Sunday, February 25, 2024

Porch Fest

I love it when people tell me I'm great, don't you?  Me, I mean.  They should do that more.  They should do that all the time, really.  

Unwashed, uncombed, unshaven, and unfed, I went to Porch Fest yesterday to meet a group of friends.  It was a gorgeous day, the kind you can never forget, the kind that lives on in perpetuity.  How could I not go?  I almost didn't.  I was sitting at my computer working on Miami images and suddenly it was afternoon.  I had to make a decision.  I grabbed my camera bag, put on my flip-flops, and headed out the door.  

"Look at me, going places," I thought on the highway to Grit City.  Yea. . . look at me.  I checked the rearview mirror.  Yup.  Look at me.  Maybe I should have brought a hat, I thought.  

When I got to town, I looked for a place to park.  Cars were lining the neighborhood streets for blocks.  I could find no paid parking, so I drove to the edge of things and parked my car on a shady street.  I don't mean it had overhanging trees.  But if others were doing it. . . .  

I took out my phone and texted my friend but the text wouldn't go through.  I texted again.  Nope.  WTF?  Had she blocked me?  I tried again.  Then I tried a friend.  Then I tried myself.  Nope.  Not going through.  I went into my phone settings.  I turned off WiFi.  Maybe that was it for some strange reason.  Nope.  It was as if my phone had died.  I called my friend.  She didn't answer, so I left a message and started walking toward town.  In a few minutes my phone rang.  I tried talking, but she said I was breaking up.  All I got from her was two cross streets.  I was near.  I headed that way.  I thought.  Then I wasn't sure.  I stopped a couple near me.  

"Which way is Park Avenue, this way or this way?" 

They didn't know.  Nor the next guy, nor the next couple.  Finally I saw a guy with a festival map.  After orienting himself with North, he pointed.  

"It should be one block that way."

I got to said corner.  I walked around slowly looking, but I didn't see anybody I knew in the crowd.  I did this for ten minutes then decided fuck it, it was better this way.  I would just wander about for awhile and head home.  And, of course, at just that moment, there they were.  They were at a tent serving greasy things with cheese, chicken, and bacon on pita bread.  The stand belonged to their friend.  This is where they were keeping their cooler of beer.  Unbelievably, this was supposed to be a dry festival.  There were no beer stands to be seen.  Everybody had cups though.  This was the most alcoholic town I had ever been to, so I was fair stunned that it wasn't called Drunk Fest on People's Porches.  That is what it would turn out to be.  

Now I was with a group.  They sat and stood and talked and drank.  That is what people do.  And take selfies.  I wanted to take pictures, but that was obviously going to be impossible with people.  I took a few snaps of the group.  There was a woman with them, a friend, or so I thought.  I liked her.  She was skinny and blonde and probably crazy, just enough to be interesting until it got to be too much work.  Not a real blonde.  Probably on meds to help control the other.  I can't help myself even when the alarms go off.  I guess I'm just attracted to the flashing colored lights.  

She looked at me and smiled.  Good.  We'd talk later, I thought.  And then she and the woman she was with wandered away.  

"Who is that?" I asked one of the gang.  

"Who?"

"That blonde."

"I don't know."

"You don't know her?"

"No."

Well shit.  What was there to do?  I ordered one of the greasy chicken, cheese, and bacon things.  Oh, yes. . . it was really good.  

The woman who asked me to come had been talking to a couple but now she wandered over.  She said hello without much energy.  Maybe it is just her personality.  I don't know.  But she pretty much ignored for the rest of the day.  

One of my former employees, a colleague of the group, lived a couple blocks away.  "Let's go see A.  We can use her bathroom."  And so we began the group march.  

A's house is a three story old wooden affair with a giant porch.  I headed straight to the porch swing while A showed people where the bathroom was.  I drank a little beer.  Mingling.  Talking.  It's what people do.  The sun was brilliant, the air cool, the play of light and shadow from the big oaks that line the streets of Grit City amazing. . . and I was making talk with my friends.  

"That's what you do," one of them said to me.  "You get with friends and drink and talk."  

I guess that's right.  

After some drinking and talking, the group was ready for the next thing.  A and her son joined us.  We wandered a few blocks to where another band was playing on another porch.  Someone asked me something about the music.  I said I didn't listen to this kind of stuff.  She thought I was joking.  

"What do you listen to?"

"Jazz, hillbilly music, you know, bluegrass and the like, and some stuff for feeling emo, you know, all soft and moody."

A knows things.  She was married to a musician most of her life.  Only recently they broke up.  

"Jazz and bluegrass are kind of similar," she said.  

"YES!  That is what I keep telling people.  Improvisational, great scales. . . bluegrass is just hillbilly jazz!"

More talking.  People kept offering me drinks which I declined.  

"I'm not much of a day drinker," I said.  "I'm happy when the sun is out.  It's when the sun sets that I feel like a drink."

"Oh. . . I love day drinking."

"But what do you do after?"

"Go to bed."

"When?  At six?"

"Sure."

"Then you are awake at two?"

"I like it. I get things done."

"O.K."

I'll have a glass of wine with lunch if I can go home and take a nap.  One glass, one hour.  Two, two hours.  I don't mind that.  But not on a day like this one.  Holy smokes, no.  Why wasn't I taking photos?  I tried.  I'd hang back from the group, but A and her son hung on me so that I couldn't get away.  I thought they would follow the gang, but nope.  If I stopped and turned away, they watched me and waited.  I tried to ignore them, but it was impossible.  A had a lot to say.  So did her son.  O.K.  Forget about making photographs.  

I wandered with my friends to another porch, another band.  

"What time is it?" I wondered.  I was reaching to get my phone out of my bag, but one of the gals had a watch on.  

"O.K. kids, I need to wander back to my car and head out to see my mother."

Heads nodded.  Everyone knows that I go every day to see my mother.  And so I said goodbyes and headed off into the sunset.  I would photograph now, I thought, but the sun was low and the shadows deep.  I wandered alone a bit.  I came to a porch with a smaller crowd in front.  I stopped for a minute.  The music was country.  It was good.  It was a Dwight Yoakum song.  They had it down, every beat, every note.  A skinny woman in a cowboy hat was on the Roland keyboards singing harmony.  Another skinny blonde.  I stayed for the next song, then the next.  I stayed for awhile.  I knew it would be too late to go to my mother's house, but I couldn't call her.  It was the AT&T outage.  I was lucky to have gotten through to my friend the one time.  Now I could neither call nor text.  I had an excuse.  I had other friends at the festival, gymroids.  I could not text them, either, as I said I would.  But I was happy now, happy alone in the crowd.  I was the happiest I had been all day.  It was getting cooler now and the crowd was swelling fast.  The festival would go on late into the night.  Old Grit City ain't all that bad.  It's a pretty town, really.  

And there I was, out in it.  "Isn't that something," I thought.  "Look at me."  

"You're great," I said.  I like hearing that.  


Saturday, February 24, 2024

Could Be Fun

Traveling and eating.  One has to make choices.  All the good, healthy shit at home is gone.  Sure, you can buy an apple or a banana, but meals are going to be cooked by someone else.  I like the travel shows.  They always know where to eat, and it is always good no matter if it is in the streets of Viet Nam or a Michelin starred restaurant in Paris.  I don't remember Rick Steves ever saying, "Well, that was just about the shittiest meal I've ever eaten."  

For the rest of us, though, without a crew and on our own. . . .  It can be an expensive crapshoot.  I am not one to spend much of his travel dollars on expensive meals alone.  It's too risky.  

I left Miami with an empty gas tank and had to stop at the first service plaza available to buy the country's most expensive gas.  I was going to get some coffee, but the line for Dunkin' Donuts was out the door.  Nobody was at the Wendy's counter.  So. . . I got coffee. . . AND. . . a Wendy's Breakfast Sandwich.  My god, how do they do it?  How do they take the cheapest food sources they can get and turn them into something so delicious?  This was the best breakfast sandwich I have ever eaten.  O.K.  I never eat them.  But it was good enough that I was considering stopping at the next service plaza for another.  

Oh what a way to start a new day!

This, of course, after dissing Q for the Sandwicherie.  I should say that the sandwich there was about the cheapest thing you could eat on S. Beach.  I should thank him.  I was just tired, I guess, and really disappointed that I couldn't get a beer.  

I could turn my drive home into an Odyssey, a Homeric epic drive against the brutal forces of Aeolus, the God of Wind, and Chaos, the Greek God of. . . well. . . chaos.  But I won't.  I'll just say that Miami is like all the big cities in Florida, completely unplanned, and the highway system is far too small to handle the influx of meatheads.  Florida rose from the swamps and wetlands to become a morass of haphazard shopping centers and retail outlets.  That's what the highways are for.  

Home, I unpacked, changed, and went to the gym for a sweat.  I needed to stretch my legs.  Then mid-afternoon, I went to my mother's.  And there it hit me--my so-called life.  My mother and cousin were sitting inside the darkened house, my mother watching television, my cousin looking at her computer.  There was no lilt in their voices.  I tried to tell them about Miami, but they wanted to talk about the financial lunch they had gone to.  My spirit sunk.  This is what I do.  Every day.  Just a minute away and. . . you begin to see again.  

So, even before showering, when I got home, I made a drink.  

This was not routine, I told myself. . . it was ritual.  I waited for the cat, but she never came.  The neighbor's cat did, though, and he was unusually glad to see me.  Well, I thought. . . it is good to be missed.  

After the Campari, I took a hot Epsom salts soak.  O.K.  I freshened my drink, too.  I lay in the tub, drink at hand, and slipped into dreamland.  I lay there with a head full of pixies and sprites.  The cooling water, however, made me move.  Shower.  Beard trimmer.  Unguents.  Nail clippers.  A check in the mirror.  Did I lose weight?  

A dinner of cut carrots and cabbage, avocado, chick peas, garlic, and chicken in a deep bowl.  A citrusy New Zealand Blanc.  Then the rain.  Texts.  T.V.  No. . . I couldn't do t.v.  I picked up a new photo book that came while I was gone, works from 1972-73 shot in a fishing village in Newfoundland by a graduate student in art on a big 8x10 camera.  Fairly fascinating.  I was bushed by Epsom salt, hot water, food and drink, but it was far too early for bed.  I struggled out of my chair, cleaned the kitchen, and grabbed the card out of one of my cameras.  I would just download the images and see.  I was feeling glum, though.  I wasn't sure if I did anything good.  I wasn't up, really for a big disappointment.  

The files were large and took a long time to show up.  Then. . . oh, no. . . shit. . . wait. . . oh!  And another.  I'm not sure, but maybe. . . there might be one or two good ones in here.  I put on some music and decided to do the first, preliminary adjustments to the files.  I would just go through, rank the ones I would look at again, and get them ready for processing.  

Text.  "Meet us at the Porch Festival in Grit City tomorrow.  We have a golf cart for six."  

It was the girl who almost asked me out.  She was going with two other women from the factory, part of my crowd.  

"I'll text you if I go.  I'll be the fellow with the cameras." 

Grit City.  The music festival takes place on the deep front porches of the old houses all over town.  It has been called the best music festival in the sate.  It is not my kind of thing. . . but. . . you know. . . a more active life.  Next week there is a Strawberry Festival in a distant town, too.  Yea. . . I need to get out.  

The music. . . the images. . . I thought I'd just try cooking one up to see what it would look like.  

Oh, yes. . . I liked it fine.  Maybe another.  

I looked at the clock.  It was almost one.  I was cranked.  This was like the old days when I had the studio and would work at the computer with music playing far too late into the night.  Jacked.  It is something.  

The cat was waiting for me when I got up way after sunrise.  I had asked the tenant to feed her while I was gone, but she said she never saw her.  Well. . . the cat is fed now.  And the sun is bright and the sky is blue and the day is like an oyster with a hidden pearl.  I must eschew my old ways, must not fall back into the pattern.  Maybe I'll go to breakfast now.  Hell--there's a Wendy's not far away!  But maybe an omelet at my favorite breakfast joint.  

Yea. . . let's get ready for the pickathon.  Who knows?  Just got a text confirming my friends will pick me up wherever I park.  Yeehaw!  Who knows?  It could be fun.  



Friday, February 23, 2024

Get Down


Sunshine and blue skies.  And traffic.  Lots and lots of traffic.  Miami is a beautiful city, one of the most beautiful you will find in the U.S.A.  No doubt.  And a car is both mandatory and useless to get around.  Interstates are parking lots.  Downtown is a whack a mole of wondering which streets will be open and which will be shut down.  Everything creeps along until it comes to a dead stop.  But you have never seen so many exotic, expensive cars.  Beamers and Benzs are like Toyotas here.  Lambos, Ferraris, McLarens. . . .  All only to sit in traffic.  I've talked to locals.  They say it has gotten much worse in the last few years.  "My" bartender at the hotel said she is looking to move after living here for the past twelve years because of the changes.  I told her that I used to come to Miami long ago and zip around town between neighborhoods like nothing.  Yesterday it took me over an hour to go from S. Beach to Coral Gables, and that was traveling on the interstate, the quickest route.  I miss old Miami.  

But still, it is a most wondrous and beautiful city.  Too bad you can't see it.  

If you come, don't bother with a car.  Just Uber.  That's what the locals do.  That's what they say.  And if you come, just plan on visiting one neighborhood and vicinity.  Trying to take in "Miami" in one trip will be madness.  I plan on coming back.  Don't misunderstand me.  This has been an informative trip.  Next time, I'll have a better strategy.  I've been having a wonderful time.  I'm not complaining. . . just informing.  The last time I was here some years ago, my gal put us up at the Four Seasons.  Now that was lovely.  I would suggest spending the money to stay in a place that is relaxing and resort-like.  It will cost more, but it will be worth it.  You can't have so much fun in Miami on the cheap.  Once we booked Air B&B in Wynwood.  I've been told it is like Hollywood there now, full of shops and expensive restaurants.  We stayed in a huge condo for cheap.  I looked at staying there this trip, and it is still much less expensive than staying in hotels.  There are lots of B&B places in Miami.  I just wasn't ready for "that" this trip.  We were able to drive around the city "back then" without a lot of trouble.  But as "my" bartender said, a lot has changed in a very few years.  

But yea. . . I'll come back.  I've had fun.  I've learned to walk again.  My walking muscles are barking.  And I've done the whole thing in flip-flops.  I still limp like Quasimodo, but I'm ready for longer hauls.  NYC in the spring?  I think so.  

Yesterday I did South Beach.  I thought going early on a Thursday morning would be a breeze.  Ha!  Traffic creeped.  The streets were packed with people for miles.  I crawled along in traffic looking for a parking garage, but I got super lucky and found a good street side parking spot.  I grabbed a camera bag and began my stroll.  Of course I was going to do Ocean Drive, but I was strolling Collins Avenue, too, looking for the funky shops of old.  I eschew places like Lincoln Road with its "Global Brand Stores" that attract tourists, of course, but the funky shops of old have been replaced by swimsuit and shitty apparel shops.  Selavy.  The world changes.  What can you do?  

I walked for hours.  Q called to tell me I needed to eat at a sandwich place that he loved.  The Sandwicherie.  So, just before heading back to my car, I went there for lunch.  And. . . you have to be shitting me!  It was a stand, not a restaurant or even a shop, but an open air stall with a couple of stools, no beer, and cold cuts on buns.  

"Best sandwich you'll ever eat," he said.  O.K.  Maybe looks deceive.  I'll try it.  

This was their premiere sandwich.  O.K.  Q was having his way with me.  This was a joke, a trick. . . some kind of story to tell his friends.  I'd passed up beautiful restaurants for a deli sub.  I owe Q one.  So I texted him.  

"Wait 'til I write this up."

"Post it on Yelp," he chuckled.  

Just before I sat down at the dirty, sticky counter there, a fellow was yelling to me in the street.  

"Hold that spot!  Hold that spot!"

He was a big black guy and was serious. 

"How am I supposed to do that?" I queried.  The Korean tourists standing there were happy he was talking to me.  

He jumped in a car and started backing down the street against traffic.  I directed him in, but he was not looking at me but to his thug buddy across the way.  When he got in the spot and got out of the car I asked him, "How'd I do?"  He was about 6'5" and tatted up.  He barely glanced at me and said to no one in particular, "Fine."

"You owe me five dollars," I said.  He didn't look my way, but he gave a single chuckle.  

"O.K., then," I said.  You just leave your car here.  I'll take care of it.  Don't you worry.  It will be fine." 

He didn't even look back.  He crossed the street to his thug buddy and they went into what I assumed was one of Q's favorite South Beach clubs.  Why else would he send me to the sub shack across the street?

Fucking Q.  

After scratching Q's phone number on the hood of the car, I headed to my own for the torturous drive to Coral Gables.  I wanted to go to one of the few good bookstores left in America, Books & Books.  There was a Leica store just a couple blocks away from the bookstore, too.  Cameras and books.  What fun. 

The Leica store sucked.  Books & Books?  It's not what it used to be, but maybe that is just the publishing industry.  But the place just didn't seem as "magical" as it used to.  They've expanded, though, and have a big indoor/outdoor cafe.  I was beat, so I took a seat and ordered a beer, the beer I couldn't get at Q's sub shop.  

By the time I was finished, it was traffic hour.  I thought I would go to a couple other places including a walk through the Biltmore and a pass by the Venetian Pool.  Coral Gables is a lovely place shaded by overhanging Banyan trees, but it, too, has become choked with traffic.  Miracle Mile is no miracle any longer, just a street full of half-assed shops and crummy restaurants.  I'd wanted to take photos in the Cuban neighborhood surrounding Calle Ocho which is nearby, but the day was ending.  There would be no time.  

Long ago in Miami on a visit with Brando who grew up in Coral Gables, we went to the races at Haileah Race Track.  Holy shit was that something.  But it was closed years ago.  As I say, things change.  Before "Miami Vice" reformed Miami, I used to go to the News Cafe at the far end of Ocean Drive.  They always remembered me there and when the place became hip, they would still gave me a good table overlooking the street.  I looked for the cafe yesterday, but it was gone, or so I thought.  It did close, I read, in 2021, but they have reopened further down the street.  It is not the same, just another tourist joint like the rest of them.  

You Can't Go Home Again.  There is no use trying.  That is true, of course, but not for the young.  For them, everything is perpetually new.  The Yotel is full of them, excited to be in the city, to sit in the bar, to anticipate their night out.  There is no sense in not being young.  No good comes to you from rejecting the present.  I don't.  

But man. . . once long ago. . . .  Ha!!!

Some things don't change.  This is what we were dancing to in the Club Deuce last night.  Get down, get down!  Some things are just too. . . something. . . to die.  Know what I'm sayin'?  Word.  




Thursday, February 22, 2024

Field Notes of a Nerd

I did it.  I made the leap.  I am writing from my bed in the Miami Yotel Hotel drinking shitty 7-11 coffee because I am up before the restaurant begins serving at seven.  The bed isn't bad, one of those adjustable things that raises the head but not the knees so that if you have a computer sitting in your lap with your legs straight, as I do, it is something of a yoga stretch, at least for my short tendons and ligaments.  I would sit at the desk to write, but there is no chair and there is no desk, just a bedside stand with a--I don't know what it is called--a low backless stool.  The room is spartan but not uncomfortable. . . other than that.  I slept well in the bed.  The room is very high tech.  I am used to staying in older hotels, I guess, where you end up crawling around looking under tables and chairs to find an outlet where you can plug in a charger.  Not here.  There is an outlet in every wall and table and even in the headboard.  The bathroom light comes on automatically when I step out of bed.  I'm still not certain about the lighting, but there are panels that, by moving your finger up and down from top to bottom and bottom to top, allow you to change the color of the lighting from red to blue.  The lighting is indirect.  You see no bulbs.  I still haven't figured out how to turn on the reading lights above the bed.  

Last night, I Chromecast shows from my laptop to the fifty inch screen mounted on the wall across from my bed.  WTF?  I guess I haven't been around for a very long time.  The room is small, but not as small as the Pod hotels in NYC.  The shower is nice with a rain shower head and a hand held nozzle controlled by touch buttons.  

It has all that and stark white walls barren of anything.  That is a bit disorienting like being in a hospital madhouse.  But I am downtown, a few minutes walk from the Bay and Bayside shopping.  It is not located badly at all.  It is only a block or two from a more respectable neighborhood.  And the damn thing is big, like forty floors.  The elevators are smart, working from your room key.  The lobby is spartan but there is a bar/restaurant when you walk in.  Most of the guests I have seen are younger.  Younger than what?  Just younger.  Lots of kids in their twenties.  

The drive here was pretty quick until I hit Miami traffic.  Getting from the toll highway to the interstate and then off that into downtown traffic took forty minutes or more, and extended my drive to four hours.  Check in was quick and my room was ready early.  I was in my room by two.  I decided to go for a walk downtown, around the Bayfront then up to Brickell.  I haven't walked that much in a very long time.  Problem was. . . I forgot to pack socks, so I was walking in my flip-flops.  Five miles in flip-flops on a bad knee.  I did fine.  I was pleased.  

I took two cameras, my Leica M10 R and my Canon with the cheap plastic lens.  I shot a lot of photos, but I can't download them as I forgot to pack my card reader, too.  Again, it has been a long minute since I travelled, so I will have to wait until I get home to show you MY MIAMI!  It is not the Miami most people have, I'm relatively certain.  Like most big cities, mine is a daytime place.  I was back in my room by nightfall, showered, and getting sleepy.  You can say it is because I'm old, but you can ask anyone who has known me, I've been like that since childhood.  I'm not a nighttime person.  I like daylight and sunshine.  I am well aware, though, that the city starts to come to life long after the sun goes down.  That part is infamous.  It's OK. That has never appealed to me.  

I started writing this before sunrise, got sleepy, closed the laptop, lay down and closed my eyes, and drifted right off to dreamland.  Then something happened that hardly ever happens.  My phone rang.  Loud.  It was my mother.  

"Did you just call me?"

WTF?!?!

I feel I could sleep more, but now it is time to pack up and start my day.  Good old mom.  Maybe I will come back for a nap this afternoon.  Split the day in two.  Now, though, I'm off to make some pictures.  Fingers crossed.  

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I have to make up my mind in a minute or two whether or not I am going south for a few days.  I think the deciding fucked me up last night.  I woke at one in a panic.  I tried to go back to sleep, but it was useless.  I got up and took a Xanax.  I lay back down and waited.  When it hit me, my body relaxed and the anxiety subsided.  Mostly.  I still didn't sleep.  I lay in my poorly made bed (more on that in a minute, perhaps) and thought, "Is there something wrong with me?  Have I developed some psychological illness?  Have I become afraid to leave the house? " 

And the answer was an unimpeachable, "Yes."  At least that is the conclusion I drew.  I have become housebound.  Not the house, actually.  But in the main, I guess I take some solace there.  This morning, as I sit here at sunrise, I tell myself I should pack and go.  

"It will be fun."  

"Maybe."

"What do you mean?"

"It's expensive.  There will be a lot of traffic.  It will be hard to get around to do what you want to do.  You'll be alone and there will be a very little chance of romance."

And that is true, I think, for a number of reasons.  Travel and romance were once synonymous.  I knew.  Later, traveling with my girl, I was content.  Now, traveling alone. . . I don't know.  So many places have become homogenized clones of one another.  I don't want to go to the mall.  That's what places have become whether literally or figuratively.  They all look the same, whatever "they" are.  

It is the expense that is killing me.  I used to go lay up in some little mom and pop place on the beach and walk on the beach, sit by the pool, go for excursions, all for very little.  This weekend, a cheap room in Miami--and I'm talking about a Yotel--is just shy of $300/night.  Plus $60/night to house the car.  I could buy a new Fuji X100VI for less than a three night stay.  

Whatever.  Consider it therapy money, right?  Unless, of course, I fall apart.  Come undone.  Unravel at the frayed edges.  

Travis is raging at this and will send me caustic texts when he reads this.  But he now travels in the main with his wife.  Q travels, but never alone.  He doesn't even stay in hotels.  He's always bedding down on some family's couch.  C.C. now travels with his wife.  My mountain boy has an entire family with him most of the time.  Tennessee either goes with family or friends or goes to where he has friends.  Sky travels for work or with the fam.  

These are the people telling me to go.  

The thing is, I have travelled alone most of my life.  It started after college when I hitched the country for three months on a Kerouac-style adventure.  But as I have said, travel and romance were inextricably combined.  Now. . . "Hey lady, can you help me up these steps?"

You know what I mean.  

I swore I wouldn't put this in the blog, but I am unable not to confess.  Crack my head open and watch the writhing snakes.  A quarter a shot.  Step right up.  One single quarter and see for yourself.  

Nah.  You get it for free.  

I probably won't go.  It's cold.  It's expensive.  It's far.  

O.K. The poorly made bed.  I was a mess yesterday.  I woke up late but felt funky.  By the time I did my usual and then cleaned up the house for the maids, I started sorting camera gear, packing it into bags, trying to evaluate what I could and should take.  The morning was gone.  I'd go to the gym in a bit.  I made avocado toast with eggs.  Full, I needed to wait.  I sat down and wrote and answered texts.  Suddenly it was three.  I wasn't going to the gym.  At three-thirty, I decided to take a shower and go to my mother's.  It was 4:30 when I left the house for the first time that day.  

I left my phone in the car when I went into my mother's house.  The maids were on their way when I left, so I thought to stay awhile.  When I got to my car to leave, I had a message from Lamine.  

"The sheets were wet.  We couldn't put them on the bed.  Sorry." 

Shit, fuck, piss, goddamn!  I had forgotten to put them in the drier.  My favorite part of having the maids is having them change the sheets.  

I didn't go home.  I went to the good Mexican restaurant instead.  I ordered Carnitas, big chunks of pork that have soaked in beer for over a day.  There is nothing so tender as those great chunks of pork.  

And two spicy skinny margaritas.  I could have been sitting in a restaurant on Calle Ocho, but I couldn't have eaten or drunk any better.  

Back home, belly swollen with food and drink, I had to put the sheets and pillow cases and blankets on the bed.  First the fitted sheet.  Once.  Nope.  The other way.  Again.  Nope. What the fuck is wrong?  I saw a tag.  The sheet was inside out.  Start over.  Nope.  Turn it.  It didn't seem to fit any way I turned it.  I stretched it as best I could and said it would have to do.  It didn't lay flat, though.  I lay out the pillow cases, different sizes for pillows of different lengths.  How in the hell do you get the King Size pillow cases on the long King Size pillows?  I tuck one end of the pillow under my chin, but my arms aren't long enough to reach the bottom. And why do I have three of them?  Two new pillows that I can't sleep on.  Three regular sized pillows.  I throw them toward the headboard and grab the top sheet and then the heavy comforter.  I am sweating.  My shoulder muscles are burning.  I'm breathing heavy.  

I try tucking the bottom in the way the maids do so I am swaddled when I sleep.  When I am done, though. . . I would have been kicked out of the service if I had been drafted.  I can't make a bed.  

And, indeed, the sheets and covers were all pulled into a ball when I got up this morning.  I was not swaddled.  Maybe that is why I slept so poorly.  

I've not decided to go.  Remember, as the hillbilly song goes, I'm more to be pitied than scolded.  I need support, not criticism.  I'm a sweet boy.  Love me.  

What do want from the liquor store?

Something sour or something sweet?

I'll buy all that your belly can hold.

You can be sure you won't suffer no more.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

I Don't Know, I Don't Know

I woke up to a diamond bright bedroom.  It was past eight.  I had gone to bed before eleven.  I never sleep that long.  WTF?  Of course, I'm, groggy now.  You don't sleep that long unless. . . you know.  But it is gorgeous outside.  The weather has become what it should be this time of year in The Sunshine State.  

I had half-planned to leave my hometown today, but that will have to be put off until tomorrow.  Maybe.  I need to "go with my gut," right?  Listen to my "inner voice"?  

That's what I think, too.  I will take myself to a nice lunch today, though, somewhere where the sun is shining bright.  That should be restorative.  The healing power of nature and all that.  

I got a call from my Cali buddy last night.  He was just reaching out. . . kibitzing.  I talked to him and one of his sons (who like everyone else's showed little interest in talking to his father's friend), then to his wife.  They are living the Cali mountain vibe to the max.  It is unique, very laid back and relaxed.  She, like my friend who quit the factory, is becoming a bruja.  Herbs and energies. . . you know the drill.  I wonder how I'd feel if I got my chakras aligned?  I probably need to have my aura read.  More so, I need a visit to the poppy doctor.  She told me that they are growing all over the place out there.  I told her how to milk them.  If I needed a reason to visit. . . well, I don't.  I love both of them, so I will go one day when the weather is nice and the world is free of war and pestilence.  

Yea, I need to get my chakras aligned.  

Did you watch the second "Daily Show" with John Stewart?  I mean since his return.  Me, neither, but it was posted in The NY Times today, so I clicked on it.  I thought it would be a highlight and not the whole show (link).  That surprised me.  Fair and balanced and all of that.  I saw half of it, though, and Stewart didn't quite raise a good point.  I mean, he didn't raise it but he made me think it.  He should have said it.  Said what?  

"Are NYC subways the look and smell of freedom?"

If you watch the show, you'll get my drift.  

If not. . . you get my drift.  

After last night's call, I watched the last episode of "Monsieur Spade."  Travis had texted me the night before to tell me he was 20 minutes into the final episode and didn't know what in the hell was going on.  Me, either.  The show was a beautiful disappointment.  The plot was weird and foreign and too dragged out.  And this was a show that if you had to wait a week to watch the next episode, you had a hard time putting it all together.  And yet. . . I hope there is a second season.  Just get some better writers.  Keep the production crew.  

And then it was off to dreamland.  Only they weren't dreams.  They were very disturbing apocalyptic nightmares.  I remember them vividly even though I slept so long.  They are probably what have me so groggy this morning.  

I think I need to get my chakras aligned.  

have been wearing a little hippie bracelet I got for my birthday.  I need to go thrift shopping for some cool hipster shirts.  You know what they are.  Anti-fashion.  Not norm core, but something cooler.  I feel the need.  


As Lula so famously said, "The whole world is wild at heart and weird on top!"

Ain't it the truth? 

Does the whole earth have a chakra?  Now there's a question for the brujas.  

I was told yesterday about a Tiger Lady who has a refuge not far from my own home.  She has several of the big cats from The Tiger King including his Liger.  The place is tucked back off a main road my informant said.  I'm thinking that maybe I need to get back into the documentary business.  There are opportunities around every turn. . . if you know where to turn.  

"Do you think I'll need a gun?"

"Probably not, but if you do. . . ."

I think I'll make some breakfast now.  The morning has gotten away from me and all this sunshine and fine air are calling to me.  It is not to be wasted.  



Monday, February 19, 2024

Crayfish Culture


I made a mistake.  I bought fresh biscotti on sale at the grocers.  I don't want to drink the coffee now, just soak it up with biscotti until both are gone.  I'm a fool for breakfast starchy sweet things.  I have to stay away from them. 

But I often don't.  

They are one of life's little pleasures.  Indeed, if they didn't make me fat, they would be one of its great pleasures.  Life should have, absolutely, great pleasures.  So much. . . too much. . . of life is toil and dross. That's why people get pets, I think.  And. . . if I want to piss a lot of people off. . . children.  

I'll delete that before I post.  But if I had to choose. . . . 

No, I kid.  Children are great.  I enjoy the heck out of them.  They are a unique experience that makes you appreciate small things again.  Life through the eyes of a child and all that.  My problem is that I never outgrew "the eyes of a child."  I'm sort of like "Big," the movie.  At some point, my development just stopped.  Mental,  I mean.  My body keeps racing toward the grave.  

Yea, I'll delete all this before I post.  I can already feel the heat from my friends with grown children who are ready to lambast me.  Skewer me.  Admonish and berate.  Of course they love their children more than they love me.  Don't get between a grizzly and its offspring.  Try it and see.  

Jesus, that is not what I intended to write at all.  I was at dinner with my mother and cousin last night and the talk was of the hillbilly children.  Fucked up.  All of them.  Cognitive and personality disfunction galore.  Sometimes the State has to intervene.  I know your kids are not like that.  But, you know, you are bourgeois enough to be almost a conservative republican.  At least my hillbilly relatives wouldn't be able to tell the difference.  

Hey--maybe I am slouching toward what I had intended to write.  Or so it seems to me now.  This was supposed to be about dumbass me and my failures.  Not failures, exactly.  More like hillbilly insecurity.  Although, and this is big. . . I don't think real hillbillies feel insecurity so much.  They are belligerent and obstinate about people who are "uppity."  They are like Faulkner's Snopes family.  If you don't know them, you can learn a lot by reading "Barn Burning" (link).  It won't take you long.  It's short. . . but powerful.  Abner Snopes is a hideous, but if you read very, very closely, almost sympathetic character in a defiance to overlords and power, characterized by, "[a] stiff and implacable limp of [a] figure which was not dwarfed by the [mansion], for the reason that it had never looked big anywhere and which now, against the serene columned backdrop, had more than ever that impervious quality of something cut ruthlessly from tin, depthless, as though, sidewise to the sun, it would cast no shadow."

Damn, just looking back at that story gives me chills.  

After dinner last night, and after all the conversation about hillbilly troubles, I had to go to dinner with a friend.  More than an acquaintance but not an intimate so much.  The fellow who used to write for all the major publications is in town.  He's called and texted and left messages that we need to get together.  I, having suffered from the "Black Ass" for awhile now, had not responded.  But last night was his birthday, he said, and he was going to dinner with friends at a crawfish restaurant.  I felt I had no choice but to go.  It was dark, cold, and rainy, and I had taken a long schvitz late in the afternoon.  I had eaten dinner and now all I wanted to do was climb onto my couch, snuggle down with desert, and watch a little t.v.  

But I didn't do that.  I went to the crawdaddy place, a dumpy place that smelled of. . . you guessed it. . . crayfish.  I am not a fan.  Crayfish/crawfish/crawdaddies live in ditches, under rocks, in dirty water where they eat detritus.  It IS hillbilly food, or, at least, the food of the impoverished.  If you have never been poor or are not from a country family, you might not understand the taste for rabbit, squirrel, turtle, frogs. . . anything that you can get for free.  Crayfish, like redfish, taste so shitty they are prepared in a spicy mixture to disguise the taste.  Redfish were blackened.  That was the only way one could consume the shitty things.  But, and this is huge, the bourgeois "discovered" down-home cooking, and it became "a thing."  It is idiotic to order a good piece of fish blackened, but by the time the trend had trickled down to the hoi-polloi, that was always one of the options when ordering at chain restaurants.  

"And would you like your mahi baked, grilled, or blackened?"

Whatever.  Most of the fish, no matter what you are told it is, probably needs to be blackened to disguise the fishy taste of age, so. . . . 

When I walked in, the place was packed.  It was fairly large and looked like a cajun movie set.  The proprietors are Vietnamese who came from New Orleans, and about half the tables were populated by Asians.  I had to admit that the place had a particular scruffy charm.  I looked around for a bit before I found my friend at a table in the back with two other fellows.  I took a deep breath.  

"Here you go."

Introductions were brief.  My writer friend was with his media buddies, one an illustrator for Netflix, the other a filmmaker.  They'd all met when they were working in NYC.  My buddy still lives there, but he spends his summers in the Hamptons and much of his winters here.  The guys were nice and informal and the kibitzing started right away.  I can kibitz, so it seemed the night was off to a good start.  For some reason about which I didn't inquire, they were all drinking sweet tea.  Maybe one of them had a drinking problem, or maybe that's the thing to drink with boiled crawfish.  

I ordered a Heineken.  

The filmmaker seemed to be the knowledgeable one about cajun cooking, so when the waitress came to take the order, everyone deferred to him.  

"We'll have a large order of etouffée, two pounds of shrimp, two pounds of crayfish, and a couple orders  of the sausage."  

The fellows at the table nodded their approval.  

"Would you like that hot, medium, or mild?"

My writer buddy spoke up immediately.  "Mild," he said.  It was his birthday, so everyone said that was fine.  Except me. 

"What the fuck?  Mild?  Have you eaten crawfish before?  Do you know where they live, what they eat?  Where do you think they got these things, from some pristine river in the mountains?  They probably have a ditch outside where the breed them.  Mild?"

The filmmaker laughed.  

"They fly these in from New Zealand daily," he chuckled.  "These are gourmet crawdads."

"We just made a short film," the writer said motioning toward the filmmaker.  

"It was really a trailer for a film idea," the filmmaker said.  "He was in it," he said nodding toward the writer.  "He was pretty good."

"Do you have it on your phone?  Show it to him."

The filmmaker pulled out his phone and pulled it up.  It was difficult to hear, but the cinematography was really good.  The color lighting and camera movements were top quality and the color grading was superb."  

I nodded my approval when it was over.  

"That was really good. You need to play a private eye," I said to my buddy.

"Yea, he did a good job," said the filmmaker. 

"You need to dub over his voice, though," I said.  "He sounds like a Borscht Belt comedian."  

My buddy has a thick New York/New Jersey accent.  

"Yea, yea. . . ."  

I started asking the filmmaker technical questions.  What camera did he shoot on?  What did he use for his dolly shots?  What program did he edit on?  I was very curious.  You don't need a million dollars worth of equipment anymore to make video that looks good.  It amazes me how far the technology has come since I was doing it.  All my old docs look like tinny video shit comparatively.  Since I've been trying to do a little video now, I have been fairly lost in the technology.  I was sitting with people who were producing work for big media companies, not amateurs.  

The writer mentioned my background.  He's seen some of my big prints and told his buddies, I would imagine to enhance my credibility some, that I was a good photographer.  We talked of cameras.  We talked of lenses.  About these things I am knowledgeable.  

"But I recently started shooting with a little plastic lens," I said, "and I am wild for it."

"What do you shoot?" the filmmaker asked.  "People, landscapes. . . ?"

Just then, my hillbilly insecurities kicked in.  What did I shoot?  How in the fuck were we talking about this, talking about my "work" with people you could read in major publications, people whose work you could see in films and on t.v.?  My writer buddy is editing part time for a big art  book company right now.  What the fuck did I shoot?

"Right now. . . everything looks good with this lens.  I'm just shooting everyday stuff, flotsam and jetsam. . . ."  I pointed to the catsup bottle on sitting next to the hot sauce on the checkered plastic table cloth.  "This," I said, pointing.  I looked around the restaurant.  "Hell, just about anything in here."

I have been hot shit excited by what I've been doing lately.  I love the photo I've posted at the top of the page.  I love the look of the lens and of the treatment in post processing.  But. . . what am I doing?  I mean. . . how do I explain?  I was sitting with people who produced commercially, products for large markets.  Their work has to be perfect,  It has to be slick.  It has to have mass appeal.  I am a schlub, some fellow carving ducks in the garage.  

Just then I could feel the hillbilly arrogance welling up and I had to swallow it or I would become aggressive, caustic.  I would rip their shit to shreds.  Put 'em up.  

I used to do that, but I have mellowed over time.  I know now that if I weren't a lazy, arrogant hillbilly. . . . 

The night went on famously.  We laughed and talked and had fun.  My buddy's friends were nice guys, quick and witty, and they had good stories to tell.  When we looked around the empty restaurant long after dinner was eaten, it was time to leave.  

"Man, it was great that you came for my birthday.  Let's get together next week.  We can go get Kitty from the factory and take her to lunch.  Something."

"Yea, yea. . . I'll be in touch."

When I got home, it was past my bedtime.  I'd missed my comfy night on the couch.  The temperature was dropping, the rain falling.  I poured a whiskey and turned on the television.  I didn't pay attention to what was on, though.  I was thinking.  

"We should write a script.  We can make a film.  I might be able to hook you up with a travel publication.  Photos and words, you know?"

All I really wanted to do was go back to the restaurant and take a photo of that catsup bottle next to the hot sauce sitting on the plastic checkered table cloth with my plastic lens.  I don't know, man. . . I don't know.  

I don't know.  I don't know.  Here's the song.  Twisted hillbilly stuff.  You know?  


Sunday, February 18, 2024

I Don't Want Any Trouble

I'm going to watch what I say about Putin here.  You never know.  There are a lot of new Russian immigrants living in my state.  It doesn't take much to make a person disappear.  I mean, if the Free World, as we like to refer to it, is afraid to oppose Russia and our next president kowtows to Putin, who the fuck am I to be brave.  I don't want to end up like Navalny.  

I've been watching a lot of the testimony in the Willis/Wade inquiry.  Holy shit, Batman, what a bunch of halfwit shit has been going on there.  They are turning out to be every bit as shady as the Trumpeter.  The irony of Black History Month shouldn't be lost on anyone.  These have not been some upstanding characters.  Privilege and power corrupts, they say.  "They"?  You know. . . the experts.  I remember reading about that a lot in my psychology classes.  I'm not saying I would be above it.  Nooooo. . . not old C.S.  It's a bad old world.  My days of being an ideologue are long gone.  I no longer think the bourgeoisie are Spawn of Satan.  I'm not big on McDonalds and Taco Bell and the like, but I don't mind some of the things a bit up the ladder.  

There are plenty of Russian bourgeois.  Make no mistake about that.  The revolution. . . well, you've read "Animal Farm."  

I read this morning that Yale apologized for its role in slavery.  Now if Harvard will apologize for the Holocaust, we'll be a step closer to a better world.  When Putin and Trump apologize for. . . well. . . it could be a perfect world.  Maybe the state of Virginia will apologize for cigarettes and New Mexico for nukes.  

Etc. 

I'll apologize for anything.  Hell. . . I don't want any trouble.  I'm like Lenny Bruce and the torture bit (link).  There's no sense in being brave in a corrupt and fallen world.  I used to be a martyr.  I don't know why.  I may have given it up too late, but you know, it was never really my gig.  

More from the news.  

Who knew?  They seem fine.  I don't think we should blame the parents.  Plastics.  We know it is plastics that have caused all the damage.  I think Tupperware and Rubbermaid should issue some apologies as well.  

You might be able to tell that I am feeling more "myself" today.  I've been feeling like shit for days.  That left me last night.  I was blaming the crummy weather that has plagued us this winter, but now I am thinking I must have "had something."  Whatever it was, I'm happy to have a little relief.  

It rained all day yesterday.  I never left the house.  But I did decide to clean up some messes I had made and left lying since my birthday.  I cleaned out the refrigerator and threw away the science experiments, then swept the floor and cloroxed the counter tops and stove.  Then I loaded some film in the developing tank and processed it while music played.  Getting busy was a key to recovery, maybe, but the music helped, too.  I have eschewed music as much as I have friends of late, but my Apple station was hitting all the right notes.  

"She lives her life like the words in a song."  I wish I had written that.  Son Volt did.  Kind of.  That is not exactly what he wrote, but it is the way I would have written it.  It is a beautiful suggestion.  All the songs, really, that came across my speakers all day.

I cooked up more images.  I'm still liking "the look," but I am refining it a bit, too.  I'm working with two things now, really, the old Canon with the plastic lens attached and my medium format Fuji with its high res images.  I'm not exactly sure how I will use the camera yet.  The images are incredibly clean and sharp which is not the way I have always worked, but I will figure it out.  So far, I have not been mucking them up.  I am just shooting and thinking.  I'm sure that product and wedding photographers like the images just as they are, however.  For "straight" photography using a digital camera, they can't be beat.  

I know that should be "beaten" and not "beat," but I don't want to be a prick.  "Common usage" as the dictionaries have begun to say.  I'm just one of the "folk."  

O.K. then.  The outside world has lightened so that I can see the cloudy skies and falling rain.  Let me check the weather.  Yup.  Today will be dismal.  Not a day for roaming the streets with a camera.  But who knows.  I feel better, almost good, really, so I might be adventurous.  

But. . . I would like to apologize.  For everything, really.  The world is a pretty big mess.  I feel in large part responsible.  I can't pay any reparations, for I haven't Trump's money, but I am hoping that my apologies will succor some.  What can one do?  I suggest one listen to Dinah Washington on a Sunday in the rain.  She always makes me feel better.  


Saturday, February 17, 2024

When the Satellites Go Down


Russia is developing space nukes.  That's what they say.  They could use them to knock out communication satellites.  No more cell phones.  There goes the internet.  We'll be back to landlines and "snail mail."  That won't be "back" for those people born after 1990 or so, I guess.  No more electronic banking, either.  No Amazon shopping.  People will have to carry cash.  Tech companies would crash.  All those IT guys will be looking for jobs.  And. . . people will have to go to class once again.  

I don't know.  It doesn't seem all bad.  

The girl in the photo has never known a non-digital world.  When she's not taking orders at the Cafe Strange, in between customers, she is looking at her phone.  I wonder if she would take up board games or solving crossword puzzles if the satellites go down.  Maybe she'd learn to play card games while drinking martinis and eating finger sandwiches with the gang.  Or maybe she would take up fishing to wile away the time.  

I think she might go mad.  But, you know, people adapt.  Cribbage.  Gin rummy.  Parcheesi.  Bridge.  

Q called yesterday as I was having the usual Campari and soda on the deck.  He was happy and heading to a pub for a burger and beers to kick off his three day weekend.  I wasn't as upbeat as he was.  I wasn't feeling happy.  

"Hell man," he chided, "I thought you were all set with camera gear.  How can you not be happy?"

Of course he was being disingenuous.  Or I would think so, anyway.  

"Yea. . . I went out with them today.  I just didn't have it in me."

He changed the conversation to talk about his upcoming vacation.  He was fairly manic.  Me. . . not so much.  

He reached his destination quickly and said goodbye.  I decided I needed to get out.  I locked the house and drove up to what was once my favorite restaurant bar.  I wanted to get the very tasty shrimp tacos and see people.  It was early enough, I thought.  It was five.  But I was wrong.  The place has become too many people's favorite restaurant bar.  The parking lot was full.  The small bar would probably be, too.  I drove around the block and headed home.  Instead of shrimp tacos, I had cod, broccoli, and jasmine rice.  

An aborted mission.  A failed attempt.  What to do?  

I slipped from despondency to despair.  I need some victory, I thought, something to shake me out of this.  

Early bed.  A bad night.  Up long before dawn.  I've written and rewritten trying to find some spark.  Two hours later, the world outside transitions from black to gray.  The day will be a gloomy, rainy one.  I will go to the gym and stretch, ride the bike, take a schvitz. . . maybe that will help.  Then I'll call up my girlfriend and see if she wants to have a champagne lunch someplace then come back to my house, take off our clothes and. . . you know. . . cuddle and nap.  I'll burn incense and we'll eat goat cheese with fig. . . . 

Yea.  That's the ticket.  All I need to do is find her number.  Where in the hell's her number?  

I do get sweet messages all the time, though.  I wouldn't want you to think of me as a loser.  I get propositions.  Lots of them.  

"😘I'm looking for a man that'll like a relationship with me. I'm a gorgeous nerd that wants a local man so he's close to me.🌹📍 😘I wish to see you here❣ ."

I think I'll go back to bed now and see if I can sleep.  There is nothing that can't be done. . . tomorrow.  


Friday, February 16, 2024

Disappointment and the Void


I struggle again this morning with where to begin.  I began with a photo of the girl from the Cafe Strange and had an idea about what I wanted to say, but I have changed my mind.  I will write about me instead.  I went to bed with one thing on my mind but woke up with another.  Or nothing.  What seemed to be exciting in the evening was not so much before dawn.  Yup.  It is before dawn yet again.  I am longing to go back to bed.  


Whatever buzz I had going some days ago has been lost.  Or stolen.  Maybe it is the stars and moon or maybe it is some bad juju, but my mojo ain't working.  Yesterday, after waking to a throbbing pain in my shoulder and a kink in my neck and the ongoing trouble in my lower back, knee, etc, I decided to listen to my body's gripes.  

"You can't be twenty forever, dude."

"Forever 21?"

"Nope.  Forget about it."

I decided on a stretching workout.  No lifting.  No cardio.  Fuck it.  Just therapy stuff.  

My gymroid boys are not around.  Tennessee has been MIA since he went on a sailing trip in the Bahamas a couple weeks ago.  The rich car guy left on a skiing trip, and his buddy went to Vegas to see U2 in the new Sphere at the Venetian Resort.  And that one baffles me.  I can't understand the desire to do that at all, but I've known a couple of fellows now who have been excited to go.  All I can say is it's o.k. with me.  I guess U2 is like Wayne Newton and Carrothead now having residencies in Vegas.  Of the three, I'd rather see Newton, but that's just me.  

With everyone out, I figured to have a quiet, uneventful workout.  But just as I began, a woman came over to show me something on her phone.  She is the wife of the older gentleman in black with the white, wavy hair combed straight back.  He is in his 80s at least, but he is thin and trim and hasn't a line in his face.  I've been told he is a retired physician, but he looks kind of Mafioso.  He never says much, but he has "an eye for the ladies," as they say in Vegas.  He likes to tell them how pretty they are, and because of his age and demeanor, he gets away with everything.  He never says much.  He calls me "Baby."  Whenever he sees me, he lights up and says, "Hey, Baby," and we fist bump.  

His wife is quite a bit younger and has had some work done.  She is attractive in her own way.  One day she approached me.  She thanked me for being so nice to her husband.  

"He has dementia," she said.  "He can't really carry on a conversation."  

I was surprised.  "Oh. . . no need to thank me.  He's a swell guy.  Yea, we get along great."  

"I think he likes you because you remind him of his brother," she said.  "You look just like him."

It was she who approached me with the phone.  She had a photo of her husband's brother on the screen.  

"I wanted to show you. . . " she said.  

And indeed, he looked just like me and Tom and every other semi-handsome fellow with long hair and a slight beard.  He was a handsome Italian so I was flattered.  

She asked me if I had had my DNA tested.  I told her no.  She began to tell me the results of hers.  

"You must be a mix of Irish and Northern European," she proclaimed.  She is from Spain, but her tests showed she was a mix of Irish and Italian.  "That's probably why my husband and I were so attracted to one another."

"I probably have a lot of Neanderthal," I joked.  

"Well, we all do," she said.  

In a bit, the retired nurse I've known since my days doing yoga came over.  We were having similar issues that day.  

"My body's talking to me, too," she said.  She is finding it hard to be twenty/twenty-one as well.  We agreed we needed to adjust our minutes and be kinder to ourselves.  

After the gym, I showered and decided to take myself to lunch.  I needed to get out and have some fun.  I hadn't gone out for lunch for a very long time.  I decided on my favorite Italian place just up the street.  

I was lucky and found a parking place just a block away from the restaurant.  But that was the end of the luck.  As usual, I sat at the bar.  I was alone.  The big windows were closed.  It was fairly dark.  A man I did not like at all told me that a waitress would be with me shortly.  She was not the bartender.  There was none.  


I had come for the Calamari Luciana.  I ordered a glass of Sav Blanc.  Then I waited.  Forever.  There were few people in the restaurant, so it shouldn't have taken so long, but I heard the kitchen cutting up in loud. voices.  Drug addicts, I guessed, working the lunch shift.  Two silent big screen tvs hung above the bar playing some dumb ESPN sports show.  Flashing images kept drawing my involuntary eye.  I sat alone staring dolefully through the windows at the street.  

Eventually the calamari came. 


I took photos.  I wanted to share.   I texted to the void, nothing coming back in return.  This, friends, is not what I had had in mind.  

By two I was back home.  I decided to take a nap.  

When I got up, the rest of the day was boilerplate.  You know the drill by now.  

Suddenly, it is Friday.  I've been caught flatfooted.  The morning sky is gray.  The forecast for the weekend is rain.  I think I will make my own seafood stew.  And check my horoscope.  Perhaps I need a reading.  Deal the cards.  Toss the bones.  Show me the future in the bottom of a tea cup.  There is so little you can trust these days.  I'll heat essential oils with candles beneath old stone vessels.  I'll drink expensive wines.  And sleep.  I think I just want to sleep.  


Thursday, February 15, 2024

First the Pain, then the Suffering

Most days, nearly every, I post a photo on the blog page and then begin to write.  I try to choose a photo that is somehow inspirational to what I think I am about to say, or one, at least, given what I have to choose from, that doesn't get in the way.  But not today.  I don't know what I want to write about, only what I don't, and none of the photos in my desktop folder seem to fit.  I've been ordered out of bed far too early this morning by a throbbing pain in my right shoulder.  I tried for a long while to change positions, but nothing helped, so before five, I was forced to get up.  

That didn't help.  No matter what I do, the pain will not abate.  That is not the only pain, either.  I've put a kink in my neck during the night as well.  I'm fairly miserable.  

"Maybe you should take something."

Now there's an idea.  

If I'm going to take pain meds, though, I'll need to eat something first.  

O.K.  I know now which photo I will post.  

Done.  

I'm sure I will go back to bed in a bit if the pain subsides.  

Maybe Cupid tried to shoot an arrow through my heart last night but wavering, drunkenly missed and hit my shoulder.  Or maybe it was purposeful.  Cupid can be a fickle little imp.  

* * * 

I've eaten.  I made some peanut butter toast with honey.  Darn good, but my shoulder is still aching.  I will take the meds now and hope for some relief.  

This is what I didn't want to write about.  And so it goes.  Now, with the rising sun, I will take pills and hope to sleep. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

What's New?


As some of you may have pointed out, I forgot to mention Fat Tuesday.  Easy defense.  I'm not Catholic.  I didn't know it was Fat Tuesday until I was asked if I'd like to share a King Cake.  I didn't know what that was, either.  I like Catholicism, though.  It is truly stranger than fiction.  Inside the King Cake, I was told, is a little baby Jesus, and if you are the one who gets it, you have good luck and prosperity for the coming year.  

I miss out on all the good stuff.  

But I'm probably the only one here who didn't know that.  

Now another holiday that began with a Catholic martyr and became something like Mardi Gras in nature.  I mean, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with its origin. 

But I'm down.  

I drink Valentine red.  I'm a lover, that's why. Campari and Lillies.  So very romantic.  And that's me, ain't it?  Mr. Romance.  

So why are all the girls with other lovers and I am alone with Campari and Lillies and a cheroot?  What the fuck did I do?  

It beats me.  I think I'm pretty swell.  Circumstance, however, would suggest otherwise.  I am not counting on either Cupid or cards today.  It's o.k.  I was never good at celebrating on demand anyway.  I have always favored the spontaneous affair.  

As I lounge today without worry, all the boys who "the girls" have decided to favor over me must buy candy and flowers and jewels and plan expensive, romantic dinners out with their own true loves.  They'll wear their best smiles and coo their undying love.  And if they are lucky, things will go well and "the girls" will show off the symbols of love to their friends.  

"Oh, that's sooo niiice!  I looove that!  Bob got us a trip to Park City.  Yea. . . he's so sweet.  I'll tell you the truth, though. . . I'd rather be staying in a warm resort on the beach in Cabo. The whole skiing thing. . . but you know, Bob tries.  He is really sweet."

I was never so very good at it, I guess.  Some Valentine red hots and a red rose just doesn't cut it.  I understand.  

"What did you get Bob?"

Giggles. 

I'm guessing it wasn't flowers.  

Men are easy.  

I am, however, a cuddler.  Funny.  Even Blogger doesn't recognize the word.  It keeps taking away the "r".  

As Marlowe so famously says, "It's O.K. with me."  I'll buy my mother flowers today and make her a card, too.  Maybe we'll drink some Valentine wine as well.  

When I was a kid in school, we all brought shoe boxes and decorated them for V-day by cutting red and pink paper hearts and gluing them on with the big jar of Elmer's every classroom had.  We'd cut a slit in the lid so that people could slip a Valentine's card in.  We all got the same ones, big clear plastic bags full of little cards and two or three much larger ones sold in grocery and five and dime stores.  This was, in a sense, our version of social media because the stupid and ugly people didn't get so many cards in their boxes while pretty little Suzanne got all the big ones.  

"Did you put a card in Bebe's box?  You did, didn't you?  Hey. . . hey guys. . . guess who's in love with Bebe?"

Bebe had thick glasses, dressed in three generation handmedowns, and was the butt of all jokes.  I gave her a card because that is how my parents raised me and that is just the way I am.  

And so. . . I am sending you a Valentine, too.  No matter.  I'm just sweet like that.

What's new?



Tuesday, February 13, 2024

I'll Need Practice

I've been writing for an hour now.  I've deleted it all.  Twice.  I'm like a baseball player or a tennis player or a golfer who hasn't been practicing.  I keep swinging but I can't seem to hit the ball.  I've become that occasional duffer.  I have words but the narrative thinking seems rusty, retarded by disuse.  I'm dismayed.  

But I needed to take a break.  I was becoming neurotic and depressed, and there were many things coming up I just didn't want to write my way through.  So I took to The Bat Cave.  I think, however, that I am coming back too soon.  I would have liked to avoid Valentine's Day, too.  

But I haven't been sleeping.  I wake most mornings somewhere around four.  That was the case today.  What does one do in the dark if one isn't writing?  You can't make pictures, and the daily news isn't quite out yet.  One has a strong desire to confess when it's dark.  

So. . . what has happened while I've been away.  That's the question I want to answer.  Or maybe it's the question I want answers to.  I've not created the narrative, though.  Let's explore.  

I ate badly.  Hot dogs.  Chips.  Take out fast food sandwiches.  Coca-cola.  Chocolates, cookies, ice creams, and cake.  

I went to the liquor store for the first time in six or seven weeks.  I was buying whiskey.  Scotch whiskey.  WTF?!!!  What happened while I was away?  The price had gone way up!  

I would have to quit drinking scotch.  Maybe I'd go back to cheap rum as in my days of sailing and youth.  

I bought the scotch.  

I watched t.v.  I rewatched "The Long Goodbye" and "Swingers."  

I slept poorly. 

I took my camera into the streets.  I have gone mad for that cheap plastic lens on my old Canon camera.  Everything looks like a picture again.  Something changed.  The camera no longer felt like a foreign object.  It was like an organic extension of my hand.  People were intrigued. 

"What kind of camera is that?  It's cool."


One day as I walked early morning on a semi-deserted street in Gotham, a family walking toward me began to speak.  I didn't understand what they were saying and I responded in some guttural way that might have unconsciously been mimicking what I heard.  They all smiled in anticipation, formed a semi-circle around me, and began talking again.  Oh.  They were foreign.  I stood still and grinned like an idiot looking back into those expectant eyes.  Then the leader of the group spoke to me in English.  

"Are you. . . ."  He said a name I didn't know.  

"No." 

The family began to look disappointed but were still smiling, if a bit weakly.  

"You look just like a famous Latvian star," the man said.  

"I sure hope he is famous for being handsome," I joked.  

I wished them a good day.  

Later, at the gym, a woman I have seen there for years approached me.  She is an actress you wouldn't know unless you watch The Hallmark Chanel, I think, but I'm not sure.  People in the gym treat her as a celebrity, and that is the only way I know what I know about her.  She never speaks to me and doesn't seem to like to look my way.  This day, however, she walked up to me and said, "I think I have finally figured out who you are.  Is your name Tom?"

"No," I said.  She began scrolling on her phone.  She pulled up a photo and showed it to me.  I laughed.  

"Oh. . . that's very flattering.  I know Tom.  We've bee friends for years."

"I don't really know him.  I mean, we run in the same circles, you know. . . being in the same business. . . but I don't really see him. . . ."


Twice in the same day, I'd been confused for other people.  Famous people.  

That day was my birthday.  I wanted to avoid it.  I had received two birthday cards that week, one from the attorneys who took care of my legal woes after I got run over, the other from "Bradley's," a bar in Palm Beach.  They have sent me a free drink card every year now since the '90s when it was still in its original speak easy location.  Not so many others remember any more.  I mean, I used to get one from a car dealership, too.  

I got a text from Sky.  She sent an audio recording in which she tried to sing "Happy Birthday" with a sore throat.  So there was that.  Five women I worked with at the factory sent birthday wishes, too.  Three of them do not work there anymore.  

Was I miffed about it?  Had I wanted to be a martyr?  Didn't I want to be totally shunned and forgotten?  Either that or for the entire world to stand still. One was a lot easier than the other.  

My mother wanted to cook me dinner.  We cook dinners all the time.  I didn't want to do that.  I told her it wasn't important, that I would stop by and see her as usual.  She wasn't having it, though.  O.K. I said.  We can have lunch at the Olive Garden.  That lasted most of the day.  My mother and cousin came back to my house afterwards.  I guess it felt somehow mandatory that they sit with me on "my special day."  It was fair torture.  I poured a deep whiskey.  My mother gave me a card and cash.  It was a pretty sun  Hmm.  Maybe I would spend it on getting younger.  

I had intended to be out of town, but the liars at the Weather Chanel had talked me out of it.  They were wrong, of course.  The days were magnificent.  I should have gone.  

A package arrived.  Sweet things.  Someone brought me flowers.  

Darkness came.  The day was done, at least in that way.  I had gotten through it.  

I remembered a birthday long, long ago.  I had worked all day and that night I was teaching a class at a satellite campus in a strip mall.  I was alone that year and was going home to dog.  Not even my mother had remembers my birthday.  As I walked to my car in the dark parking lot, a woman approached me with a big bouquet.  She was a former student from a few years before.  I felt disoriented.  She looked a bit nervous when she smiled and handed the flowers to me.  

"I remembered that today was your birthday," she said.  I was dizzy with it.  How could she. . . ?

"Thank you," I said.  "I am overwhelmed."

She said some nice things before she turned for her car.  That is one of the few birthdays I remember.  

Every day, I was making pictures.  I would sit at the computer for hours trying to get a vision.  Photographs are taken and then they are made.  In the old days, prints were manipulated in the darkroom.  Today they are worked in the computer.  Like my old Polaroid thing, though, I wanted a signature look.  


Everything was coming out noir.  I was turning the city into Gotham.  The vision, I thought, was dark and delicious and beautiful.  I shall stopper my ears to the critics, I thought.  I will keep working.  

Sunday was the Super Bowl.  I would have to watch it, I thought.  It was a mistake.  They played football for 75 minutes.  The broadcast took over 240.  The NFL is not a sports company.  It sells the idea of a sport, but it is a business, and crass commercialism has taken over the game.  I watched the whole thing, but when I went to bed, I didn't sleep.  I woke far too early in the morning and felt like shit all day.  I had been poisoned by commercials, I thought.  I didn't understand most of them.  What were they advertising?  One seemed to be advertising mullet haircut.  Another made fun of people who play pickle ball as being feeble.  There were lots of celebrities.  Celebrity rules.  I think it fucked up my commercial-free brain.  

Someone texted me that the halftime show was good.  Usher.  This was my first exposure to him.  

"Were I 13 and gender confused, this would be the music I would listen to," I replied.  

I don't think I'll watch another Super Bowl.  

I slept most of Monday away.  I am a hermit.  I cancelled out on meeting the kid from L.A. who is in town for a few more days saying I would see him when he comes back.  I cancelled a photoshoot with a woman.  I just couldn't deal right now.  I don't think I want to get back into that again.  I have projects in mind, especially suited to my new treatments.  I was supposed to shoot a burlesque show.  I thought it was Monday, but it was on Sunday during the Super Bowl.  I cancelled that, too.  It was a mistake.  I should have gone.  

Maybe I'll walk into a boxing gym today with my camera.  

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

"Get the fuck outta here, faggot!"

I thought I would be better with a few days off.  It doesn't seem, though, as if I'm much improved. Quite the opposite, really. 

I'm going back to bed now.  At least there is that.