Monday, November 6, 2023

Lights, Cameras, Action!

Tried to break the funk.  Early Sunday morning--later because of the time change--I grabbed two film cameras that each had half a roll of film that needed to be shot and made my way to downtown Gotham.  My knee and my ribs hurt, but I was in no hurry, so I parked at the far end of the city's major street and limped my way into action.  And holy smokes, the light was incredible.  I don't know that I have ever seen that kind of light in Gotham before, just brilliant and luminescent.  I first shot with a camera that had a dead battery that I couldn't change until I had finished the film, so I had to guess at all the settings.  When that was done, I switched to my Leica M7.  And when that was done, I shot with my phone.  Downtown was busier than I thought on a Sunday morning, and it is sure to change more as they build giant apartment buildings that reach for the sky.  Sooner or later, the poor and rowdy tattooed crowd will be replaced.  But not yet.  One bar was already rocking.  I could hear the sounds of English soccer spilling into the streets.  

I discovered something yesterday about shooting reflections.  I have never been good at it, but now I know I have been going about it all wrong.  You shoot on the dark side of the street, not the bright side.  Counter intuitive for me, but it worked like a charm.  The photo above was taken with my phone and is an example.  I would set up to shoot into a storefront and wait for someone to walk by.  This fellow is looking at the back of my head.  I had no idea it would work so well when I was shooting with the film cameras, but as soon as I used the phone, I could see instantly that it did.  Lordy, Lordy, Lordy. . . I learned something new.  

But that is not all I shot.  The light was so brilliant and the sky so clear that everything looked photogenic.  Now this place used to be called The Firestone.  It was an old tire shop from "back in the day" that had been converted into a nightclub.  The owners left up the original sign for years until they were force to take it down.  Now this is understandable as the club was a drug magnet in its heyday.  I shouldn't try to tell the history of it here as I never went.  Clubbing was never my scene.  But as I remember, it started out as a gay club, then Q and his crowd took over and it became the start of the electronic music scene.  It is hard for people to believe, but that DID all start right here.  Rolling Stone Magazine once had a big article about it all.  This is where Q got tight with Sasha and Digweed and Jimmy Somebody and then his own disc jockeying career began.  O.K.  d.j career.  I have never been able to figure out the difference.  You take other people's music and play it for a crowd, just a small one in a club instead of for broadcast.  Like I say, I have never understood the whole thing, but those boys made a shit ton of money.  And in truth, the music they played in the clubs sounded much like the dance music I would hear in gay clubs.  

"What?  You went to gay clubs?  I thought you were never a clubber?"

"Oh. . . I used to go to Key West a long time ago.  It was inevitable." 

The fellow who owned The Firestone was largely responsible for the scene.  I never liked him, but others thought him swell.  He used to throw wild parties at his house that were the stuff of gossip and legend, and one of his buddies was a writer for the newspaper.  He was a very tall fellow with long hair and was responsible for covering the city's social scene.  His girlfriend was tall as well, and very pretty, and the two of them were easily recognized and were treated like royalty.  The girlfriend was working at a sushi restaurant when I met her.  She was really something.  She liked me a lot until her boyfriend got a job in NYC writing for Maxim.  She decided then that she liked him well enough and moved to the city with him.  Meanwhile, the fellow who owned the club got convicted of doctoring a million dollar McDonald's lottery card and eventually he lost everything.  Now the place is called The Vanguard Theater, and it Loves America.  

Q will call me and correct this whole story, I'm certain.  Not all of it.  He had already moved to NYC by the time it all fell apart, I think.  By then he was World Wide.  

I'll keep you updated.  

When I finished up in Gotham, I headed to the grocers to get the ingredients for dinner--four chicken thighs and eight chicken legs, a pack of fifteen mixed beans, carrots, potatoes, yellow onions, and peas.  It all went into the InstaPot with salt, pepper, red pepper, and wine.  Once it was cooking, I mixed up some chemicals for developing the film I had just finished.  I hadn't done this for a long while.  Off to the garage and the dark tent to load the film onto reels and into the tank.  Of course, that went badly.  The film had been in the camera so long, some of it had a backwards bend.  I was having the deuce of a time loading it onto the reels.  The reels are metal and may have gotten bent, but I struggled for a long while.  Time was running short.  I had told my mother I would pick her up at four to take her to a store, then bring her to my house for dinner.  I had to hurry.  I poured the chemicals into the tank.  Agitate and wait.  Agitate and wait.  Developer, wash, fixer, wash. . . . 

When I pulled the film out of the tanks to hang and dry, I was relieved.  I never know if everything worked until I see the negatives.  That is the horror and the beauty of shooting film.  As you are clicking the shutter, or rather just after, you are wondering if you had the focus and the settings right.  After shooting with auto metering, autofocus cameras for a long time, it is easy to forget what you need to do.  At least most of the exposures were right.  I would have to wait and see about the focus.  But that would come later.  I had only a few minutes before I needed to leave the house.  I had been on my feet all day, though, and I wanted to pour a Campari and light a cigar and sit on the deck for ten minutes before I left.  

The phone rang.  It was Tennessee.  A brief chat and the drink was done.  I told him I had to scoot.  

The chicken and beans turned out well, but next time, I think I will add some sausage to spice it up.  A little would do.  But my mother liked it fine as it was.  We ate and drank some wine and the sky went dark an hour too early.  By seven, my mother was ready to go home.  

In a little while, I have my first physical therapy session.  I am hoping it will keep me from waddling.  Maybe I'll wiggle instead.  I can only hope at this point, but, as always,  I'll keep you informed.  

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