It's not you. . . it's me. I'm trying. It's not that I am not trying, but things just keep falling into the shitter. So to speak. The world dances and spins, I assume, like the dervish it has always been, but I don't seem to be part of that dance. I wrote "of late" but "late" is relative now. I mean the last couple years or so. I don't remember them. They blur together like a smear. The years are simply gone. I'm covered in forest growth. . . mushrooms, liverworts, algae.
I spent the day working out photo gear for shooting strobes with the new camera. I unpacked much stuff from the studio, boxes that have not been opened for six years or so. I've had trouble getting all the connectors right, but finally, yesterday, I got things working. I wanted to test the system, but I had nobody to photograph, so I set up a stick in a chair to approximate the height of a person so I could get an idea of what distance I would need for framing with different lenses on the Chamonix 4x5. I found some old Fuji instant 4x5 film and the instant film holder so that I could see the results right away. After a half day of futzing with things, I made a picture.
Like I said, it's not you. . . it's me. Maybe I've made a mistake in dedicating myself to the large format cameras until I have the entire process down pat as I don't make enough pictures to keep up with the blog. Oh, I have billions of old photos, but I want to present The World Today. I'm just embarrassed by what I have been making, so empty, so hackneyed and so bad.
There it is--the result of a half day's work. No. . . maybe more as I had to do what I do with the instant film in order to scan it and get "the look." I spent an hour or so last night with the two pieces of film I shot. Yea. . . I'm really fucked.
After all that, it was day's end and time to go "party" with the factory group. I hardly ever feel any lonesomeness in life, but just recently, probably when I started working on the deck and after, I have felt pangs of it. I reckon that much of it had to do with falling ill and falling prey to the darkest of thoughts from which their was no one to distract me. You know the drill.
"Oh, honey, I love you so much. Can I get you something to make you feel better? You want some soup? No? Gatorade? Do you want me to put on some gentle music? O.K. I'll just rub your head. Go to sleep. You need rest."
That sort of thing. It is a weakness, I know, and life isn't like that, but after years of isolation in my own home, my imagination tells me that this is what everyone but me has to palliate the unease of living in The Time of Covid.
Still, as mentioned in the prior post, I was anxious about going to happy hour. My social skills are worse than ever, and they were never really very good to begin with.
It turned out that the group was inside a restaurant/bar. The place we were supposed to meet across the street hadn't opened yet and it was really too hot to sit outside they said, so we mingled with the Covid Crowd. I calculated the odds. Fifty in one hundred thousand people have Covid at the present time in my county according to the N.Y. Times. So double that. A hundred in one hundred thousand, or ten in ten thousand, or one in a thousand. I estimated there were one hundred different people in the bar from the time I got there to the time I left. I figured I had a one in one hundred chance of becoming infected. Not great odds.
Maybe that affected me. The group was sitting at a line of tables, one of those setups where you were only going to be able to talk to the people in your immediate vicinity. And the place was like an echo chamber. It was insanely loud. A one man band began to set up about twenty feet from us. The whole thing was, for me, a horror show, and the funny thing was it served to exacerbate rather than ease my loneliness. The heat and the noise drained me of energy. I struck up conversation with the people across the table, but I my voice wouldn't work. I don't know if it was caused by the almost total disuse of my vocal cords on a day to day basis or if I was just getting an old man's voice, but I had to give up out of embarrassment. So I sat and smiled and drank a beer like a man who is deaf and dumb. Once in awhile, someone would make eye contact with me and I would grin and nod like an idiot.
I should say, the afternoon was dissatisfying. It dumped me deeper in the well.
Having had but a glass of wine in the past five days, when I returned home, I said fuck it and poured a whiskey, the alcoholic's only friend. Or so, sometimes, it seems.
On a grand scale, I'd say my life has come to seem very meaningless. I thought maybe I could produce my way out of this state, but I am producing nothing. I'm standing in quicksand watching the world rise above me.
Today is Friday. People are happy. They will go out without fear, without Covid trepidation, as couples or in groups of seekers, eyes dancing around various rooms, shouting, laughing, or leaning close to one another over dinner. I don't know. I can't remember. I? I will go to the gym, come home and shower, eat a small lunch, then drive to my mother's house to take her to a doctor's appointment. When that is done, I will take her home and sit with her for a bit. When I leave, it will be just shy of dinner time. I will go to the grocers and get vegetables and a bottle or two of wine. Later, I will cut and season the vegetables and put them on the grill. I will pour a glass of wine and light a cheroot and sit out on the deck keeping eye on the grilling vegetables. That is, if the weather permits. If it doesn't, I will grill in the oven and turn on the television. I will have eaten well before dark. I will read and wait for darkness. Later, alone, I will roll into bed.
I'm the only one in the world who has gone nowhere. My mother went to an AARP meeting the other day, and later she told me that she was going to sign up for one of their trips to Miami and Key West. Jesus Christ! Even my 90 year old mother!
A funny takeaway from yesterday's happy hour. It is an educated group of people with grad degrees, mostly Ph.D.s. One fellow who just married one of my old friends from the factory (and one of my first models) teaches at the university. I don't know him very well as I only see him at these happy hour meetings. He asked me how I liked retirement. I went into my usually litany of complaints.
"It hasn't been much fun."
He asked me how I spent my time, if I had a routine. I said, "I guess. I get up, make coffee, and write. Then I get ready and go to the gym. I come home and take a shower, make lunch, then take a nap. When I get up, it is time to go to my mother's house. After that, I come home, make dinner. . . ."
"What do you write," he asked. "Are you writing a novel?"
If ever I say I write, this is the question I'm asked.
"Oh. . . so you're just writing for yourself?"
There it is, the second question. His wife is starting a writing group with another of the factory workers who has a Ph. D in literature. They will meet and talk about their writing, give encouragement, and will provide prompts for those who cannot think of where to begin.
I can't imagine.
I am shy about saying I "write." How can I possibly explain. I am pretty sure I can write. I think I've developed a voice and a certain if not distinct style. But to what end? It is to no end. It is just writing, carving something out of the everything, holding on to a little bit of nothingness.
"Well," I said with great trepidation, "I've been writing a blog for many years."
Why? Why did I say it? It only invites more questions that I have to deflect, and immediately I am sorry.
But the questions linger.
"So you just put down random thoughts?"
Later, I wish I had said, "but I have a narrative mind. It all goes together, and sometimes, even if others don't notice, the writing is crafted. There are beginnings and endings often and sometimes things that are strongly symbolic. I mean, man. . . I can turn a mean trope."
Such cawing, however, is unseemly.
Last night when I worked on that hideous picture of the chair above, I also worked on an old file from the studio. It turned out lovely, but it is the kind I no longer show here any more. The market for such things has dried up. It's o.k. but I need to make something new. Yes, I may be making a mistake with this large format stuff, at least in deciding to not use any other format cameras. I'm feeling very stymied.
My voice would not work in the bar. I'm not sure. . . well, you know. . . if a tree falls in the woods. . . .