Sunday, November 26, 2017

Daily Affirmation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What the fuck you doing?"

That's the way dumb fucking white boys think.

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

"Well, the kids."

"Are you a photographer?"

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

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

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

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

"O.K.  Hold still."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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