Friday, November 24, 2023

Into the Dwindling Future

This is why I give up on the Liberator so often.  There is no way I messed up focus this badly.  And are those water spots on this or what?  Still, you know, I can't say I hate it.  It has a certain charm.  It does, just not the one I intended.  

I will go back and try it again.  

That is not the only fuck up of the day, but I will get to that.  There were a lot of fuck ups on Thanksgiving.  Nothing major, just the run of the mill stuff.  

The day did not begin well.  I woke up at four a.m.  I lay in bed another forty minutes or so hoping to get back to sleep, but that never happened.  I had been looking forward with enthusiasm to the day the night before.  I had plans.  But when I got out of bed, I felt wobbly.  Surely it was just a lack of sleep?  I struggled through the morning reading the news and sending out T-day greetings.  Since I was up before everyone else, I was first out of the gate.  I read, I wrote, I drank coffee.  Then I decided to pack up the Liberator and some film cameras and head out for a little photo safari.  

I was, however, still feeling wobbly.  

Mr. Skeleton here was my first stop.  I was driving down a street with no parking when I saw it.  I almost let it go for that reason, then I thought if I did, I would be doing the same thing all day--just letting things go--so I pulled over on a side street, packed up my big ass-camera, and walked back to the house.  I framed and metered and shot, packed up my shit, and walked back to the car.  And just as I got there, I wondered, "Did I set the aperture before I shot?"  What the hell?  I couldn't remember doing that.  I almost got into the car hoping I did, but I thought if I did that, I would be "hoping" I didn't make mistakes for the rest of the day.  I walked back and took a second picture.  That is the one you see above.  

By god, though, I am absolutely sure I focused the camera.  This is ridiculous.  

But at the time, I was proud of myself.  I was a REAL PRO working for the shot.  

I got into the car and drove toward Gotham.  When I got to the lakeside park, there were few people around.  All the shops and restaurants were closed.  But I saw something I wanted to photograph back on the street.  What the hell.  I pulled to the curb and went back.  Measure exposure, frame, focus, SET THE APERTURE, and shoot.  Yea, baby.  I was getting this shit down.  

When I walked back to the car, I paused for a second.  Maybe I'd just walk out into the park and see what happened.  I was standing next to one of those Jesus Saves groups when one of the women asked about my camera.  

"Wow.  Look at that.  That's a really old camera, isn't it?"

I explained to her and her friend that the camera was old and the lens was old but that the camera was rebuilt for me.  Then I asked them if I could take their picture with it.  


This was great.  I stood back to make sure I had them in frame.  I metered the light, then I focused.  I mean I REALLY  focused.  I knew I had something here.  I did everything perfectly, I was sure.  I could feel greatness coming my way.  

As you see, their faces are blurred.  The faceplate of the lens was built to allow some tilt action.  What happened here is that the lens was not parallel, so their feet are in focus but their faces are not.  

When I turned around, there was a man standing behind me.  He was admiring the camera and was curious as to how it worked.  I showed him the camera and then asked him if I could photograph him.  He first demurred, but then he said O.K.  

Man, I thought, this is great.  I stepped back, read the meter, framed, focused and shot.  Again, I was cooking.  Sure, this was just practice, but it wasn't just practice with the camera.  I was interacting with the crowd again, developing my photo personality, getting my street cred together, so to speak.  

But. . . here again. . . same fucking thing!  The middle of his jacket is perfectly focussed, but his face is all fuzzy.  Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.  

But I didn't know any of this at the time.  I had given both the Bible Women and the Man in the Jacket my phone number and said to let me know if they wanted copies of the pictures.  Cool.  I decided to step out into the park to have a little look/see.  Maybe there would be more curious people.  As I stood and looked out across the lake, I decided to make another photograph.  It was a nothing photo, but that happens a lot.  Everyone takes dumb pictures.  

So. . . the throw away photo comes out best.  The Walking Man is tack sharp.  The exposure was good.  So, the technically good photo is as boring as chewing paper.  

I took more photos.  I drove.  I stopped.  I made more than the four exposures I said I would make each day.  It was noon.  I decided to drive home and develop the film.  

I was still wobbly.  

When I got back to the house and brought the things in from the car, I grabbed my developing tank and the newly shot film and headed to the garage and the changing tent.  I mixed my chemicals.  But I wasn't quite ready to start.  I decided to make a Bloody Mary first.  WTF, right?  It was Thanksgiving and I hadn't a thing all day.  It was time to toast the millions of turkeys who had given their lives to make this the day it was.  Too late, I remembered to take a photo.  I'd already eaten the olives and celery.  Still. . . .

I decided to make another.  This time, I'd photograph it. 

Proud, you know, I had sent the pics around.  Sky texted me.  "You'll be sleepy by 3."

The developing tank holds four sheets of film at a time.  I developed the first four and hung them to dry.  I got the exposures pretty good.  I couldn't wait to scan them.  I went back to the garage and loaded four more.  When I hung them, they, too, looked great.  I was going to be a happy boy, I was certain.  

I decided to take a soak and a shower.  When I was finished, I had about half an hour before I needed to be at my mother's.  Sky was right.  I was sleepy.  I lay on the couch and closed my eyes.  When I opened them, it was three.  I grabbed the champagne and drove over to see mom.  

When I got there, she was raring to go to the neighbors.  I said it was a bit too early.  They said four.  So I took her outside and got the big assed Liberator and put her on the sidewalk in the sun.  Meter, compose, focus, shoot!  Yea, yea. . . another masterpiece.  

Still, we got to the neighbor's house early.  I think my mother just wanted to get this over with.  I was anxious to open the champagne.  I was fading.  When we walked into the neighbors' kitchen to smell the food, I was trying to pull the cork out of the bottle first thing.  Struggling.  

"Give that to Dan," the hostess said.  "He can get it out."

I looked at her sternly.  "Who do you think you are talking to?" I shouted.  I gave a big pull.  Then another.  Shit.  What if I DID have to give it to Dan?  I wiggled the cork around and pulled once more.  I felt a little progress.  One, two. . . POP!

"Give it to Dan my ass," I said!  Indeed.

She looked at me and laughed.  

But oh, brother, that champagne was good.  The host wanted to put some juice in it.  

"No. . . no. . . ."

These were practical people.  They did now spend their money on good champagne.  Prosecco mimosas, of course.

I handed around the glasses and we made a toast.  Holy smokes!  Even my mother loved the champs, and she doesn't know shit from Shinola about wine.  I wished I had bought a case.  

The hostess' phone rang.  Her husband handed it to her.  

"It's her boyfriend," he said.  

It turned out that she had invited some fellow from her hair salon to come to dinner.  He was young and away from home.

"You'll like him," she said.  "You'll get along."  

It was past four and it didn't look like we'd be eating any time soon.  I was going to need to keep making cheap conversation for quite awhile.  I was wearing out.  

Finally the fellow showed up.  The hostess took him on a tour of the house.  The host came in and out of the living room from the kitchen.  My mother and I sat watching the giant t.v. that was blaring a football game nibbling on cheese and crackers.

Skip ahead.  The champagne gone, the host broke out the cheap Prosecco.  Dinner was pretty awful, too, the turkey flavorless and dry.  I ate the vegetables soaked in fat.  

By the time I got home, I was feeling it was time for bed.  It was seven.  I poured a scotch.  I am not an all day drinker, but I was this day.  I was feeling it.  I lit a cheroot and went to the deck to drink and smoke and think in the dark.  The little feral came out of nowhere and curled up on the mat in front of the door.  This tickled me.  She hangs around all the time now.  It pleased me so much, I sat outside in the cooler air wanting another drink but not wanting to disturb her.  Finally, though, I said, "Honey, I've got to go in."  She moved.  I felt badly.  But as I poured my drink, I saw that she came back to lay on the doormat.  Poor kid.  

It was time to scan. . . and to have my heart broken.  I couldn't believe it.  I was pissed.  I was sick.  I sent copies of the scans to the people I photographed with apologies.  Then I sent the pics to the fellow who made my camera and asked him if it would be hard to just fix the lens board in place with no tilt.  This was happening to me al the time now, and it was breaking my heart.  

A few late texts came in.  Dinners were eaten, drinks were drunk.  People had been with their families.  I'd been with mine, too, but my mother and I agreed that the dinner had sucked as had the night.  

"Who wants to eat that late?" we both asked.  Thanksgiving dinner, not supper.  Fuck that, we said.  We'd do our own next year.  

So the day was a smashing failure, I'd say.  I'm committed, however, to making four pictures a day with that big-assed Liberator.  I'm going to do it until I can do it right.  The thing is a monster and a curiosity piece, and people like it.  I have project ideas if I can ever get the shit right.  Big ideas.  Big plans.  

It is Friday morning now.  I have fed the cat.  She sits on the mat looking through the bottom panes of glass in the door at me.  That is what I have.  An alley cat and a camera that is killing me.  It is Christmas time now.  Christmastime?  One word?  Spell check says so.  Spellcheck?  

I degreed in Lit, not spelling and grammar.  

Now. . . onward into the dwindling season.  

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