Friday, February 24, 2017

The Floridita



It was a long walk in air that had110% humidity.  I was sweating like a drunk, but that is just the way it would be in Cuba.  It was evident that tourism had not effected all of Havana yet.  The Malecon, maybe, where tourists would feel comfortable strolling, and of course, I had heard, the old part of town.  But in between, the magnificence of the city had crumbled.  Was it the result of the revolution, I wondered, or the result of the American embargo?  Whatever it was, there should be a lessoned learned.  We shouldn't do that again.


I had informed Ili that this would not be a vacation as most people think of it.  There was nothing to do but walk and look and talk, adventure and explore.  I was certain she understood what I meant.  But I knew, too, that soon, in the old part of town, we would be able to eat and drink. . . or at least drink.  You couldn't trust the water, but we would have to have faith in the ice.  I mean, you can't not drink cold drinks, right?  I didn't want to investigate too much.  Rather, we would just believe that ice was made from filtered water.  How else could they keep tourism alive?  But I knew in my heart of hearts that our bodies would be a little stressed.

We found the Floridita, the place where Hemingway is said to have invented the daiquiri, but it was packed.  We were hot and sweaty and had walked seven kilometers and wanted to sit, but in the bar, sitting was impossible.  Through an archway, though, was a formal dining room that was near to empty.  We stepped up the two steps that led to it and peered in.  A waiter came forward.

"Con su permiso?" I asked.

He waived us to a table where we quickly ordered two of the "famous" drinks.  We looked at the menu, which was heavily Hemingway themed, and decided to split Hemingway's "favorite," lobster, shrimp, and fish.

A band began to play.

At another table sat a gringo with his Latin partner--girlfriend, wife--I don't know.  But when she heard the music, she got up and began to dance.  It was a dance, but it was an exposition, too, for as she moved her shoulders, hips, and knees, she would point and explain something to him.  He endured it all with an old gringo grin as she turned her back to him and faced the band through the archway, losing herself in the Cuban rhythms.  It was not a dance that gringos dance, but at another table two young girls got up and began dancing, too, one blanco, one negro.

Ili was smiling when the second round of drinks appeared.  Everyone was drinking them.  They must be o.k., I thought, always the paranoid.

The food arrived.  The meal was a prediction, really, of all the meals in Havana.  Even at the best of places, the cuisine would be iffy.  My friends at home would ask about the food, imagining the Cuban food they had eaten in Miami, perhaps on Calle Ocho.  This food was nothing like that.  We were at the Floridita eating upper class sustenance, not haute cuisine.

"I'm glad we split this," I said.  Ili agreed.

"How are you feeling?"

"Great.  Let's go see the town."


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Update





Back to the Malecon



Our "guides" kept taking us further away from the Malecon and deeper into Havana Central.  I was pretty certain, almost certain, that there was nothing shady about any of this.  Most of Havana looks like downtown Detroit.  It is broken and ramshackle. . . just because it is.  People haven't the money or resources for upkeep.  But there are no drugs in Cuba.  I have been told that over and over.  And there is no crime.  Now that I've said that, of course, it sounds stupid like any absolute statement.  Of course there are drugs.  Of course there is crime.  But compared to the U.S., there are no drugs, no crime.  Ili, though, was entering alien territory and all of her senses were alive.  Me--I was mostly looking through the viewfinder.

Finally, though, we reached our destination, an old building with a kinda sorta cafe.  We were introduced to a fellow with a hipster hat and beard and led down a few steps to a little room filled with fantastical paintings in a primitive style, loud colors, outlined, unrealistic figures.  The fellow with the hipster hat turned to close the door.  And that's when I saw Ili's concern.

"Sorry guys, but we gotta go."

The Cubans weren't confused, really, but surprised.  The big guy with the hipster hat said in a condescending way, "There's nothing to worry about.  We're not going to rob you.  That doesn't happen in Cuba."

I didn't have time to say anything, though, as I kept up with Ili's back.

On the street, the guides wanted money.  It was a request, really, a plea.  But that is nothing new.  People don't engage tourists just to practice their English.  They are not looking for a good time.  They take you somewhere, show you something hoping you will buy some food from a friend, some art from a colleague.  Of course.

I'd been to places that weren't as friendly as Cuba.  I'd been to places much more dangerous.

Ili hadn't.  I hadn't been thinking.  I was to blame.  I was only thinking about the pictures I would take, the stories I could gather.  Ili's experience was something else entirely.

"I've been in Cuba forty minutes and you are taking me to some. . . ."

There are photos of grumpy Ili back on the Malecon.  But the sea, the fresh air. . . we walked on toward our original destination.  We were headed to Havana Viejo.



*   *   *   *   *   


Along the way, from Malecon to Central.  I'm working on pictures, trying to find a processing style.  I haven't enough time.  It is slow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Malecon



So. . . everything was in place.  We had made it through customs, had gotten a cab, and had secured our room.  We took a look around.  The apartment was huge and beautiful. . . sort of.  It was beauty in decline, so to speak, a once lovely place fallen into disrepair.  It was not an eyesore, exactly, but it gave merely a hint of its former glory.  It needed "fixing up" badly, but for $30.00 a night. . . it was something.  Fifteen foot ceilings, twelve foot windows that opened upon a balcony that looked dangerous, one foot deep and twenty feet long with a rusted and shaky guardrail that shouldn't be leaned upon.  We looked across the street through the Jose Marti Anti-Imperialist Platform to the Malecon and beyond to the sea.  The large living room had two wicker rocking chairs, a cabinet upon which sat an old t.v. with rabbit ears and a taped together controller, a dining table with two matching chairs and a sideboard and china cabinet with odd knick-knacks.  There was another large room that was bare but for a cabinet supporting a small microwave.  The bedroom was huge with a double bed and a daybed covered in old thin cotton sheets.  The kitchen was small, equipped with a gas stove, sink, refrigerator, and shelves holding the pots and pans and utensils for cooking and serving.  And, of course. . . the pink bathroom.  

Ili loved it.  

"Do you like it?" she asked.  

"Sure."  

"It's great," she said.  

"Right."

Within a few minutes, we were settled.  It was time for a walk, but first. . . well, it had been a long flight.  Ili went first.  And that's when we discovered that the toilet reservoir would not fill up again.  

"Hey," I shouted.  "Come look." 

I showed her the empty reservoir.  She glanced at me quizzically.  

"Fuck."

I grabbed a large vase and began filling it with water, then emptying it into the tank.  Eight vases later, the reservoir was filled.  It took less than five minutes (the sink in the kitchen had a garden hose outlet for a faucet with a slow flow of water).  I took a pee and flushed.  No problem.  

Five minutes later, we were ready to walk.  

(Let me pause for an interlude here.  I have pictures of all of this, but I have not had time to process them yet, and I am not sure how interested you would be in them anyway, but Ili is leaving town for a few days and I will have nothing to do but work on them, so there will be many more henceforth.  O.K.  Back to the narrative).  


(from the window of the cab coming in from the airport)

We locked the doors and descended the stairs, looking down the hallway to the other apartments where people, not tourists, dwelled.  We waved and said, "Buenos dias," with big, American smiles.  We were friendly folks, we implied, just the kind you'd like to have for neighbors.  

We were on the street.  To our left was the American Embassy.  In front of us was one of the strangest monuments I've seen (pictures to come).  We crossed the busy highway to the seawall quickly and began our stroll.  The Malecon was a grand sweep of a curving walkway.  Seven kilometers away, across the harbor from the ever-present El Morro Fort, was Habana Viejo.  It was early and we would walk.  It was a lovely walk with no possibility of getting lost.  I took out my camera.  It was time to begin 


Still shy and a little unsure, I took pictures without making contact.  A fisherman in a yellow slicker from behind.  Old cars passing by.  I saw a man sitting on the Malecon wall.  

"Con su permiso," I said, pointing to the camera.  

"Si," he said nodding his head, but he wanted his picture taken with his friend or wife, I was not sure. They were beautiful with serious faces.  I took one, two. . . three, then came to them to show the  pictures on the little screen of my camera.  Excited and pleased, they asked if I could send the photos to them.  Ili handed them a notebook and a pen.  

"Seguro," I said.  We shook hands and hugged.  

"They were wonderful," Ili said.  "Make sure you send them the photos." 

"I will," I said.  "Of course I will."  


We walked on, more confident now that we had spoken with people in Spanish.  We would get along. We would get along fine.  

A fellow sitting on the wall called to me.  He made a clicking motion with his finger like he was using a camera.  He was asking me to take a photograph.  Sure I would.  I put the camera to my eye and snapped.  Right away, another fellow jumped into the frame.  They held up their thumbs (as too many people would I came to find).  

"Where are you from," the first fellow asked in English.  

"Estados Unitas," I replied. 

"Bueno," he said.  Smiles all around.  Chit and chat, and then he told me of an art festival that was going on today.  Afro-Cuban art, he said.  He would take us.  So we followed him across the street and into the 'hood.  We had walked out of our neighborhood and into Havana Central, the working class neighborhood that was a bit more broken, a bit more beat.  We went down one street and then another, one fellow talking to me, one to Ili.  I could tell she was getting nervous, but I thought we were fine.  We cut through a restaurant and then a side street, and then we could no longer see the ocean or the Malecon.  I looked back at Ili from time to time, but mostly I was taking pictures.  

I should have paid more attention to Ili, though, whose pace had perceptively slowed.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

3 Days in Havana



I have returned.  Now the dilemma.  How do you write about three nights in Havana?  Cuba.  It is not like stepping back in time so much as stepping out of time.  It is a beautiful post-apocalyptical country of great and terrible poverty.  I want to write it, but I don't know if I can do it justice.

But let me see.  Begin at the beginning, so to speak.  Ili and I had decided to take a trip a month, some short ones, some long, but to have a destination in mind always.  Cuba.  We had talked about it, then Ili spoke with an attorney who had just returned.  He said there was no trouble going or coming back.  You get your visa at the airport.  $50.00.

Ili began looking up places to stay, casa particulars.  She found many.  Many!  Apartments were even listed on AirBnB.  She would call me over and ask, "What do you think?"  There is no way to tell, of course, knowing so well how pictures and words can lie, so I would always say, "Sure."  But Ili is a researcher and dug deep.  If we wanted to wait, we could get one of the spectacular places that were booked up.  But I didn't want to wait.  There was no point in waiting, I said.  Havana gets hot.  Really hot.  I'd been there in 1999 at the wrong time.  If you wanted to see anything, you would have to go now.  We watched YouTube videos and looked through books and decided to believe the people who said it was best to stay away from Habana Viejo, the old city, as it was full of tourists.  The place to stay, we agreed, was Vedado, an upscale community.

One day, we inhaled a big breath and pressed a button.  We booked a flight.  We booked a room.  We would be leaving in less than a week.

We weren't frantic but busy.  Work consumed our daytime hours, and we were lazy at night.  There was little packing to do, a pair of pants, a pair of shorts, underwear, socks.  One camera and some sunglasses.  A notebook.  We could get that ready in no time.  Oh, we planned to re-learn some Spanish, do a little research on Havana.  But way leads to way. . . and none of that happened.

At the airport at dawn.  Sleepy.  We filled out our visas, got some breakfast, got on the plane.  And then, about half way there, Ili asked me a question I didn't know the answer to, and a cold chill pulled at my scrotum.  What the fuck?  I didn't know how to speak Spanish for shit, wasn't sure if we would really have a place to stay, wasn't even certain we could find it if we did!  I didn't know anything.  Why was I so, so stupid?

But that's the way it was.

Jose Marti International looked different this time.  Renovated.  It was barracks-like in the nineties.  Now it looked 1980's chic.  My nerves were clicking, but we found our bags, spoke to some people, got advice, and changed money.  There were no soldiers with rifles, no soldiers at all.  Havana, it seemed, had become tourist friendly.  We got a cab.  We gave him the address.  We left the airport behind.

Rene was a nice cabbie.  He was learning English and did pretty well.  We drove through the countryside for about half an hour, Ili in the front, me in the back shooting pictures through the window.  This looked just as it did when I was here before.  It could be the outskirts of any city in Latin America, the functionary half design of the buildings, the fading bright blues and pinks, the 1950's signage.  There were fewer propaganda signs than I remembered, none of the big billboards lampooning Uncle Sam in newspaper-style cartoons.

We passed a wall that proclaimed in huge spray painted letters, "La Revolucion es Muerte.

Rene wanted to know about Trump.  He liked Trump, he said.  He was a businessman.  This would be a common theme we heard in Cuba.  Business.  In a land with the tiny beginnings of capitalism, everyone seemed to want to be in business.

"Trump is regrettably crazy," I said, feeling contrition about the statement right away.  I didn't want to talk about politics here or anywhere.

"We'll see," he said.

I'd not been thinking about Ili, a stranger in a strange land.  She was looking out the window silently at the old Soviet Ladas and the 1950's American coupes and two-toned sedans in those old, garish colors.

"What do you think?"

"Wow," she said.  "Look at that."

I had.

We were getting close to our apartment, and Rene slowed down, craning his neck to see the addresses.  He turned next to the new American Embassy, drove slowly.  We found our apartment just a block away, a tall, ramshackle place right off the Malecon with a view of the sea.  Rene helped us with our luggage to the second floor.  Ili knocked on the door and a sweaty man in a t-shirt and shorts answered.  We were here.  Rene kissed Ili and shook my hand.

"We leave Sunday morning.  Can you take us back?"

"Yes," he said and handed me his card.

"I will call you Saturday night," I said.

"No need.  Es saguro."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Back in One Week



Wow.  It is like a fantasy horror movie and we are the little people being trampled.  I try not to watch, but it is everywhere you look.  Trump is one side of it.  Then you have the Republican Party which is going to let him go ahead and do whatever he will.  And the Democrats still thinks this is about immigration and transgender bathrooms.

I'm going to be gone for about a week.  There will be no posts from here.  Let's see how bad it is when I get back.  It won't get better.  I'm going to make some memories before it all gets worse.

See you then.  Remember to wear your protective gear and look both ways before you cross.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine Raccoon



I had some trouble with my Google account and my blog was closed for nonpayment.  I couldn't figure out how to get into the site and make things right.  After two days of searching the internet and trying on my own, I found a number for Google and called.  A beautiful young woman helped me get in.  I know she was beautiful.  I just know it.

Now I am back and open for business.  I hope it was a good investment.

I got up very late this morning after taking two Aleve P.M. tablets last night.  Lower back pain was keeping me awake, so. . . I did the American thing.  Long after sunrise, I staggered out of bed and performed my usual ablutions, let the cat out, put the coffee on, sat down at the computer, opened up the news, then got up to get coffee when it was finished brewing.  I looked out the window onto the deck, and there was my teeny-tiny cat squared off with a raccoon.  They were about a foot apart.  I couldn't believe my little kit-cat was that stupid and brave.  But a raccoon out in the daylight is a sick raccoon and we have had some rabid ones in my neighborhood before, so I opened the door and gave a holler, as my relatives would say, and made a move to protect my pet.  The cat turned and walked--not ran, but walked--back into the house.  The coon was in no hurry.  I bowed up and made another step, and the coon gave me a shitty look as it took a step away.  I picked up a shoe to throw thinking, "I don't know, this may just piss him off," but the coon got the idea and made another ten step distance between us before he turned to look at me again.  By this time, though, I had found a big granite rock to boink him with and he made his way around the wooden fence. I threw it any way just to make the point.

I am leaving town for a few days and I don't like the idea of my little kit-cat being out there with a sick coon.  She didn't look too bright about it this morning.  Raccoons are tough hombres, as Trump would put it, killers in their own right.

It is Valentine's Day, of course, so I must hurry some flowers over to my mother.  Ili and I are not much into the Hallmark Card Holidays, so there is not pressure on either of us.  Maybe some champagne tonight would be nice.  Say, sure, that would be the thing.

Otherwise, the Cafe is open once again.  Welcome.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stymied



I can't access my account from Google.  I owe them money or something, but I am not able to figure it all out.  I will contact Q and see if he can.  For now. . .

Selavy.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Waste Land



You've all read about the "controversial" new Vogue cover.  It is not diverse enough say critics.  I'm not sure who the "critics" are, but I'll bet dollars to donuts they don't buy Vogue magazine.  It's kind of like criticizing Sports Illustrated for only putting athletes on the cover when you don't like sports to begin with.  Well. . . I forgot.  They put models on the cover, too.  Let me think.  What's it like?

None of the old jokes work any more, not in a world where it is Villains vs. People Who Are Kinda O.K.

I was thinking this morning that American women make up only 1% of the world's population.  That's pretty stunning.

Islamic men make up about 12%.

That is not meant to be an equivalence, but thinking about it leads to some interesting ideological clashes.

Islamic men, of course, are not an ironclad block.

Neither are American women.

But what bothers me is the lack of diversity on the cover of Vogue.

Would you want to be the kind of woman Trump would like to grab?

I'm just saying (never trust any speaker who says "just") that the old jokes don't work any more, and I'm not sure there are any to replace them.  But. . . I've not been watching SNL.  I'll need to, I think, in order to catch up.

I'm trying to be the sort who doesn't care, but Trump seems to be influencing EVERYTHING.  What a dude.

But I need to focus on what is before me.  A perfect day.  Scooter riding from cafe to cabaret.

These are uncertain times.  I think I'll go read "The Waste Land."

Friday, February 10, 2017

Cristal Under a Full Snow Moon



I don't know why I bother to photograph things any more.

My awareness of things is diminished, I think.  I didn't know that my birthday was on a full moon until I saw it rise while sitting on the deck drinking Cristal.  I had never tasted Cristal before, and certainly not under a full moon.  It was given to me by Ili who said, "This is for the man who has done everything except drink Cristal."  She didn't need to add "under a full snow moon."

Birthdays are difficult for me, mine and others.  I am not good at them.  I don't enjoy any of it.  There is simply too much pressure either to give or to receive.

There were cards at the factory and a birthday cake.  People waited obligingly to sing "Happy Birthday."  I regaled them with the fact that if I live a normal lifespan, I have only 500 weekends left. I said I was going to have to start filling up my dance card.  Upon leaving my office, C.C. said, "Have a nice weekend.  That leaves 499."

I was filled with pleasant thoughts.

My mother and cousin came over in the late afternoon and ended up staying for dinner.  When that was done, Ili slipped away to read.  When I went into the bedroom at 8:30, she was already asleep.  My birthday seemed to wear her out.  I read for a bit, then I, too, slipped under covers and the full moon.

Now that is done.  There is no looking back.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The World's Leading Authority



It seems everyone has sent me an article on Irwin Corey's death.  It is astounding to me for I believed that I was one of about ten people in the U.S. who even knew who he was.  Seems not.  Turns out, he was a hell of a lefty.  A good one.  The liberal kind.  I always got a kick out of seeing him on t.v. when I was a kid.  He was on Merv Griffen a lot.  Griffen had one of the most radically liberal shows on television, always supportive of the old black listed types.

It must have been tough being the world's leading authority.

In truth, I had no idea he was still alive.  He was more than alive, though, still working the streets outside his multi-million dollar apartment in Manhattan.  I read that.  True?  How does a guy like that get rich?

I'm still holding out hope.

This morning started off badly.  It is grey and drizzling, and as happens every so often, when I made the coffee, it ran out all over the countertop.  Grounds, too.  I have white tile counters with lots and lots of grout, so it is always an ordeal to clean it.

I made a second pot.  And as I did, I wondered if it was harder to be liked or hated.  Being liked carries so many expectations and obligations, you know?  Being hated. . . well, that just sounds easy.

But when I thought about it more, I realized that Jimmy Carter was a very good man who was very loved, but he was also hated as well.  Ibid Obama.  So there is no getting around it.  The question becomes, then, whether it is easier to do what others think is good or. . . not.  I've always been bored by the first and drawn to the second.  Ironically, though, I feel the need to be the first.  Not that I am, just that I feel the need.

Thus, the necessity for self-medication perhaps.  Cain and Abel, I guess.  Adam and Eve.  Pick two.  Who do you prefer?

I want to minimize.  I want to choose one camera and a notebook and take a year-long walk.  I want to be very, very talented.

But I won't.  My kitchen table is littered with cameras right now, old rangefinders I pulled out of a drawer for some unknown reason.  All film cameras.  An Olympus 35 ED.  A Canon Cannot G-III QL.  A Yashica Electro 35 CC.  I've cleaned them up, bought hard to find batteries, loaded them with film.

WTF?

They will sit here while I work at the factory, little fantasies, little dreams of escape.

I'm not thrilled with the day, a reminder of many things.  Such days are burdens.  But people are nice.  They send me pretty things.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Not Resigned



I should skip writing a blog entry today.  I am argumentative but unprepared.  You can feel that, sometimes, the anger or rage or simple irritation coursing through your veins.  It is like a fire.  My molars clench in an unconscious,  primitive rhythm.  My eyelids contract without closing.  Perhaps it is a chthonic reaction to the anxiety.  I don't know.  I just have to control it.

I developed three rolls of black and white film last night.  The medium format film was blank.  I had found it in some dark corner and didn't know what it was.  Now I remember it was a roll of film I ran inside out through the Hasselblad.  I ruined one roll of 35mm film by not getting it on the reel correctly so that the film touched in a couple places.  The third, shot through the Hasselblad Xpan, was fine, but scanning those is a bitch.  Half an hour twirling tanks, and that is what I came up with.

I will cut and scan them tonight.  Maybe there will be ONE image I like or can kid myself that I like.

Here are old people having fun.  Isn't that what is supposed to happen?  Beers on the patio, some early dinner, a game of canasta?  They do not look resigned, do they?  They look as if they are truly enjoying themselves and one another.

How do people do it?



Monday, February 6, 2017

Unnamable and Unassuaged



My anxiety remains unnamable and unassuaged.  Perhaps it is a permanent condition.  Everything seems about to fall apart, the old, stable world come undone.  My world.  I try be stoic, but I am out of practice.  Things seemed to be going so well for so long.

My secretary just texted to inform me of an 8:00 meeting that I forgot about and will not make.  Just what I needed to assuage my discomfort.

Perhaps it is not the world.  Perhaps it is I.  I've enjoyed myself too much, and as Hemingway said, the bill always comes.

"How'd you go broke?"

"Two ways.  First slowly, then quickly."

It is just a matter of getting your money's worth.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Joker Is Wild


(Anna Ostanina)

I am in love with this process as practiced by Anna Ostanina.  It is a gumoil procedure that is very labor intensive and time consuming.  That is what it takes, you see.

I, rather. . . .


This is mine.  I did it with the iPhone.  It is pretty quick and easy.  Oh, there is some selective decisions in the making of this.  I mean. . . it didn't come straight out of the phone.  There is art everywhere you look.

Still, if I had more time. . . .

Do you ever have those nights full of dreadful and gloomy premonitions that wake you in a panic and won't stop no matter what?  Sure you do.  That is what I had last night.  I thought I might for unknown reasons.   I should have taken a nerve pill, but rather, I toughed it out.

I think it was two things in combination.  I got a flu shot yesterday as the height of the flu season is coming here as the snow birds come piling in (the state needs a travel ban), and as the day wore on, I was beginning to feel its effects.

So I didn't want to go out last night.  Not that I ever do, but I really didn't last night, so we made more pho and sat on the couch and dialed up a movie.  For reasons unknown, we decided to watch "Suicide Squad."  I know, I know.  But sometimes you have to put your finger on the butthole of a generation just to keep abreast.  I would be better off, however, not knowing.  The movie disturbed me because I know there is population of kids who want to emulate Harley Quinn and The Joker.  No doubt about it.  In a world of alt.facts, there is no crime, only power.  There is only losing and winning.  In a post-liberal world, the vacuum has invited post-moral sensitivities.  In the New Order, morality is only a power construct devised to control the poor.

At least, that is what I think is happening.  Trump is The Joker in the White House.  There is no illusion of reason or stability.  The Joker thrives on chaos.

The flu shot made me vulnerable, I guess, and so I spent a night in Arkham.  I will try to shake it off today and find my way back.

I used to be so happy.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Night of Drinking and Planning



My meeting at the factory yesterday went long and wore me out.  I had nothing left when I got into my car for the drive home.  The sun was out and the light was beautiful.  I couldn't even think about going to the gym.  I needed to start the weekend, so I drove straight to the house where Ili had a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and crackers ready on the deck.  Soothing.  We drank and chatted and watched the neighbors walking their dogs go by.  Half a bottle in, it was time for the Vespa.

"Where do you want to go?  Hipster or Gastro?"

"I don't know.  Which do you want?"

"I don't care.  Whatever you want.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both.  Each, I mean."

"What are they?"

"Well, one has those great and powerful beers.  The other has a big window view from the bar."

"What are the disadvantages?"

"One doesn't have the great and powerful beers and the other doesn't have a view."

Ili got out her phone.  "Let's flip a coin.  Which one is tails?"

"The Gastropub."

She hit an app or something and a coin began to spin.  It came up tails.

"I always want the opposite of what the coin says."

"Then why did we flip?  Let's just go to the little hipster place."

"No.  We flipped."

"So you just want to be unhappy."

"No.  I want to go the the gastropub"

So we climbed onto the little Vespa and things were immediately better.  And when we got to the pub, we were fortunate that there were two seats at the end of the bar.

"I told you we would get seats."

"No you didn't.  You didn't say that."

"Yes I did.  You don't listen to anything I say."

When we sat down, the bartender said hello and slid us a golden drink in a coupe glass.

"Here," she said.  "I had an extra."

"What is this?"

"It's called a Gold Rush."

It was delicious and probably the only way to serve Old Grandad.  But it was strong and went right to my exhausted head.  We ordered two IPAs that came in 20 oz. glasses.  After not drinking much for awhile, they looked bottomless.

Ili, ever the social charmer, said to the bartender, "It looks like you've had more work done on your tattoo."  I looked.  I would never have noticed such a thing.  I sat back and relaxed as they talked tattoo talk.  I sipped the good beer and looked at the crowd.

"I just got you in under the happy hour prices," the bartender reported.  The Gold Rush and two giant beers cost us six bucks in a very expensive Gastropub.

"I told you we should come here," Ili said.

"No you didn't!"

And then something good happened.  We planned our next vacation.  It is a surprise.  It will take some doing, but it has us excited and looking forward to something which is what I needed very much.  We must act today if it is to happen.  But this morning, Ili is insistent that we take care of the details.  And I'm sure we will.

After the pub, we came home and watched YouTube videos in preparation.  We sipped a little whiskey and ate some sushi, then mussels in a spicy lemon sauce with a good bread to soak it up.  And later. . . we woke up with dry mouths and headaches in need of big glasses of water.

"Let's quit drinking," I said.

"Yes."

We slept in, but the day is pretty and not to be missed.  There is much to do, and so. . . I will put on my little halter top and my rollerblades and hit the streets for some weekend fun.

Until then. . . .

Friday, February 3, 2017

Eating the Old



Bars are, for the most part (and the kind that Q always drags me into), are like Holiday Inns.  What I mean is that you can count on them being pretty much the same from city to city, town to town.  Here is a small town craft beer place, but it could be in NYC.  The people are recognizable, the bartender, the stools and decor. . . and there is beer.

I don't know what my point is.  I just thought that when I looked at this picture.

I am out of touch with things.  Ili sends me Instagram stuff, and I don't know what it is about.  I have to look up people or admit stupidity and ask her who they are.  Jay Z?  I'm not kidding.  I think I used the phrase "rap star."  Hipster kids who want to diss me make fun of what I say at work.  They want to take away what little voice I have left, I guess.  Yesterday it was suggested that they roast me.  WTF?  That is the way of it, though.  The young have to kill the old to reduce the competition.

I've been wondering lately what happens to the women who date Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt?  Maybe Leo, too.

No wonder we have so many bars.

I have a stressful meeting at The Factory today.  There is every opportunity for failure.  Once it is over, though, my weekend begins.  The weather will be fine for Vespa-ing.  That is what I plan on doing.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Deep and Dark and Unfulfilled



Everybody's making pictures.  Why can't I?

That is all I think about in my down time (of which there has not been much lately).  I resent The Factory for stealing my days, of course, as the most beautiful light illuminates the world as I sit under fluorescent lights behind my institutional desk.  I chafe and I worry.  My life is petering out, a whimper, not a bang.

Last night, I came home in a terrible mood.  I sat on the couch and watched YouTube videos about cameras.  I just geeked out.  Ili made dinner and gave me wine, and still I was hideous.  I hit the cat on the top of the head with the t.v. remote because she wouldn't stop staring at me.

I went to bed and dreamed photography.

What sort of sickness is this?  It is the sickness of desire for something you cannot have.  Life is like that, right?  You must give up one thing you want for another.  You either do that or you become an artist.  Those are the choices.

Life is terribly inconvenient.

This morning, the air is diamond-like, the world screaming with sunlight.

I will go to the gym.  I will work at The Factory.

I will remain haunted by my deep and dark desires.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Whittling



The photographer Mark Tucker reported today that "the estimated security cost for Melania Trump living 200 miles away from Donald Trump is double the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts."

I can't escape it.  It won't leave me alone.  Nothing will, it seems.  I must concentrate on something like stamp collecting or rebuilding old cars.  Become obsessed with it to the extent that there is nothing else.

Or maybe I'll take up whittling.

Everybody needs something (link).

I acted heroically last night.  I didn't bid on a Leica Monochrom camera that was well-priced.  Disciplined.  Like an Olympic athlete.

Still. . . I can't help wondering what The Donald will do today.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Moon Drop Dance



I should have crouched down in front of him and shot him face-to-face.  He looked perfectly glum and dispirited.  His mother was sitting in a chair opposite him, though, and the moment didn't look to be disrupted.  It was a terribly tough call, but sometimes you have to let the moment be.  Too bad.

Oh. . . did you hear about Trump?

Last night, Ili and I made the worst dinner in the world.  We didn't want to leave the house to go to the grocery store, so we used what was at hand.  Sometimes being lazy has its own rewards.  Ours was a bad meal.  But we had wine and cheese and olives and crackers, so the pre-meal made the bad meal more tolerable.  We've made pho six out of the last eight nights, chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, all wonderful.  We are one bowl diners now.  If it can't be eaten out of one bowl, forget about it.  We bought our big bowls at the Oriental grocery store, then went to Williams and Sonoma and bought even nicer ones--for the same price!  Who would have thought.  We also got those Asian spoons that are great for pho.  Does "pho" just mean "soup"?  It must.  If it does, I'm going to quit calling it pho.

Let me know.

We turned on "The Young Pope."  We are on the third episode.  Who is this made for?  It is the oddest show on American T. V.  Made by an Italian writer/director about the Catholic Church in a Fellini  style, it is quirky to say the least.  But I am growing an attachment and a curiosity about where it is going, so I will see it through.  I may actually become a fan, but for now, I am reserving judgement.

After t.v. and wine, it was bedtime--9:15 or so.  I am no night owl.  Never have been.  That surprised a woman to whom I told this on the way to the car after work yesterday.  She said she couldn't see me that way.

"Nope," I said, "this version runs on sunlight."

Even after nodding off on the couch, though, there is still the taking of essential supplements and the brushing of teeth and the washing of body parts, so Ili offered me some Moon Drops (link).

"You want some?"

"Sure."

We should have drifted pleasantly off into la-la land, but while she was in the bathroom, I put on a song.  Oh that Van Morrison, so good so early so long ago.  We listened to two versions and stayed up for awhile.

It is good to be young.

(I tried to find the second version that is jazzier, but I can't, so. . . .)


Monday, January 30, 2017

Twisted Lens



Nixon looks like a liberal now, right?  I mean, he started the EPA, activated price controls, ended the war in Vietnam, etc.

But remember, he knew how to deal with protestors, too.  After Kent State, we got disco.

I saw a picture of a protestor holding a sign that read, "We're All Muslim Now."  Or did it say "Moslem"?  I don't remember.  I am having trouble guessing what protestors want for sure.  I have a feeling that they are as dumb as Donald Trump about immigration.  But it is easier to protest than to run for president.

Remember what happened after the protests of the' 60s?  I know, it's difficult.  Drugs and alcohol, etc.  But what happened after was a tremendous swing to the political right.  It was John Connally (link), I think, who said, "America is going to swing so far to the right you will not recognize it any longer."  I put quotation marks, but I am sure that is not exactly what he said.  The point is, he was very corrupt and very correct.

When small town America sees Tranny Boy Scout Leaders in uniform, badges galore, marching for Islam. . . they turn ever further toward the Liar in Chief.

Things just aren't working out the way I would wish.

So I figure it is important to spend all my money.  I want a Leica Monochrom camera.  Why not?  And a Range Rover.  Hell yes.

The boys in the picture at the top of the post were trying to take a selfie on South Beach.  Isn't that the world today?  But I mean, really, three old white dudes?  As we walked by, they asked me if I would take a picture for them.  After I took a few with their iPhone, I said, "Wait a minute.  I want to take one with my camera, too."  The three of them were there on vacation from Toronto.  The guy on the right is an architect.  He had a very fine Fuji camera with him.  Enviable.  See?  That's what people do.  They spend their money on vacations and cameras.  We are told that experiences bring more happiness than things, but why are we limited?  They never say how much happiness both experiences and things will bring.  I'm betting it is exponentially better.  Why should we live like banned immigrants and choose between the two?  We're Americans, goddamnit.  It's time to act like it.

I'm beginning to understand the Life of Hunter S. Thompson better.  It is very difficult to look out upon the world without a twisted lens.