This is Tatiana. That's not her real name. You know how this works. She is from Croatia. Some things on this blog are true and accurate. Like. . . I don't know how this is going to go since I got out of bed before five thinking I could stay in bed no longer but realizing here just after five that I am still tired and need to go back to bed. I've not even read the news. I tried, but it is still yesterday's paper. So I'll jump right into a narrative of some kind. We'll see.
Yesterday was one of "those days." You know, a day where you did nothing you planned to do, a day when you did practically nothing at all. It wasn't a lovely day, so there is that. But I sat and wrote and read and made up my "Advent Calendar" of me on Christmas cards until it was noon. I was still sitting with a cold cup of coffee by my elbow. I hadn't eaten. I had a new box of cereal. Rather, I decided I needed to leave the house, so I got dressed and headed for my favorite breakfast restaurant. Sometimes. The goddamned place is a 50/50 experience. Half the time, I've never had such a good breakfast. Yesterday was the other half. I got warm bread rather than toast. I sent it back. I ate my breakfast without toast. It came out just as I was finishing. I showed them, though--I only tipped 15%!
REI was having a big sale, so I stopped by on my way home. I used to go to outdoor stores and look at mountain climbing gear, camping gear, etc. I was looking yesterday for cool clothes and shoes. WTF? Earlier in the day, though, I had a text from my mountain buddy in Yosemite. He sent me a nice article on one of the early climbs the two of us made together (link). We'd been sharing climbing news for the last few days, but he concluded with this:
Holy shit! The things we did. Now I spend three hours of my day drinking coffee. And then, 3 hours of beer, pot and dinner.
I found no cute shoes or clothing, though.
I went home and putzed around some more. At three, I decided to visit my mother. I usually go later, but I figured she would be home. We chatted and she showed me some things she found while cleaning out drawers. One was a bag of pocket knives. There were about seven or eight of them. It took me back. My father ALWAS had a pocket knife on him. They were never expensive, but I can see him with his sharpening stone, taking the blade back and forth until he could shave the hair off his arm. That was always his test. I'm sure that the Boy Scouts used to give out badges for this. Now, I think, you get them for macrame and coloring.
After I looked through the knives, my mother handed me an envelope of photographs and a little album. The photos were things her sister gave her before she died. There were photographs of old family members including photos of my grandfather and grandmother from the 1920's. There was a photo of my mother at the age of fourteen.
The album was like a charm book or whatever you call it, a place where her friends wrote their best wishes when they graduated high school. My mother hadn't read it. She said she didn't want to. She thought it was a sort of diary her mother had written. I went through the pages. Almost everything was written in silly verse.
"Roses are red. . . ."
Naive country kid stuff.
One of them mentioned my grandmother's boyfriend. I looked back at the photographs. In one of the photos, my grandmother, in her teens, was standing with a boy. The name in the book and on the back of the photograph matched.
My mother knew none of this.
People came by with their dogs on their walks around the neighborhood. Jokes were swapped, tales were told. I'll tell you one on another day. But this is not what I intended to write about and this is getting long. I really want to go back to bed.
Because I had gone to my mother's earlier, there was plenty of daylight left when I got home. A Campari and a cheroot. What would I do for dinner? But I was miffed. I hadn't used my cameras at all, not as I had intended to do. One of the things not stolen by the camera thieves is a big old f 0.95 50mm lens, a Chinese knockoff of the $12,000 Leica Noctolux. The Chinese version was $500. Just like the original, that big old aperture on the Chinese version lets in so much light that you can shoot in the dark, but it also gives the shallowest depth of field you can get with a 35mm/full frame camera. But it is big. Really big.
O.K. O.K. That is like reading the "Cetology" chapter of "Moby Dick." I always recommend that people just skip that. I know people who enjoy it, though. I think Travis told me he did. But I'll bet they leave it out of the Reader's Digest version (do they still make those?).
Feeling like I'd been a real bum, I decided that at sunset, I would go down the Boulevard with my new Leica and that big f'ing lens and make some holiday pictures.
I had not gotten far when Tatiana came up to me.
"What are you doing?" she asked. Well, shit, I thought, I'm going to get yelled at right away. But then I noticed the little camera around her neck. It was a crop frame Nikon, an old version she must have gotten for little. She put her hand on her camera.
"Oh! What are you taking pictures of?" I asked.
"I want to be a professional photographer," she said in a heavy accent. "I'm just trying to take pictures of people. This is my first time. . . it is hard. I'm kind of shy. It is hard asking them."
Just then two Asian girls walked by in interesting garb, and I motioned to them.
"Like them," I said, and right away she called out to the girls.
"Do you mind if we take your picture? We are just practicing photography," she said. I liked that. "Practicing photography." But the girls weren't interested.
"It's getting dark. I can't really get good pictures now."
She didn't know much about the technical aspects of the camera, so I gave her some pointers about upping her iso and fixing the noise in Photoshop. Her little camera wasn't made for this light, really, but as long as she was "practicing photography."
I asked her if I could take her picture. She asked if she could take mine.
I didn't have my phone, so I gave her my number. She called me so we could swap pictures. There I am in my new $7 Gap t-shirt and my cheap "linen" shorts from China. Gosh, I think they look wonderful. That's a $30 getup if you exclude my well-worn Chaco flops. I never have my photo taken by anyone other than in those ubiquitous phone selfies. Other than having the longest big toes in town, I think I look swell. But I have the big toes of a chimpanzee.
We walked down the Boulevard together. I was enjoying "teaching photography" again. Her photo skills were what most of my students had coming in. We crossed the street to a Panera's restaurant with its huge windows that open to the street. Two girls were huddled over their table. I motioned.
"I already took their picture," Tatiana said. "I talked to them and they said it was O.K."
I walked up to the window to get close.
Well now, I thought, I'll go shooting with Tatiana. I can teach her technical things and she can run around and get people to let me photograph them. It is so much easier for women with cameras I thought for the billionth time.
Tatiana and I went our separate ways. I would not be photographing people now, just the Decorations of the Season on the Boulevard. Shop windows. Lighted trees. Bullshit.
When I got home, I put some cod in a pan of water to thaw. Then I took my SD card to the computer to download the pictures. I wanted to send the photo of Tatiana.
She "hearted" it and sent back the one of me. It was so dark you could barely make me out. She also sent a very small file, so when I took it into Photoshop to brighten in up, the resolution was just terrible. I sent back the photos of the girls who Tatiana had told she would send them her photos. Then she sent back this.
"I got to photograph a fox!!!"
Well, now. . . I should be taking lessons from Tatiana, I think. How did I miss that one?
Leftover brown jasmine rice and lentils, wilted baby kale, and 3 minute poached cod. That was dinner. That was my Saturday night.
But I tremble. Red texted. She is in town. Did I want to have dinner on Wednesday night?
I still haven't fixed the bathroom door knob she broke last time she was here. She'll make me stay up too late, I know.
O.K. I'm going back to bed. The sun will be up in a little bit. Maybe I'll do something today, but you know. . . maybe not.