Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Beyond Fascination

I sit outside in the fading light after a day at the factory with the feral cat, a male cardinal, a glass of scotch and a bad belly.  The feral cat stays around after eating much longer than usual.  She preens herself on the deck or in the mulch, ignoring my overtures of friendship but enjoying, I think, the safety I seem more and more to her to provide.  I don't want a pet, but everything desires safety if not love.  In youth, I distrusted safety, of course.  It was a bourgeois concept.  There is no safety, I would say, only the illusion and entrapment, remembering the old fable of the wolf and the dog.  But I am safety for the feral cat and she looks all the better for it.

The whiskey is merely to counter the bad belly.  It is not a terrible belly, but it is a bad belly that is actively uncertain.  The whiskey settles it for which I am grateful.  There is a utility in liquor for sure.  I don't usually have my first whiskey this early, but tonight I do out of necessity.  As it settles the stomach, it dulls the senses.  The sun is sinking.  It is dark.

I took all of these color slide images in one afternoon walking around a part of town fairly alien to me.  I must have been on fire.  I remember getting them back from the lab thinking that they were really something.  I was becoming a star at the university then, but I was soon to leave and return to a normal, working existence.  I would strive and struggle, and for a long time, photography was left behind.  These were in many ways the end of the beginning of what might have been a photographic dream.  But that story is familiar beyond fascination. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

100 Steps

Last night was the Full Beaver Moon.  I didn't sleep at all.  It could have been the bad belly from eating so poorly, but my mind was full of devils and goblins.  I tried the old self-hypnosis thing of walking down a darkened stairway of 100 steps, counting as you go.  I never made it past 88 before I was out, but I would wake up in a panic moments later.  There was something down there, I guess.

I just ordered "The Complete Illustrated Book of the Psychic Sciences" for Ili.  That should be fun.

The sky was clear and the moon was big here last night.  If it had been yellow, I'd say the leaves came tumbling down (link).  But it wasn't.  It was a bright white that was hard to look at.  It was powerful.

Christmas is everywhere now.  I'll give in.  My mother bought my Christmas present yesterday, four new tires.  When the fellow asked me if I wanted the white side in or out, I became confused.  I said "out."  Now I am the only person on the road with white letters.  I was going to have them turned around, but I think I'll own it.  Living the dream.  One in a million.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sunny South

Back in the sunny south.  Boy, is the weather nice.  I'm not going anywhere for the next few months.  It is just too pretty here now.  It is stupid to leave vacationland for somewhere else unless you are going snow skiing.  I'm not, I don't think.  I'm still too afraid to fall.  So it will be beaches and palm trees for me.  You will be here sometime this winter for a few days, I know.  You will need to escape the dark.

My tire went flat before we went to Detroit.  AAA came out to tow it, but when the fellow put air in it, it held, so I drove it up to the Firestone station to get it plugged, but they said the tire was too old. What?!  Last night at dinner (my mother cooked a good roast), my mother said that she had a nail in her tire and had to get it fixed.  We talked about my tire.  She had bought them one Christmas as a present.  How long ago was that?  Oh, Jesus, she said, you haven't gotten any tires since then?  She didn't really say Jesus, but it has been seven years.  She is buying me new tires as a Christmas present this year.  They are big and expensive, and I know that my car will quit running as soon as we put them on, but I am not ready to buy a new car, so I will get them today.

Good old mom.

Don't worry.  I'm a good son.  I am buying her a new iphone for her birthday and a new Apple laptop for Christmas.

I guess I'll need to get something nice for Ili, too.

I'm spending all my money before I retire.  It is best to start retirement broke.  Which reminds me, I took the senior discount at the museum in Detroit, and yesterday AARP sent me my membership present, a tote bag in one of those old people prints.  Of course, Ili loves it.

The photo is another from 1978.  Mm-mm, boiled peanuts.  Nothing quite says beer like those.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

I Changed My Mind

Saturday morning in Detroit was cold and gray and not very inviting, but it was our last day there, and I didn't want to hang around the hotel while Ili went to the conference, so I packed up my cameras, called an Uber, and headed out for the Eastern Market.

It was fabulous.

More so, however, was the neighborhood in which it was located.  The market itself was the biggest collection of fresh vegetables anywhere in the world, I imagine.  I've never seen anything like it, anyway.  There were baked goods and cheeses and meats as well. All in all, it was fascinating.

Surrounding the market were buildings filled with Halal butchers and other ethnic markets.  The buildings themselves were painted top to bottom with "street art."  I'll have pictures later.  So I walked through the deserted lots and desolate areas frozen and happy.  The clouds muted colors and drove the cold deep into this lazy southerner's bones, but finally I had found something of the Detroit I'd been looking for.  Three hours by myself in those empty places charged my batteries.

I should say that the evening before, Ili and I went searching for a restaurant downtown.  We ended up at the San Morello, the restaurant in the new Shinola Hotel, a fancy place, as my mother would say, a warm glass, brass, and wood restaurant with a fabulous bar.  It was crowded with Detroit's working elite and we had to wait, but the drinks were good and the food was lovely.

So I've changed my mind about Detroit.  It is a city on the rise.  Everyone said so.  I kept commenting on the lack of people there, but I was told over and over again that it is changing.  Everyone said, "You wouldn't have wanted to be here five years ago."  Or ten.  Or twenty.  But they have cleaned it up, and it is a beautiful stage waiting for an audience.  I will go again, but I will wait for the warmer months.

I felt I got some of my photo mojo back in the end.  Here is the last photograph I took just before entering the hotel to check out of the room.  I saw a girl in red boots and did a pantomime asking permission to take her photo.  It is nothing to brag about, but I was happy with the process.  All it takes is practice.

We'll see.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

A Chance Meeting

Some sort of depression, I guess.  Probably.  I can't seem to make the pictures I want to make any more.  People look as if they want to kill me when I take my camera out of the bag.  Maybe that's it, or maybe it is something else.  Whatever it is, I couldn't really get going.  I decided to eat some lunch in the hotel bar, a huge turkey club, and then I came back to the room and sat down.  I sat for a very long time.  I knew that this was wrong, terribly wrong, so I pulled together my photo kit and hit the streets.  I used my iPhone to map a route to the Renaissance Center.  It is one of the attractions of Detroit, they say.  I took my Leica M7 with a 35mm lens and my Leica M10 with a 21mm.  The streets looked much the same as they did before, but it was colder and windy in spots.  I tried to follow the Apple map, but no matter which way I turned, I was moving away from the trail.  It said it would be a 25 minute walk.  I'd been walking in circles for that long.

Desolate, I took a few photos of nothing just to be doing something, buildings mostly, but as I was crossing a street, I saw a woman in the crosswalk with the light hi-lighting her, so I clicked one from the waist.  I think she was ready to yell at me, but I did my Mr. Magoo thing and she passed on by.  I tried to wind the shutter, but it wouldn't go.  I had come to the end of the roll.  That is when I realized I'd forgotten to put any film in the bag.  Of course.  What to do?  I decided I would just switch lenses and use the M10, but when I checked it, the battery was just about dead.  Sure.  There was nothing to do but head back to the room.

While I was there, Ili came up from her conference for a minute.  She told me about her presentation which went well, and soon she had to go back to moderate another session.  I sat in a chair.  I sat for a very long time.  The afternoon was passing by.  Despondent, I got up and put some film in my bag and switched the M10 for the Xpan.  This time, I decided to get an Uber.  The streets were empty.  It took only a few minutes to get there.

The Renaissance is a big complex of buildings owned by General Motors.  It is significant architecturally, I've read.  I walked into the big glass entrance and into a GM exhibit of cars.  I remembered, correctly or not, that this was the place they were building in Michael Moore's "Roger and Me."  Anita Bryant and Pat Boone were promoting it.  Yes, I'm sure it was the place.  It felt like it, anyway.  I walked around the steel and glass modernist structure, through the building and out the back that bordered the river.  I could see Canada from there, as they say.  I walked out into the windy cold air coming off the river.  No one was around.  I took a few pictures and went back inside.  I took a glass passageway across the street and into the Marriott Detroit, then down to the street.  I walked a few blocks and crossed back to the river park and took a few more meaningless pictures.  Again, there was nobody around.  I decided to map my way back to the hotel.  And this time, by God, it was straight down the street I was standing on--11 minutes.  Well, that's how it has been going.

I walked toward the hotel again snapping pictures of nothing.  I saw a blonde woman in a black coat turn to look at me.  I wasn't even taking pictures at that point, just holding my camera.  But she turned and. began walking toward me.

"Hey," she said, "are you homeless."

"What?!  No.  Look at my camera."

I should have said, "Look at my coat," too.  But, I thought, I don't look all that sharp.

"Oh," she said, holding up a bag of hamburgers.  "I'm feeding the homeless."

I smiled and said, "Well, you are a Good Samaritan."

"No I'm not," she said.  "But people have it bad."

"Yes, they do," I agreed.

I was in for it now, but what else did I have to do?

"Where are you from?"

I told her.

"Are you from Detroit?"


"How long have you lived here?"

"Well. . . I don't want to give away my age, but. . . I'm forty-something.  I was born in Arizona on an Indian reservation, but I was adopted--illegally, by the way--and brought to Michigan."

"So you've been here through all the ups and downs."

She started telling me about how bad it had been.  All the white people left.  All that was left were drug addicts and bums.  Then the conversation kind of turned.

"You know, they can call us whiteys and racists and crackers, and that's supposed to be o.k., but we can't say nothing.  Well, sometimes you've got to be tough with people.  They've started cleaning up the streets and white people are starting to move back in.  The mayor, he's kind of a gangster, you know, but he's really cleaning things up.  They say Trump is a racist, but why?  Because he's got opinions?  I liked Trump way back, you know.  He's not afraid of anything.  Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for you country.  In the good days, that's what people did.  You just have to suck it up sometimes."

I was having trouble following along, but I smiled a stupid grin as she got more and more animated, swinging her pointed finger around in the air.

"He'll probably get re-elected," I said.

"I hope so," she said, and then she went on a tirade about elite liberals that is what many of the opinion pieces in the NY Times have been saying about the "woke."  I know that they are right.  The "Woke" generation will get Trump elected once again.

An old African American man missing his front teeth, top and bottom, came up with a cup and asked if we could help him out.

"Are you hungry?" she said holding out the hamburger bag to him.

"No, mam, I need some money.  You will surely be blessed.  I will say a prayer for you, and my prayers have power.  I will pray for you."

"You know you need to get off that shit," she said to him, not meaning religion.  "It is going to kill you."

"Yes, mam, I know I do.  I know you are right, and the Lord is going to help me."

She was pulling out her wallet and digging out some bills.  I shamelessly put my camera to my eye and took a photo.

"Thank you, mam.  I will surely pray for you."

"I shouldn't do that, but people need help."

"They sure do.  These are tough times."

"It is hard to get a job in Michigan if you've been convicted of a felon.  I've been charged six times.  But I'm educated, and I know Darwin and how we came up from the dirt, and he left room in there for God, so I think people have a chance.  They can change."

She said that she had had a hard life.  She was adopted, she told me again, "Illegally," and she had been sexually abused until she ran away at 13.  Life on the street was hard, but she was determined, and she went to college.  She got married to a "big-time drug dealer" who got killed.  She had two children, both of whom had been to college.  She brought them up in the suburbs.  She wasn't going to have them around drug addicts, she said.

Then she told me that she had been in prison for two years.  Battery, she said.

"Wow, that's tough."

She shrugged.  "I don't back down," she said.

I tried to imagine her prison experience.

We were walking now.  I needed to get back to the hotel.

"Hey," she said.  "You want to go get a drink?"  She bumped my shoulder with her own.

"Can't," I said.  "I've got to get back to the hotel."

She kept walking with me until we got there.

"So you're staying at the Weston, eh?  Nice. I used to have money," she said, showing me her expensive watch.

"Yea, well, I'm just a guest on this one.  But it's nice."

"O.K." she said as I stepped too the front steps.

"Yea," I said and waved.


Friday, November 8, 2019

A Little Whine

Just an update.  I am sitting in the hotel room drinking a mimosa after working out in the hotel gym and taking a shower.  Ili is at the conference making her presentation.  I should get dressed and go out into the streets, but what I need to do is rent a car.  That is what I've been told.  But I know I will not. I can't say why, just that I won't.

Several more disasters.  Did I tell you I lost the other glove?  I don't think I mentioned that my camera bag hit the sidewalk from a short distance and broke the center filter on my Hasselblad Xpan 45mm lens.  It corrects for vignetting.  Of course they don't make them any more and to buy another will cost around $400.  I also can't find two extra batteries that I was sure I brought, one for the Leica M10 and one for the Fuji.  If I've lost those, it will be several hundred more dollars.  I am a real disaster right now.

O.K.  I really need to get out of this room.  Sometimes I become catatonic.  I shouldn't worry about it so much.  This is a nice hotel.  I should be able to sit and drink if I want.  But guilt (not the devil) drives.  I must attempt to make some photos.

Oh. . . did I mention that my Leica M7 doesn't seem to be metering properly?  It is possible that none of those photos will turn out.



We woke this morning to a real snow, flakes obscuring our view of the city beyond our window.  It did not inspire us to get out.  For sunny southerners, though, it was special.  We drank our coffee and texted pictures to family and friends as if we were seeing something no one had ever seen before, delivered in breathless disbelief.

It's just the way we are.

About an hour later, the skies cleared and the sun came out.  We showered and went downstairs to have our breakfasts.  And then it was time to go to work, Ili to her conference, me to the streets.  I decided to take my film Leica.  I'd forgotten how much fun it is.  You shoot and hope.  There is no looking.  The camera is light and better in the hands, and the shutter is quieter than a whisper.  I won't know if I got anything I like for some time, but I sure felt cool.

I took the Qline to the Detroit Institute of Art.  What a place.  It isn't the Met, of course, but it is truly wonderful.  I spent most of the day there walking from gallery to gallery taking phone pics of pieces I would send to my friends.  There was great Eastern, Middle Eastern, African, and Asian art on the first floor, and I spent a good deal of time wandering those galleries.  I've come to like the ancient arts more than modern.  And the art of the Renaissance forward fascinates me.

The main show on the second floor was Impressionism and Modernism.  It is all I have looked at since youth, and it is still am enamored, but familiarity, etc.

And I am surprised by something once in awhile.

After some hours, I had to take a break.  Art wears me out emotionally and museums wear me out physically.  I went to the coffee shop and ordered a cappuccino but I said espresso, and that is what I got.  I sat down and thought for a bit.  The sun was shining outside, a high, brilliant light, and I considered my choices.  I could look at more art or go and try to make some of my own.  I had already seen all the galleries but a few, and I didn't care much about them, so after a rest, I got my things and headed outside.

I decided to walk off the main street and look for something of interest, but the blocks were long and everything seemed very far away.  It was cold, of course, and the wind was blowing, but I walked quite a bit through abandoned lots and old buildings that were empty and/or for rent.

Once in a while I would see someone, but not very often.  Detroit is just weird.  There are no people on the street.  It is like a sci-fi movie.  All I have after two photo days are pictures of empty lots and buildings.  Walking around by myself with a camera, though, has been therapeutic.  Maybe I will be able to see again.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Mexican Town

Fucking Detroit City.  This place is unbelievable.  There are buildings and streets and a couple people.  It is a ghost town or a set ready for a play.  I don't know, but it is the damndest place I've ever seen.

I don't know what to do here, of course, so I consult the online guidebooks.  Oh, they say, Mexican Town is a must.  All of them do.  So I'm jacked.

"What do you want to do today?" I asked Ili when we were having coffee at the Detroit Club.

"Let's go to Canada!"

"Say, that's a swell idea.  How do we get there?"

It is easy.  You either go through a tunnel or across a bridge.

"Let's rent a car and drive ourselves," I say.  "There are sure to be a bunch of rental car places in Detroit."

Sure there are.  They are all at least half an hour away.  Most of them are at the airport.  Or airports,  I should say.  They are at the Windsor airport, too.  Come to find out, though, that there are lots of conditions for taking a car across the border.

"I've got a better idea," I say.  "Let's go to Mexican Town!"

So we pack up our bags and check out of the Detroit Club and roll our stuff a couple blocks to the Weston.  As Ili checks us in, I ask the Concierge about getting to Canada.

"You can take the bus.  It's two seventy five."

"You're saying two dollars and seventy five cents, right?"

"Ha-ha, yes, not two hundred and seventy five dollars."

"What is there to do in Windsor?"

"Seriously?  Well, in my opinion. . . I wouldn't go.  There is nothing to do over there."

Another fellow was behind the counter with him.  "You can go to the casino, but you can go to the one here.  I wouldn't bother."

There are three casinos in Detroit.  I'm not a gambler, but I might go to one just to go.  It seems, however, that the main reason to go to Windsor is to sit on a bench on the river and get a good view of Detroit.

Windsor was out.

Ili called an Uber and we stepped out into the cold.

"Hi there.  What do you know about Mexican Town?"

The Uber driver looked at us.  "Why do you want to go there?"

"That's what all the guidebooks say to do in Detroit."

"It's full of Mexican restaurants.  Don't you have any of those where you're from?"

She was a fun lady.  She dropped us off on "the strip."  It was about three blocks long.  There were at least ten Mexican restaurants.  They were working on the street, bricking it and doing the whole shebang.  Funny thing to me was that there wasn't a single Mexican on the crew.  Back home, they are the best brick layers and masons you can find.

We found a restaurant and had our fill for about ten dollars.  Then we drank a bunch of sangria and had two deserts and quadrupled our bill.  Fun.

Our waitress was the only non-Mexican in the restaurant.  She scared the shit out of me.  She was the size of a nine year old, cute, but sort of mechanical.  Both arms were tatted up as far as I could see.

"I'll bet you anything she has a brother in prison."

Ili made the big "shut-up" eyes at me.

"Hey," I said, "Is there a liquor store here."

She knew right where to send us.  Last night at the Detroit Club bar I spent over a hundred dollars on drinks.  I didn't plan on not having a bottle of scotch in the room tonight.

When we went out, it was snowing.

"It's our first snow," Ili said.  It surely was.

We walked up the three blocks of Mexican restaurants and through an old neighborhood with beautiful wooden houses in terrible disrepair.  Then we came to the street the liquor store was on.  It didn't look good.

"Is this o.k.?" Ili asked me.

"Sure it is," I said as I slipped my camera into its bag.

We passed the usual fellows who hang around the outside of liquor stores in the bad part of town and went in.  It was like a mini mart with a long, bullet proof glass window.  That's where the kept all the liquor and money and employees.  We were on the other side of the glass with some fellows drinking beers out of paper bags.  Ili smiled and said hello.

"Whoooweee," one of the fellows said.  She might have been the only blonde to come into the store in a long time.  Suddenly, the Middle-Eastern fellow behind the bullet proof glass was yelling at the fellow blocking my view of the scotch.

"Get our of here!  You can't drink that in here!"

The fellow was a burly black guy, and he didn't like being yelled at, and I think he was blaming me.

"What the fuck!  You as bad as them white folk in town."

And then it started.  A big fellow, maybe the owner's son, stepped around and began talking to the black guy.  Everybody else was bunching up kind of nervous like.  Not being from here, I didn't really know how to read the room, and I couldn't tell how bad it was going to get.  But the big fellow got the black guy to go outside, and I was able to put some wine and other as sundries onto a bullet proof Lazy Susan that took the stuff onto the other side.

I said to Ili in a low voice, "We need to get out of here."

She'd already called an Uber.  We stepped out and the fellows who were inside were now outside.  We stood on the corner waiting for our ride.  When we got in, they let Ili know that they appreciated her.  They were real fans.

Our Senegalese driver got us back downtown and to our new hotel.  The streets were dotted with the occasional human.  The sky was gray, and the air was cold.  We decided to have a scotch.

"Don't you think its kind of racist to call something 'Mexican Town?'"

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Detroit Club

I'm in Detroit.  It is 28 fucking degrees outside.  But we are staying at the Detroit Club, the oldest of private clubs in the city.  This particular building was built in 1892.  It was renovated a few years ago, but it is still a private club.  Everyone at dinner and the bar last night were members, not scumbag hillbilly interlopers like us.  We stayed at the bar and drank until bedtime.  Not the bar, exactly, but the Library, as it is called.  We sat very comfortably on a couch by the fire.

We walked downtown and midtown yesterday.  I would say Detroit is a not for long visits.  But it in no way seems dangerous.  People have been very friendly.  It is the midwest.  We keep asking people for crack.  They say no, it is meth here.

The first thing I did was lose one of my new expensive gloves.  Now I have one.  I have to keep the other hand in my pocket.  I'm a loser.  Ili bought them for me.  I guess I'm an ingrate as well.

I took this photo in the airport.  Something went wrong, but it made the picture so much better.

I've not been able to take any more pictures.  Ili does not like me using my camera.  I didn't take pictures of people and get yelled at as I have done in the past, but she still asked me to put my camera away.  I'll have a few minutes here and there in the snow, probably, by myself.  Maybe I can get some photos then.

With my gloved hand.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Color Foray

Going through my mess of old photos, I found a treasure--two rolls of color slide film that I shot for a photo class in 1978.  I didn't think I had them any longer, and when I opened the box, they stunned me.  They are unlike any of my other photos from that time.  It was an experiment, really.  They seem to fall somewhere between William Eggleston, who hadn't been noticed until his MoMA show in 1976, Stephen Shore, who was about to get a Guggenheim, and Fred Herzog, who nobody would hear of for decades.  Throwing the slides onto the light table, I was thrilled and despondent at the same time.  Why hadn't I done more of this?  Why?

In 1978, I had returned to the university to do graduate work in anthropology (that's another long story).  I had been gone for three years except for occasional weekend trips to see my girlfriend.  Life was changing.  Hippie times were rapidly fading and the world looked shabby.  In 1975, I traveled around the country and had shot some of the best photos I would ever take.  After that trip, though, I had moved back to the town where I'd grown up, had gotten a job, and had begun to read obsessively.  But I still tried to photograph.  It was difficult.  The university town had been easy.  Traveling with a camera had been a breeze.  But now I was living in a town where discos and malls were the main entertainment.  I photographed my childhood friend's family, and got some good things there, and I captured some nice images of the numerous topless bars that dotted the county roads.  I took a course at the university near me to learn photo serigraphy because I truly liked making images that weren't straight photographs.
When I went back to school in '78, I immediately signed up for another photo course though it was a strain on my time.  The prof was a recent graduate student who had been dubbed a star by my old most famous professors.  He was a thin, energetic hippie-type with long hair tied in the back, so I liked him right off.  The photography he liked, though, was nothing like the photos I'd been taught, nothing like Weston, Steiglitz, Steichen, Lange, Evans, Cartier-Bresson, White, et. al. that we had learned about before.  This fellow was about the new.  He taught us about Gilbert and George, a European artistic team that turned the old school on its head.  I don't remember who else we looked at, but I remember the strangeness of it.  Something must have sunk in, though.  The two rolls of color slides were shot, and then we all showed them in class on a slide projector.  No prints.  Just projections.  It seemed heretical.

I remember his reaction to my photos.  He was excited, and I was very pleased.

And that was the last I shot with color slide film, and after I left the university once again (that's another long story), my cameras were pretty much put away and forgotten for very long time.

How I weep now for not having done more.  But you will see what I did do here for awhile, and you can make your own decisions.

The slides are disintegrating now.  I had trouble scanning them.  The colors are all off.  I may go back and try to scan them with another software to see if I can't do better.  They all have a greenish-blue tint that fairly overwhelms them.  I've corrected for that somewhat, but I need to learn some things before I try to scan them again.

Detroit City looms.  Yesterday, Ili bought me a nice down sweater/jacket for the trip.  It will make the world of difference in what I have to pack.  I may have to buy a pair of walking boots, but I haven't made up my mind yet.  But I'd better.  We leave in twenty-four hours.

And today is a factory day, so I must go prepare.  I hope you like the slides.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Time Change and Paranoia

I had a roll of film in my little Olympus XA4, a 28mm lens version of the Olympus XA.  I try to carry those cameras with me as they are the size of a pack of cigarettes but shoot 35mm film and have good lenses.  But I end up forgetting about them and don't shoot through a roll of film fast enough, then one day I pick them up again and have no idea what I have shot with them nor what kind of film they have in them.  Usually they are around shot number twenty-something of the 36 allowed, and so I try to finish it up so I can take it to the lab and see what great things I've done.  And when I get them back, it is just more pictures of my deck or yard or street or houses in the neighborhood, and I wish I hadn't spent the money.

This is a photo from the latest roll.  I didn't know I had slow 100 ISO film in the camera, hence the blur.  It didn't work out for most of the roll, of course, but this one kind of caught my eye.  The colors, I think.  It is just a smudge of color.

I am up at five o'clock this morning.  Fucking time change again.  I thought Trump was going to please the people and end this madness that NOBODY wants.  This is what brings on the flu season, I am pretty certain.  Everybody's body clocks get thrown off and their immune systems break down.

To wit, I am going to Detroit City in a couple days.  Ili has a conference and I am going to tag along.  But Jesus, here is the weather forecast:

Every day of October here was in the 90s.  We've dropped into the upper 80s the past couple of days. Not only are my circadian rhythms going to be off, the weather difference will be great.

I am a paranoid world traveller, anyway.  I stress myself out to the nth degree before every trip.  I've been 'round the world, as they say, but still little trips are trippy for me.

I'll be fine.

Here is what I found on the internet about Detroit travel.

Winter in Detroit can last from October through April, with the weather being wildly unpredictable during that time. It’s probably best to wait until spring.

You won’t want to walk around in winter. In fact, don’t even come to Detroit in winter.

Oh, and Detroit is America's most dangerous city. As long as you stay within a few block boundary, your chances of getting killed are relatively low. You might get beaten or mugged, though.

Walk down a dark, random street at 2AM with your iPhone in your hand, and someone will probably mug you.

Etc.  Every guide, even the hip ones, tell you not to go to most neighborhoods and that riding public transportation can be dangerous.  What the hell is going on there?  I've been to lots of dangerous places in my life, but not as an old cripple.  With a Leica.  Ili has severe feelings about this.  She will be in the convention hotel Downtown all day while I wander the streets.  Maybe.  I might end up at the hotel bar.

Seriously, though, I will get to go to the Detroit Institute of Art which a friend of mine says is fantastic.  There is the Motown Museum which I am not really excited about, and all the old Ford museums which do not interest me at all.  

But I won't know until I get there.  In the meantime, there is a lot of packing and whining to do.  

Fucking time change.  

Never underestimate the power of paranoia.  It holds the world together in my experience.  

Saturday, November 2, 2019



Here's an f'ed up photo from 1974.  I was in my second photography class at the university.  I had become enamored with the large format photography of Edward Weston and wanted to try my hand at it, so I checked out a 4x5 camera from the photo department and gave it a shot.  Trouble was, I wanted to experiment, too.  This is one of those attempts.  I was flashing the lights in the darkroom while I developed the film attempting to solarize it.  Sometimes it was pretty groovy, but sometimes it was just messed up.  Todd Walker, one of the photo profs there, told me I was crazy to use my originals.  I think I was inspired, though, by some of his work.

Todd Walker

I wasn't familiar with many processes at the time, but I was curious about messing up the images so they didn't look like the photos I'd taken before.  I think I took his advice, though, and quit messing up the original negatives.  And a bit later, I quit using the 4x5 altogether.  I was surprised recently, though, when I began going through my closet full of old work, how many 4x5 negatives I have.  I was a real maniac back then, I guess.

The girl in the photo was one of my photo buddies.  She was from "a good family" down south and had the manners of an aristocrat-turned-hippie.  It was a good time for me, a scruffy boy from a lower class family, as the social barriers between the classes had broken down.  Everybody wanted to be a hippie then, or so it seemed, though the current political situation will certainly put a lie to that notion.  Still, she was a thrill.  I can't recall her name for the life of me now, and it fairly breaks my heart.  We were buddies with another boy named Jack.  Jack's father was a rich attorney who owned most of the coastal real estate in a popular beach town.  Jack was probably gay and at least bi, a Ziggy Stardust boy who was headed to law school.  He was the emotional type, and when he was hung over or wrung out, he would lean against me and whine about his life.  He and she spoke the same language.  I was like a tourist who didn't.  I would watch their lips and try to imitate the sounds, and I think it entertained them a bit.

Sadly, I haven't any photos of Jack.

I've been scanning old stuff, but it is overwhelming.  I've been taking some pictures, too, but they are all throw aways.  I may have lost my eye.  Nothing I take looks very interesting.  As always it is terrible "losing my timing this late in my career."

Friday, November 1, 2019

Trick or Treat

First the younger kids in cute costumes came, then the older kids in MegaDeath t-shirts.  We closed up shop around 8:45 and went in to watch some ancient schlock B film about Martians trying to take over earth by implanting brain stems into people to control them.  They messed with the wrong ten year old, though, and the military was able to save the day.

We all truly enjoyed it.

Last year was better, though, as I was on opioids and everything seemed beautiful .

CC sent me a link (link) to a better version of my blog.  He says people looking for that carnival are sure to be surprised if they land here.  I'm not sure, though.  That thing looks pretty weird.

I'll put in one more image just for fun.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Don't Even Think About It

Jesus, now that I can't respond to comments, I get more than ever.  It's an open forum.  I can't even respond to critics.  It is like a shadow blog.  If I were Trump. . . .

They've banned cameras in Arizona, too, outside a courthouse.

I think I'll buy a drone.  I think I could really get into trouble with that.

The tree guys are gone, and so is my money.  I will NEVER tell you what it cost me except to say it was my joke estimate.  I don't want to think about it, but I haven't been able to prevent myself from thinking about it so far.  Money and I have never been loyal to one another, I guess.  We have never had a serious relationship.  I would like to know how to make some money now, but I fear it is far too late.  Still, I have a lot of naked postcards I can sell you cheap.  Big ones.  Plenty of choices.

There are a lot of photo galleries in Paris, ironically enough.  Apparently there is some money in it.

Oh, well, I lament spending money on the tree guy but might seriously think about buying the new Leica M10 Monochrom that will come out in 2020.  There is something very, very wrong with me.  My values are flawed, I think.  No, not my values.  My priorities.  My values are fine.  They are great values.  They are the best values.

Ili and I are going to hand out candy at my mother's and spend the night.  She gets hundreds of trick or treaters.  We will eat dinner and watch "The Blob," and maybe something else.  Ili bought something for everyone to wear.

Last year, I was just beginning to walk the sidewalk in front of my mother's house on Halloween.  Ili was staying with me there.  These are two great gals, as they used to say.  We will have fun tonight.

You have fun, too.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Less Than Real

Ice cream?  Flower shops?  Jesus Christ, what has this blog come to?

Well. . . photography may be reduced to this and less if an angry public has its way.  Japan has announced some privacy laws that rival France's.  See this (link).

But I get it.  YouTube is now full of "street photography" channels.  People are giving classes in it.  It is a booming business.  The newest Fuji camera is a "street photography" camera made for "street photographers."  Anything that gets commercialized is doomed.

I don't care. I can do other things.  I'll adopt a kid so I can take endless photographs.  Or I can become a wedding and/or events photographer.  Or I'll get a job at one of the countless little league modeling agencies in town.

The one thing I can't do is take selfies.  I've become way too hideous for that.  Only with my bat mask on.

It used to be much easier when I was the only one with a camera.  Just like everything else, things were better in the past.  Like Key West.

The kids are right.  The only place of interest now is the virtual world.  That is where you can truly live.  The streets are for losers.  Airplanes get you sick. . . or worse.  Traffic is a nightmare.

Amazon delivers food right to your door now, and anything else your heart desires.  The president can do everything he needs to do from his phone.  I've heard his family is going into the virtual resort business.

I used to love Disney because it kept the masses away from the places I liked to go.  It doesn't seem to be working any more.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Who Doesn't Like That?

I swear, pictures are coming.  Old ones.  I've spent days now going through them.  Not actually "going through," but putting them into files and folders.  And I have a confession to make--I've been a real mediocre photographer.  I tell myself (because I have to or drown) that probably everyone feels that way when they go through a lifetime of "work."  I mean, there are a lot of shitty pictures.  I like some of them because they are full of meaning to me.  But I've been pitching many.  I will hold a photo of a building or a tree and wonder what the fuck that is.  Of course, I should have culled them long, long ago.

I asked the people at the photo store yesterday what they do with all their negatives and photos (most of them shoot film).  They are young, though, so they may only have bags full of stuff.

I came home and threw away all the negatives I've gotten back recently.  There wasn't a decent picture in the bunch.

It felt good.

I will, however, be at the scanner for months.

I have been putting millions of prints from plastic containers into the new flat files.  There is a lot of junk there, too, that I need to get rid of, but it is difficult to throw away a 32" print.  It really is.

But I will need to.

Will I be able to do that with my tubs full of old writing as well?  I need to, especially the jejune writings from college and just beyond.

Or I can just wait until I die.  It will all go to the garbage heap.

I read an article today in the N.Y. Times that reifies my belief in solitude (not that it needed any reification).  It is good for you.  I know people of the other sort, the kind who must fill their empty hours in the company of other people.  I've never understood it, so I try not to say too much about it, but, really, it fairly freaks me out.  I've always figured that solitude is what we have (link).

I love my time alone.

I've been writing some things about the gym, but I can't bring myself to publish them here.  It is difficult for me to write the horrible descriptions of people I must if the writing is to have any interest or teeth.

Plus. . . I get scared.

And so today a picture of a Parisian ice cream cone.  Who doesn't like that?

Monday, October 28, 2019


My buddy, Q, got married, I think.  I can't quite make out what he is saying in his latest post (link).  Everyone was grateful to him.  He made people happy.

I don't know why he had to deride me, though.  He is wrong.  I LOVE this photograph.  I am blowing it up and putting it on my wall beside the ones I have of him when he first moved to NYC.  Underneath it will go the letter I wrote him when he turned 35.  That was back when I was his age and he used to try to give me a beat down every chance he got or when he got drunk or high which was most of the time, I think.

This is truly my favorite picture of Q.

But he won't like that, either.  Sometimes, there is no winning.

Which brings me to my REAL topic.  I am a good person, I think, but often not a good friend.  It is not that I am a bad friend.  I just don't think about the things one should think about.  Like birthdays.  I just missed Q's.  I know that because I read his blog.

And I feel very bad about it.  Don't tell him, though.  I will send him a belated gift.  Probably.  I already sent him a birthday gift about four months ago, I think.  At least that is what I told him it was.  The problem is just that I don't think about other people's priorities enough.  Birthdays are important to people.  Not the birthday, per se, but the remembrance of others.  I mean, the remembering.  But I hate birthdays and most other celebrations that aren't  Christmas.  Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine's Day--they cause me deep anxiety and misery.  My own birthday is fucking nightmare.

That doesn't mean I don't love my friends (or myself).  I just hate the prescribed celebrations.

Except for Christmas.

Q asked me when my retirement party was going to be.  Really?  Just what I want, recognition that I have outlived my usefulness.  Nope.

I have been going through my "files" this weekend.  I cleaned out a closet so that Ili could have it for her professional lady outfits.  When I quit working, that is going to be where the money comes from.

The closet was filled with containers of old letters, dissertation notes, and photographs.  Thousands of them.  I put together my new 15 drawer flat file cabinet and am beginning to organize my ouvre.  It is terrifying.  Anyone want to buy a masterpiece cheap?

Which reminds me.  I gave Q one of my favorites that is odd but not revealing, but I think he stuck it in a closet or under the bed or something.  That is what happens when you give things away, though.  They haven't much value.  So, I'd rather burn these than give them away, but for you, my friends, I give a special price.

Going through the pictures has been both a joy and an agony.  That is, really, a revelation.  I bought my own expensive camera and began taking photos before I ever took a photo class.  I'd forgotten that.  I had a Kodak book on how to make good pictures.  The photos look like the ones in that book.  But early on, I was experimenting.  In my second photo class with Jerry Uelsmann, I was shooting 4x5 photos and solarizing them in the darkroom.  Fucked up a lot of negatives, for sure.  I can hardly remember it.  But I remember the people in the photographs.

I was like this early on.  It didn't develop later.  It was suis genesis, not instilled externally.  Strange.  I can only blame myself.

There are boxes and boxes of stuff.  It will take me months to get through it all.  I discarded hundreds of crummy old photos yesterday.  It was not difficult.  There will be more.

I will probably be posting some as I scan them.  There will be much for Q to deride.

I like to make him happy.  I almost said "give him pleasure," but I would pay the price for that.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

I Wonder

The tree guys didn't finish yesterday.  They will be back next week.  I've had many workers here in the last few months.  I couldn't do it.  I whine all the time about work, but I don't know what work is. Labor, I mean.  There is a difference.  The fellows who put in the a.c. were here from dawn until after dark.  They worked all day except for a lunch break.  That wasn't just for me.  They do that every day.  When they get home, they shower and eat and then it is time for bed because they get up early and do it all again the next day.  On the weekends, I assume, there must be things they have to do around the house.  I'll bet they don't have lawn crews.

The electrician was here that long, too.  He had to come back the next day to finish up.

The tree guys were cutting and hauling things all day long.  They left here at six on a Friday evening. They still had to drive to wherever they leave the big trucks, get into their cars, and drive home.  Maybe they were eating by seven-thirty or eight.

I feel myself a hero if I put in a morning of yard work.  I built my deck and felt like I'd done something magnificent.  I didn't get up early the next morning and start building another.  I haven't any idea what it is like to labor for a living, day after day after day.

What would my political views be if I did that every day of my life?  What would I think of people with soft hands and who went to fancy cocktail bars?

Those are rhetorical questions.  I would simply have been a criminal.

I feel guilty that I whine.  I do.  I whine when I have to go to the mini-mart.  I whine if the olives aren't as good as the ones I had the time before.

Only here, though, to you, in writing.  In person, not so much.  I like cowboys.

Still, I wonder why they are the ones most adamantly "American."  I drive through the poor parts of town where trailers sit slanted on their cement blocks with tarps covering their roofs, where cars sit on jacks and old tires fill the yard, and I see American flags and flag decals everywhere.  You don't see Elizabeth Warren for President signs.  You don't see anything promoting "Medicare for All."

I haven't figured that out yet.  When I'll let you know.

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Tale Too Large

The tree people are still here.  And they will be next week, too.  Holy smokes!  I've not even asked how much this will cost.  Ili called them to do a few simple things, then I agreed with the owner to do more.  And more.  And more.

Well. . . the neighborhood will cheer.

So far, (semi) retirement has been gruesome.

I need to look back in the blog (farther than you can) to see what gym tales I have told.  There is a book's worth, but some come to mind more often than others.  There are some I am still too afraid to tell, for you see, these were hardened criminals, some convicted, others not.  And some were cops.  There is nothing less attractive to a citizen than a cop on 'roids.  But there were several at my gym, the only steroid gym in town at the time.  And the tales they would tell about the things that had happened the day or the night before, were. . . funny, I guess, if you were only on the listening side of things.  And there was perjury, too, in court, to keep other's out of trouble.  And for that crowd, it often paid huge dividends.

But just writing that scares me.  Can I ever tell those stories?

And there were professional wrestlers you would know, some of the most famous, and there were others who you wouldn't know unless you were from here but who were making a living at it in the smaller wrestling leagues.  Some of their stories are funny.  Some are tragic.  I don't know if I can tell those, either.

And then there were the bikers.  The gym was run by a biker of an infamous gang.  He and one of the founding members of the local chapter were two of the first members I met.  I'm afraid to tell their stories.

And there was the kid who was a male dancer then a gigolo and then a realtor who went to prison for a long time.  He is out now.  Boy. . . I am afraid to tell his story, too.

And then there was the fellow with the nazi tattoos all over his neck who was the first person in the state to be arrested for a hate crime.  He had friends.  Nope, don't think I can tell that one.

There were drug dealers who were convicted.  They didn't talk about prison much, but when they did, it was interesting.  Eventually, the owner of the gym went to prison.  I'm still afraid to tell for what.

There were several murders.  There were arrests.  There were no convictions.

There were fights.  There were beatings.  There were crazy sexual things.

The building housing the gym was owned by a famous gay man who was killed in a homosexual murder in San Francisco, but while he was alive, he provided avenues for many bodybuilders to make money.  There was much hustling.

And there was me, a hippie, the only person with long hair in the gym.  I was there every day.  I had my own key and rarely paid dues.  I could come and go as I please.

It could be a good tale to tell.  The spine would be the almost absent observer of the tale.  Was he bent by the things he observed, or was he one of them from the start?  In truth and not in fiction, I was the last person to ever train in that storied gym.  They were taking the equipment out around me.  It is a poetic ending to a story, don't you think?

Of course, the hard part is not telling that things happened.  That is easy.  The art of telling, though. . . that's another thing.  Turning life into art.  Who do I think I am?

Besides, I don't want to take the beating that is sure to come.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Big Lazy

I'm out of pictures.  And work still has me by the throat.  I am spending money on tree trimming today, and the roof leaked once again.  I still have to sign up for Social Security and may have fucked up on Medicare.

Like everyone else, I just want to take a long, slow boat ride down a big, lazy river.