get them.  What was I looking for?  What was I after.  Some vague, personal essay on the meaning of Christmas?  A bad commentary on lily whites?

At that point, none of it made any sense to me.  And what followed was a day of misery and confusion.  My body and my mind felt crippled.  I couldn't move for physical reasons, but my psyche wasn't far behind.

There are other events I wished to document, but I didn't do even a decent job yesterday, and I don't think I have the heart for it now.  I was going to go to the Big City Parade that started at sundown, but I didn't have it in me, and I decided to make some dinner, smoke a cheroot, have some drinks, and go to an early bed.  After a night of Advil P.M. gel cap sleep (they work REALLY well), I have woken with a bad back and a hangover.  My mother comes for dinner tonight.  Something is wrong with me.  I need to figure this shit out.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

This Be the Verse



It is a difficult number to get, but something like 15% of the women in the world do not have children by the time they are 50.  The number of women choosing to remain childless in the U.S. is booming.  Some people fight like crazy to keep this a choice.  Others, not so much.  It seems, though, that one of the things that people try not to do more than anything else in their lives is not have children.  Right? Having children for most people is pretty easy, even more so if you don't want one.  The second most performed operation in the U.S. is abortion.  The only operation that tops it is the tonsillectomy.  That doesn't mean people want tonsils less than they want children, however.  The tonsillectomy doesn't seem to demand as much discussion.

So what's my point.  Cover your ears, Q, this is not about you though you might think otherwise.  I mean it is not about you in particular.  I'm just going to write a little piece here that will cut my readership even more.

I had a conversation at work a few days ago that had nothing to do about children.  It was about moral codes, core values, and all that.  I am accused of being a Nihilist sometimes because I don't believe in a big "T" "Truth."  I mean I know there are facts (capital "F" facts?).  I know I'm going to die.  I know that the sun comes up in the east-ish, etc.  But big "T" truths are not facts but concepts.

So, in order to lead a moral existence, I have to rely on my own sense of justice to establish my moral code.  How does one lead a moral existence?  Some rely on the burning bush to tell them.  Others have a book of answers.  But people hear from different bushes and own different books, and therein lie most of the world's conflicts.

To my surprise, I found out that the woman to whom I was speaking was a woman of faith.  I would not have predicted that.  It's O.K. with me as long as I am not forced to give up my code and adopt hers.  But to my surprise, a day later, she felt free to mock what she perceives as my Nihilism in front of others.  Her justification?  Well. . . I don't have to try to raise a child.

Being a parent, for many, is entrance into some mystical club. There apparently is a Holy Grail.  I don't mind people with children, but for many, there is a smugness about their child card.

"Well, you would understand if. . . . "

"Once you become a parent. . . ."

Yup.  That's it.  Everyone of those hillbillies in the Appalachian Mountains with fifteen kids. . . .

Sorry, but I'm sick of hearing about the enlightenment the secret meaning of the one thing people can do without trying as a final testament to their beliefs and actions.  It's horse shit.  I've raised a kid.  It is wonderful and satisfying and all of that.  It takes you outside yourself, makes you think about someone else, and maybe (though I don't find much evidence of this) the state of the world.  If parenthood were a magic morality pill, the world sure would be a much fucking better place.

But it makes a convenient fallback and resting point.

"I had a child."

And the world thanks you.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, in 2014, 47.6 percent of women between age 15 and 44 had never had children.
That number is on the rise.  

Last night at the supermarket, I got in the Ten Items or Less line.  The couple in front of me with their four children started emptying their cart.  Twenty-five, thirty items. . . .  

"Hey," I said, pointing to the sign.  

"Don't worry about it," said dad.  

Ohhhhh. . .  

"Hey," I said again.  "Ten.  Do it with me. . . one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. . . ."  

It went on.  

"No," I relented.  "You are right.  You've got the secret morality.  Yours is superior to mine.  Teach it to your future criminals here.  Give them your moral code.  It is superior to all others.  If I had children, I'd want them to live a selfish and immoral life, too.  Teach them well."  

Now, I love children.  I get along with them better than most people.  They are drawn to me.  I usually like them better than their parents.  One of the nice things about kids is that they don't talk about their parents much unless it is to complain.  There is a simple understanding.  You know. . . parents.  They're the thing that fucks you up.  



Friday, December 1, 2017

Stupid Old People



Turn of the century, NYC subway.  Why did I ever let other people keep me from being accomplished?  Q says because it was easier that way.  Of course.  It is better to let other's take the rap.  I've never had a mate, however, who applauded my artistic endeavors.

Remember the turn of the century?  You could still walk to the airplane gate with your friends five minutes before takeoff to say goodbye.  No?  Well, that was all in the bad old days.

I am finding that there is still at least one group against whom you can discriminate and make fun of in public.  The aged.  They represent everything that we want to expunge--the bad old past.  People were really stupid then and life wasn't close to being fulfilling.  People couldn't live up to their full human potential.  So sure, the old SHOULD be ridiculed.  What ideas they had.  And they always want to talk about shit nobody cares about.  Even the semi-lucid ones who were college educated back when universities taught hierarchically will reference old Greek pedophiles or some such nonsense.

They are the ones that said, "Never trust anyone over thirty."  They get to own that now.  They need to deal with it.

O.K.  I'll quit it.  But it is true, right?  You can stereotype old people and no one will get upset.

One of my friends told me about a bill congress is trying to pass that restricts access to pornography by age appropriateness.  People in their fifties, people in their sixties. . . they could only access images and videos with people of their age group.

He may have been kidding, but it wouldn't surprise me.  Much.

Still, this picture makes me happy.  Q tells me he is going to post one of my other pictures from this trip to NYC on his blog today.  It will take him a while, but later, let's go see.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

I Can See The Future From Here




I'll admit it.  I've not been in the best state of mind recently.  And maybe it is starting to wear on me a bit.  I'm making mistakes.  These are not good times in which to make mistakes.  Daggers are drawn. People are willing to sacrifice the innocent.

C'est la guerre.

In my rush to make yesterday's meeting, I got there an hour early.  I had the time wrong.  When everyone showed up, it was not the meeting I thought.  The CEO is retiring, and this meeting was run by a headhunter group hired to find a new one.  They were seeking input from the company executives about what qualities they thought the new CEO should have.

I listened for about ten minutes before I raised my hand.

"Well. . . this all sounds like it came from a Wiki page under the heading "Qualities of a CEO."

I went on from there, but there was an audible rumbling in the room.  Why in the fuck did I say that? It wasn't smart.

My day got no better.  I tangled with people over and over again, people of equal or higher standing in the company.

It's Trump and the environment he has created.  That has to be it.  We're all going to get microwaved to death sooner or later because of him.

My week doesn't get any easier.  I don't know if I'll even have time to take a walk in the next three days.  I'm not having fun.

My buddy sent me an interview with the painter Russel Chatham from which this comes:

I’m not a businessman. If any money crosses my path, it is gone faster than butter in an oven. I have no savings, no retirement. I have whatever’s in my wallet."

I start thinking about the future.  

This morning, front and center on the N.Y. Times page, there's this.


Here are a few excerpts.  



“Everybody around me has died, one after another, and I’m the only one left,” she said. “But when I think about death, I’m afraid.”

When I first met Mrs. Ito, it barely occurred to me that no one else had called or visited that afternoon. Only weeks later did she tell me — excitedly, as if she had been waiting for me to ask — that her birthday had fallen on the day of my first visit.

Instead, she had simply handed me her book: “Chieko’s 53 years in Tokiwadaira danchi.” It was an encyclopedia of dates, names, events and photos spanning 394 pages. No one else had read it, and it wasn’t clear then, even to her, why she had gone through the considerable trouble of composing drafts in longhand, typing it up on her laptop and printing it out.

“Writing is such a hassle, so it’s strange, this need to write,” she said.

Ito ultimately concluded that she had started writing to break the solitude, so she wouldn’t forget. “Even the unhappy events,” she said. “Otherwise, everything is lost forever.”

Sitting in Mrs. Ito’s apartment, I remembered that she had mentioned a collection of photo albums of her balcony. I asked to see it, and she immediately pulled out 11 slim albums cataloged with her typical precision.

But the photos in these albums were all of flowers, flowers that Mrs. Ito had kept on her balcony since her daughter’s death — amaryllises, geraniums, carnations, roses, morning glories, narcissuses, marigolds, every flower, it seemed, with the exception of chrysanthemums.

“I wonder,” she said earnestly, “why I took so many.”

I sent this to friends with a comment: "I can see the future from here."

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mad Hatter, March Hare, or White Rabbit?



No time to write today.  The CEO is going to tell us what we are all about this morning.  Being late is not an option.  These are terrible and dangerous times.  The least little slip. . . .

Great picture.  I guess I wasn't the first to use that mask, eh?  I wonder if the kid ever saw a therapist about this later in life?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Pulse? What Pulse?



"Quick, look over there!"

"Where?"

"There."

Our attention turns to an unusual sight, a clown fucking a monkey.

I think I stole that from C.C.  I'm pretty sure.  It is what is happening now.  We are watching all the distractions while the slimy evil-doers are dropping poison in the water supply.  But people would rather watch the sideshow.  It is shocking, but it is easier than dealing with the other thing.

"Give me some good news."

"Well. . . the Koch Brothers just bought Time magazine.  No?  Um. . . The EU just extended the use of Monsanto's RoundUp for another five years.  What?  I don't know what to tell you."

Just as I'm writing this, a buddy sends me this fun article (link).

"I'm like Indiana Jones looking for the tablets, man.  I just want a simple moral code by which to order my life."

"How many of the ten commandments can you name?"

He could remember the convenient ones.  All four of them.

This is a Eurocentric view, of course.  It doesn't even address the problems south and east of Bucharest.

But what do I know, really.  I'm alternately watching episodes of "Downton Abbey" and "Mr. Robot."  Its hard to keep your finger on the pulse.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Better Than Thinking



Ten days away from the factory comes to crashing halt.  Ten days of quiet solitude, bad weather, and fighting with demons.  Except for Thanksgiving, I saw no one.  I did little.  I slept poorly.

I am almost looking forward to work. . . but not very much.

My mother came to dinner last night.  She left early.  She doesn't enjoy coming to dinner as much as she did before, I know, now that it is only her and her gloomy son.  I try, but I am sure there is something genetically wrong with me.  She should own up to some responsibility.  If it isn't that, surely it was the way I was raised.  That is on her, too.

But I was a sweet boy, shy and quiet, so maybe something happened to me in the after years.  There is surely something I can point to.  More than likely, it is the criminal side of my father's family.  They were a lively, twisted lot.  It is probably that.  They were much more fascinating than my mother's side.  Outlaws one and all.

I did manage to get out yesterday.  It was a perfect day, and by noon, I was finished putzing and moping, so I put together a bag of cameras, climbed on the scooter, and. . . headed to the Cafe Strange for a mimosa.  The ten days off have had one definite effect on me--day drinking.  I am sure if I had just a few more hermetic days off, I would start every morning with a Bloody Mary.  I have to say it sounds like a tempting idea today.  But there lies the slippery slope.  I'd have to keep a bottle of vodka hidden away in my desk drawer, and soon enough, I'd start speaking sloppy truth to power.

No, temperance is my only salvation.  No drinking until sunset.  This week, I may not drink at all.  Without eating, I put on weight this week.  The empty bottles tell the tale.

Anyway (as my mother says), one mimosa on a perfect day in a cafe full of the alt.left put in me in fine order.  I was off.

Didn't take a picture one.

But I did come home and set up to develop the 4x5 film I had shot the day before.  I had to mix chemicals, measure things, all the while the time for mother was closing in.  I was using a new developer that I had never used before, and I didn't want to chance ruining the shots that I knew I would most like, so I put in two "nothing" shots and some mystery film from film holders I don't remember shooting.  A long while later, I pulled the film from the wash.  Trepidation and all that.  I expected failure.  But no--success!  At least partial.  The two "nothing" negatives looked good.  The other two were apparently color film I'd loaded in the wrong holders.  Selavy.  I have my practice down now.

Meanwhile, I have been scanning old negatives.  I'm running from room to room working like a one man band.  My house is littered with photographic paraphernalia and artifacts.  I have ideas for mucking up the pictures, and the dining room table may become a workbench.  It is dreadful, really, but it keeps me busy.

It is, you know, better than thinking.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Daily Affirmation



My mind is a cluster-fuck today, a swirling miasma of things.  This was probably the worst week ever to have stayed away from the factory.  It was anything but fun and/or relaxing.  Except for Thanksgiving Day, I remained alone.  Well, except for the demons.  There were plenty of those for companionship.  I'll try to make sense.  I'll try to tell you about it.

I just lost 3/4s of my diminishing readership right there.  I warned you yesterday, though, that there would be whining.

I should begin with this morning.  I didn't wake at three.  I didn't wake at four.  Nope, not last night.  I got hold of two nerve pills and took one last night.  I needed some rest, and I got it, straight through.  There's nothing like a nerve pill and a big glass of whiskey to send you on your way.

That and another episode of "Downton Abbey."  I like it alright, but that is a sleeping pill, too.

And so, glad for the eight hours of sleep, I put on the coffee.  But where was the coffee?  I thought I had another pound in the cupboard.  To my real and tremendous surprise, though, after taking everything out three times to make sure I hadn't missed it, I poured what was left of the coffee beans in the near empty container on the counter into the pot.  Ehhhhh. . . about 75% of what I usually use.  It might work.  Then I looked for my emergency back up beans in a Mason jar in another cupboard.  WTF?  Where did she put them?  They've been there for a year.  I used them with the Sambuca.  I tear apart another cupboard without profit.

There are evil forces at play, I think.  But I have a solution.  I brew the beans, then I put a little of the instant coffee left over from the hurricane into the cup to make it stronger.  Clever boy, I am.  It tastes O.K.  Maybe I like it.

I feel certain, though, that someone has taken my coffee beans.

But let's jump back.  Yesterday, as you might remember, began foggy and gloomy.  And I battled that with a trip to the gym.  When I got home, it was damp and cold-ish, so I took a shower and made some breakfast all the while throwing old negatives into the scanner.  And by the time I was finished, the clouds dispersed and the sun came out brilliantly.  It was noon then.  I had to get out.  And I had a plan.  I grabbed my old Polaroid Land Camera that was now a Razzle conversion camera that shoots 4x5 film and sorted through a bunch of 4x5 film holders.  There were two different kinds.  One type was loaded with color film, the other with black and white, but I couldn't remember which was which.  There were fewer of one type, though, and so logic told me that those were loaded with color film.  I found a bag that would hold the lot of them plus the camera and packed it all in.  On the way out the door, I grabbed my Polaroid SX-70, too.  I didn't know where I was going for sure, but I had to get away from my little town.  I headed to the Big City on my Vespa, and within a mile or so knew I had not dressed warmly enough.  I tried to keep my speed at 30 mph to minimize the chill factor.  The day was brilliant, but I was cold.  I needed to get someplace and warm up.

I drove through downtown, but it was beat, a Saturday ghost town, so I kept going, further, past the sports arena and beyond the big soccer stadium, down a street that used to be the main entertainment drag for "coloreds" when I was a kid.  I've written about coming here when I was fifteen and going into the music clubs, about the exotic danger and strangeness of it to me then.  There wasn't a trace of that now.  Everything was gentrified.  I kept driving my little bike further until the gentrification petered out, where the old buildings remained.  I drove until nobody looked like me, a white boy in a white Oxford on a Vespa.  Uh. . . people didn't look like me, they looked at me.  "Don't be a paranoid asshole," I said to myself.  It is an easy thing to be.  Spooky others will come to beat you and rob you, don't you know?  O.K.  It had happened to me in the past, not far from here, but that was a special occasion.  This was a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  Everybody was surely happy and content.

I passed the big trucks and the long lines of people waiting to get food and clothing.  This happens here on Saturdays.  I've seen it before.  I didn't look like a rich white boy scoping out the less fortunate with his expensive cameras.  Nope, not at all.  It is hard to find the appropriate greeting to the people you see sometimes.  I smiled and waved.  People looked back at me like I was an apparition.

I had been driving the Vespa for about half an hour and hadn't stopped to take a picture yet.  "Jesus, man, either get off your bike and do what you came to do or stop and give your cameras to somebody who might use them," I thought.  "You're such an asshole.  Go home and sit in your chair and whine about not taking any pictures.  Fuck yourself."

That's the way conversations go in my head a lot.  There are some nasty voices in there.

I turned a corner and saw some kids sitting on the counter ledge of a take-out barbecue joint.  Their mothers were at the window ordering.  As I drove by, the kids and their mothers stared.  So did the fellows who were hanging around.  Fuck.  I turned the bike around.  I sat thinking for a minute, then rode up the sidewalk to where they were.  Eyes were popping.

"Hey," I said smiling, waving," I just can't not ask.  Would it be alright if I took a picture?  I drove by and saw the kids.  This is just too good."

I expected, of course, for the women to tell me to get the fuck away.  I expected men to come and ask what the trouble was.

"Dumb fucking white boy comes driving his little toy motorcycle up the sidewalk asking if he can take our picture.  I don't know what he's doing."

"What the fuck you doing?"

That's the way dumb fucking white boys think.

"You want to take our picture?" one of the women asked.

"Well, the kids."

"Are you a photographer?"

"I'd have to be to use this," I said pulling out the 4x5. "This will take a minute.  It's kind of complicated."

"Oh. . . what kind of camera is that?  That looks cool.  You do this a lot?"

"Well, I'm just trying to learn how to use this one."

All the time, I'm pulling out film holders, trying to get a meter reading, futzing with the camera settings, hoping I can do it right.  The kids are cute, five of them sitting in a row, and I talk to them for a minute answering there questions.  They want to know my name.  They want to tell me theirs.

"O.K.  Hold still."

And they do.  I flip the film holder mourned and take another.  The mother's want to know if I am going to take a picture of them.  Sure.  I pull out another film holder.  The men passing by watch me work.  I'm ready again, and the moms snap into poses, twisting torsos, thrusting hips.  I know that in my paranoia I am rushing through this.  I should be taking more time, making adjustments and suggestions, but I still feel the weirdness of what I am doing.  The sun is shining on the lens.  There will probably be flare.  I hope the meter read right.  Paranoia in many forms.

When I am done, I take an email address from one mom and send a text message to the other so that I can send her the picture, too.  The kids are all chattering when I say bye to them and each one touches me.  The moms shake my hand.  I hop on my little scooter and turn it around on the sidewalk.  As I drive away, I am happy, I am sad.  I did it.  I didn't do it right.

I make my way through this part of town a little more.  It is a spectacular day, everything looking like a photograph in the sharp, angled light.  I stop the bike and walk.  I take pictures of things, objects.  That is not what I want to do.  I want to photograph people.  I head back to a more populated area, back in the downtown section, park, grab my bag and walk, looking for the right spot where the shadows and the light are brilliant.  I find it.  I stand and wait.  There are few people about.  I try, but there is little but more buildings, more things.

In a little while, not having done nearly enough, I make my way back home.

I am anxious to develop the film, but I need to mix chemicals.  After they are mixed, I remember the little carnival C.C. had told me about.  I should go.  It is late afternoon.  What else is there to do?  I don't want to go, of course.  I don't want to walk among people and take pictures.  It is a hard thing to do.  I'm already worn out.  But I must.  I pack a bag with digital cameras, the Fuji, the Leica, and then I remember I had my SX-70 in my bag when I was downtown.  I could have taken a Polaroid of the kids and could have given it to them.  My mind was in lock down, though.  I was struggling.  You can't do two things at once.  It is no good.  One camera at a time.  But man, I should have remembered the Polaroid.

I pull up to the parking lot next to the carnival.  The sun is shining.  There are very few people there.  I walk through the single midway, one end to the other, taking pictures of rides, not people.  There are too few of them.  They are poor and nondescript wearing clothes from bargain racks at closeout stores who got them from what was left after the big sale at the retail store.  There is no flair or sense of style, nothing really visual.  The carnies seem bored and look pissed off.  They don't look any different from the crowd.  It is late afternoon.  I wanted to shoot as the sun was setting when there was a good mix of daylight and artificial illumination, but that seems too far away now.  I walk back through the midway to my car.  I got nothing.

I get home about the time I should have been making pictures at the carnival.  I am hungry.  I don't know what I wan to eat.  Then I think sushi.  I don't want to take the scooter, though.  Perhaps I'll get lucky and find parking.  I go to the counter and sit where Ili and I always sat.  I order what I always order.  I take some pictures and text them to a friend.



I'll write this to you now so I'll have it later. After waking up alone and reading and writing and drinking coffee aloe, after going to the gym alone and eating breakfast alone and then spending the day in the streets photographing alone, I am in a nice restaurant eating alone. The waitresses are young and beautiful and the restaurant has a sparse stylishness. I thought the simple elegance of these vessels compelling.

The food is good, and I drink too much sake.  It is sweet and sticky in the cup as I try to finish the second carafe.  The waitress is attentive and looks at me intently.  She introduces herself and calls me by my name.  Oh, how the blood courses through my veins.  "Don't fool yourself," I say, but I can't help but fool myself a little.  I don't show a thing, though.  I am as demure as always.  

Sometime later that night, I find myself on the couch watching "Downton Abbey," with a big glass of scotch and a bag of chocolate chip cookies.  

This morning, the Times has this in an article titled "How to Be Happy" (link).  

Writing about oneself and personal experiences — and then rewriting your story — can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. (We already know that expressive writing can improve mood disorders and help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, among other health benefits.)Some research suggests that writing in a personal journal for 15 minutes a day can lead to a boost in overall happiness and well-being, in part because it allows us to express our emotions, be mindful of our circumstances and resolve inner conflicts. Or you can take the next step and focus on one particular challenge you face, and write and rewrite that story.We all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it right. By writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of our personal well-being.

Jesus, between this article and the one I posted at the head of this blog entree, I should be the happiest mofo in the world.  I do everything that is recommended.  

Except for one thing.  And I can't.  I can't do the Tony Robbins shit.  It seems too. . . too. . . arrogant.  It seems too Trumpish.  It reminds me of Al Franken's as Stuart Smalley giving the "Daily Affirmation" (link). 

"I'm C.S., and doggone it, people like me."  

But then again, who knows.  If it works, I'll let you know.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Upper Lip



After a stuttering start yesterday, after the gym and a shower and breakfast at the diner, and after an attempt to nap (the yardman showed up just as I fell asleep), after sitting around in a funk, I began to do what I had intended to do all week.  I went into the study/photography junk room, and began to. . . fiddle around, I guess.  There was a package on my doorstep, when I looked outside.  It was from Brooklyn Cameras.  I sent a broken SX-70 camera for them to repair, and now it was done.  I needed some film to load into the camera, and I thought I had some in the study, but I was wrong.  All I had was the New Polaroid film for the Spectra camera, so I headed to the garage to find some of the old Impossible stock.  I brought it back inside, put it in the camera and took the first picture.  It didn't sound right.  It was then I noticed the film was for 600 series cameras.  Shit, I hoped I hadn't broken it again right off the bat.  I ran back to the garage and found an old box of Time Zero film.  I knew it would be shot all to hell, but I wanted to make sure the camera still worked, so I took out the 600 film and put in the other and took a picture of my kitchen faucet.  It worked.  I quickly ran to the computer to find out what happens if you use 600 film in and SX-70.  Nothing bad.  It is only that the film is faster than the SX-70 camera is set up to shoot.  You have to have a neutral density filter to put on the lens . I remembered I had one.  I could tell you right where it sat in the studio.  Where it is now, however, I have no idea.

I was right, of course.  The film was streaked, greens and blues only.  Oh, well.  I ordered some of the new SX-70 film online.  It will be here Monday.

So I picked up my Spectra camera and went outside.  I pushed the button. . . and though the motor ran, the picture didn't come out.  WTF?!  I opened the camera and saw the film halfway sticking out.  I removed it, closed the camera, and pushed the button.  Same thing.

Bad camera day.

I took out that pack and put in another to see if it would work.  Pushed the button.  The film came out ever so slowly.  I took another.  Same thing.  It worked, just not like a champ.  The old camera could be going.  Too bad, too, for I love the Spectra.

I have three more broken SX-70s.  I'm going to send one of them in to have it converted to shoot the 600 film without a filter.  Why?  Will I be shooting this very expensive film that much?  Probably not.

And there you have it.

I started putzing around in the study trying to find places to put the cameras and the film.  In the process, I pulled down folders full of old negatives and proof sheets and slides.  I powered up the light table and started looking through.  Jesus, what a lot of stuff.  I decided to start purging.  I started with slides.  I began taking out the ones that were "bleh" which turned out to be about half of them.  I went through folder after folder, then discarded the unwanted slides into the garbage.  Then I decided to do the same with negatives.  If there was anything I wanted on the strip of six, I would keep it.  You'd be surprised how many negative strips I pitched.  Just writing it gives me the heebee jeebees, but I think it was the right thing to do.

Then I looked out the window, and it was dark.  The day was done, or at least the light part of it.  The room looked almost exactly as it did when I began.  I did, however, find many images that have never been scanned, so I have made a lot of work for myself that I didn't have before.

I decided to wait until the next day to try straightening things up.  There is little that can't be done tomorrow.

After an unsuccessful trip to Trader Joe's (they didn't have the frozen packages of mussels OR clams), I came home and made a quick meal of tuna mixed into pan fried Asian vegetable rice (as good as it sounds), and turned on the t.v.  I have begun watching "Downton Abbey" a few years late, I guess, but it suits my mental and spiritual state right now.  Oh those Brits.  They sure know how to make shows like this.  I've only watched the first three episodes, but I'm in.  The lighting, the subdued colors, the framing, the rich sets, and the old fashion plot twists built around age-old conflicts has grabbed me.  I know the appeal of the show is, of course, the old-time values, the set hierarchies, knowing ones position and duties, etc.  There is an unshakable sense of community in it all that gives comfort no matter with whom you identify.  The servants lived as monks, really, a not unenviable life.  "What?!?" you say.  "Are you kidding?"  Oh, no, not really.  I mean in the show.  In reality, people are as miserable as they are no matter what.  But living among stereotypes and set pieces for an hour at a time is enjoyable.  See how wonderful the past was?  Ah, the good old solid past.

Why did the postmodernists have to fuck with it so?  We all knew it wasn't true.  Why'd you have to go and prove it?  I know their secrets and tricks, though, and their version is no truer nor more valid than the other.  I am good about holding opposing ideas in my head at the same time and not going mad, though.  Right?

And so, my mind full of bucolic old England and scotch, I made my way to bed.

And woke too soon.  Many hours too soon.  This morning is foggy.  The days are damp and cool now so that it gets to your bones.  I've been in cold weather everywhere, skiing and hiking and climbing glaciated mountain peaks.  I've woken up on mornings when the tent zipper was frozen so that you couldn't get out of the tent.  But there is nothing colder than this damp cold.  Everyone who experiences it, no matter where they come from, says so.  There is no getting warm.  Now that I've had a pot of coffee, I think I'll go back to bed.  Or maybe I should go to the gym and get my day started.  I have only begun to clean up in the office.  Not even.

C.C. texted me that there was a carnival setting up near his house.  He knew I would want to photograph it.  I plan on going today to see, but saying so puts the dread in me.  So many things could go wrong.  That is how I feel right now.  Anything could go terribly and dreadfully (remember, I've been watching "Downton Abbey") wrong.  But one must be a trooper, eh?  One must soldier on against the odds, if one must, and do one's duty to the best of his abilities.  That's the old code, right?  Stiff upper lip and all that?

I'll give it a go.  You can hear me whine about it tomorrow.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Cooking, The Cleaning



I cooked.  I made the whole thing: quartered turkey in a buttermilk marinade, green beans, a variety of roasted potatoes, asparagus, stuffing, and a can of cranberry sauce.  No help.  Just for me and mom.  We had a bottle of wine, not too much, and everything was tasty.  But my mother misses Ili.  She told me.  I am not as much fun as I should be.  I don't enjoy the prattle of group entertainment, and I'm not so good at small talk.  That doesn't mean I think I'm profound.  I may be nothing at all.  But Ili made my mother feel good and maybe safe.  I need to be more. . . something.  

I marinated the turkey for hours, then my mother came over as I cooked.  We chatted as I worked and she had a glass of wine.  Good Old Mom.  The day was cloudy and little spits of rain came down for minutes or seconds at a time, but I worked the grill and everything was fine.  My friend, the art collector, came over with some fudge that he had made.  We sat and talked awhile about this and that and it was good to see him.  It was nice to have a third for a bit.  He had a glass of wine and we talked about travel--he is well-travelled and one of the three Brando friends who got cheated out of the trip and the money to Kenya years ago--and then he excused himself and was gone.  

My mother and I served up dinner and ate excitedly.  I mean, man, it was all so good.  For both of us, though, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, as they used to say, and the hours of preparation were finished off in mere moments.  

"Let's go for a walk," my mother said, and we strolled evenly around the lake.  Good Old Mom.  

And then we returned home and had some more wine and chatted as the day sailed away.  Then she, with half the fudge in hand, too, took her leave.  

It wasn't quite dusk, and I decided it best to take a Vespa tour to see the remains of the day.  I drove slowly with no destination, just looking about to see what Thanksgiving Day looked like in this part of town.  Dead silence.  Everything was still.  The air was cooling and the light fading, and so, a little bit hollow, I turned and made my way home.  

Now, in the gray/blue dusk, I sit reading and drinking the first scotch.  Deciding on a Cohiba cheroot, I go to the deck to sit and smoke and drink and think.  Alone.  There is grayness and a stillness and the good cheroot and the simple scotch, and there is the other thing, too, the aloneness that is peace which is not quite emptiness but is a hollowness that must not become a void.  The blue of the fading light passes through me and colors me, but it does not quite overtake me.  I cannot allow that yet.  There is a melancholy that we love that must not be allowed to deepen to despair.  I take a last draw on the Cohiba and put the glass to my lips.  The smoke and the whiskey pass through me, too, and I am succored.


That was last night.  This morning, again, the day is gray and rainy.  My fortune.  A "Jazz for Reading" mix plays and the coffee pot is almost empty.  I spy an empty scotch bottle sitting on top of the liquor cabinet, the "library."  I'm not sure about anything just now.  My days away from the factory have not invigorated me.  Just the opposite.  This day seems to hold no promise.

I want a studio again.