Tuesday, November 21, 2017

There Was That

That's what I'm talking about!

Yesterday started to be an extension of the weekend with all of its sloth and catatonia.  I woke early as is my wont, and did my usual, reading, writing, (and very little arithmetic), and when all of that was finished, I thought to begin organizing the study which has become a pile of photo gear, negatives, prints--anything that I don't know where to put--but that turned into working at the computer and processing some scanned images that have been ignored for awhile.  And that was fun, but in some ways it was just more catatonia and sloth.  The day, the beautiful day, was dribbling away.  I forced myself to move.  I took out the garbage, put some clothes in the wash.  I got dressed for the gym.  I would do that, get some sun by the pool, then pull weeds for a bit.  That is what I said.  But when I got to the gym, it was late and I had to wait for three fellows to finish up on the equipment I wanted to use, and then the sky turned cloudy, and so I decided when I had finished my workout that I would be better off just pulling weeds.  When I got home, however, pulling weeds was not appealing for it was past lunchtime and I hadn't eaten anything, and I was getting shaky with hunger, so I showered and shaved and put on my day clothes.  On my way out the door, I grabbed my camera bag then climbed aboard the scooter and headed to the Boulevard.

The Boulevard was surprisingly busy for a Monday afternoon.  "Is this what I am missing every day?" I wondered.  "While I sit in my veal pen at the factory, everyone is having fun."

The good thing about a scooter is that there is never trouble parking.  I pulled up next to the restaurant where I would eat, grabbed a camera out of the bag, and started snapping pictures.  Inside, I ordered my usual veggie/tuna pita with papaya juice and sat at the bar at the window facing the street.  I love watching the crowds go by, a thousand stories barely told waiting to be plumbed--by me.

Belly full, I was getting a bit of the old food torpor which worked to my benefit, I think, for I strolled slowly and made some photographs in my own hometown.  This is not a good idea for many reasons. I am known, maybe too well-known, for I have been here for decades, one of the few people who do not look like the republican crowd among whom I have chosen to live, and I have run with a group of the town's most colorful characters.  People I don't know often stop me and ask me questions about my life, usually some distant thing, which shocks and confuses me.

"Where's your dog?"

My dog died many, many years ago.  Sometimes they ask me if I am going to get another dog.  Or they'll ask me about the Jeep or they will tell me they've seen me someplace.  I grin, hoping it doesn't come off as a grimace, and nod my head and tell them it was great to see them.

"Who in the hell. . . ."

My point being, we are observed even when we don't know it.  And so, I'd rather go some distance than shoot in my own hometown.  But with the food torpor and all, I was just slow and having fun as the sun shone between clouds making interesting patterns on the cafe tables and their patrons like some Parisian movie set.

But it would not be good to linger too long, I thought, and so I headed back to my Vespa.  The night before, I told myself that I would go to the city's downtown and wander with a camera--but would I?  I thought of many reasons to go home.  I could take a nap.  I could work at cleaning up the office.  I could. . . I could. . . .

I drove slowly toward the house trying to make a conscious effort to turn toward the city.  One street, then another, and then a main drag.  I dreaded going, but I drove on, a physical anxiety taking hold.  And then I was there.  Park, get off the bike, pick up the camera bag, pull one out, get ready, one, two, three, walk.  Shaky legs.  Instead of shooting from the waist, I would put the camera to my eye.  I wanted to be Lee Friedlander, Saul Leiter.  I shot through windows, shot reflections.  I came upon a woman in a big open mall outside an office building who was wearing bright red knee boots and talking on her phone.  I walked up, smiling, giving the slightest wave of my camera.  She smiled back.

"I want to take a picture of those boots.  Is that O.K.?"

She nodded and continued talking on the phone.

"This man just came up and is taking pictures of my boots.  I bought these in New York months ago, but today's the first day it has been cool enough to wear them.  I love these boots.  Yes. . . ."

I squatted down and took some pictures, then smiled and gave her a fist bump.  I walked away and looked at what I had shot.  The pictures weren't very interesting, really, but I was happy.  When was the last time I asked a stranger if I could take a picture?  I walked on between tall buildings as the light played peak-a-boo behind white, puffy clouds.

I walked by the window of a Starbucks and saw my reflection overlay the people inside.  I stepped up to the glass--click.  I saw a man in a suit standing inside a large glass lobby, but his look did not invite me to raise my camera.  Onward.  People at a bus stop.  Another window and a man in a cook's hat carrying pots.  People walking through the light.  A woman sitting on the ground, an amputee.  I stopped for a minute.  She was hungry, she said.  She just needed something to eat.  I had no cash.  I looked around.  There was a cafe across the street.  I asked her what she would like to eat.  Anything. I told her I'd be back with food.  We chatted.  I asked her if I could take one picture, and I felt guilty about that, but I wanted to remember her.  In a bit, I returned with food.  She was sincere in thanking me.  Her smile was real.

That about took it out of me, so I headed back to the scooter.  I realized I was happy.  Everything was new.  There seemed potential everywhere.

The afternoon was getting late, the early dark coming earlier in the canyon of the city.  I put my camera in the case and got on the bike.  I decided to take a different way home, and in a few blocks I came upon some newish, fashionable buildings, new apartments, new businesses and restaurants.  Then I saw the photo gallery that I had never been to, a companion to one that I have.  I parked the bike and walked into the building.  A fellow sitting at a reception desk in a bright lobby asked if he could help me.  I wanted to go the gallery, I said.  He nodded.

It is a good gallery of famous photographers, prints selling for $1,200 and up.  I walked around the photographs listening to the urban club music that was piped throughout the building.  I saw more photographs across a hallway and timidly walked over.  A sharp fellow came out of a glass walled office and asked me if he could help me find something.  I said I thought there were more photographs out here.  He said there were two more galleries down the hallway and made a gesture.  It was a strange configuration, white door after white door in a white hallway, all closed with no identifiers except office numbers and peepholes.  The music followed me as I walked into what seemed a movie set, maybe from "Brazil."  But twice the hallway opened up into a bright gallery with windows giving out to the street that in the fading light was serene.

Back outside, I looked in the little wine shop next door and peered into a tearoom that was closed.  I had stumbled onto something by accident, a part of town of which I was unaware, a piece of D.C. or Chicago or New York.  Fuck me, I thought.  Fuck me.

I decided to stop at the Cafe Strange on the way home to write and have a beer.  I sat down and pulled  out my camera and looked at the images on the little screen.  Some of the ones I thought would be good were not, but surely there was one or two that would make me happy-ish.  It didn't matter, though.  I was already happier than I had been.  For now, there was that.

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