Am I lazy or am I frightened? I don't think it is an either/or thing, really, but a variating combo of each. I have the intention every day to go out with my camera, but I find other things I "must" do until it is mid-afternoon and almost time for my daily visit to mother's. Yesterday was a gorgeous, brilliant day with clear blue skies and bright, diamond sharp light. It was 3:00 pm. What to do? I grabbed a camera and headed for the camera shop. I parked in the lot intending to walk about making photos. But first I dropped into the store to show my new camera to a buddy there. Why? You know why. I was putting the thing off. Stalling. But, inevitably, I was streetwise once again. There was a girl waiting on a bus I wanted to photograph, but when she saw my camera, she got a mean look. Forget it. I walked to the corner of the busy street. A fellow crossed the street toward me.
"Yea, man, take my picture."
I was startled. I put the camera to my eye. He was a silhouette. I don't know how to work all the functions yet. I took the photo, then another.
Skip ahead. When I downloaded the files this morning, and I pulled those photos up, I tried to "recover the shadows" as the tech geeks say. I was amazed. It was a shit pic, but I'll post it here to show what was once black.
Dumb-ass picture, I know. I was caught off-guard, fumbling. I shouldn't show them, but wtf? Why? To illustrate something. I'll get to it.
I crossed the street and walked a block. When I got to the next corner, same thing. A fellow there approached me.
"Yea, yea. . . I just got it. I'm trying to figure the thing out. I'm just taking pictures of everything right now."
"Take a picture of me."
So I did. Another dumb-ass picture. The camera is the bomb. The photographer. . . not so much. The thing is, though, I was among the masses with a camera gaining, incrementally. . . in very small increments. . . some street chutzpah again.
As I walked around the block, I was kicking myself for my unfamiliarity with the camera and my Barney Fife approach to opportunity.
I passed the voodoo store. And I'm not kidding. They sell all the things one needs for casting spells. They have the recipe books and all. This is the place where, many, many months ago, I saw a woman I wanted to photograph so so very badly. And there she was. She was sitting in a chair sorting something. I could see her through the big plate glass window where the sun was shining like a beacon right on her. I stopped. She looked through the window at me. I sucked in a breath, held up the camera, and pointed to her. She paused for a second, smiled. . . and shook her head no. Gut punch. I felt deflated. I pointed to the sun then back to her. Smiling still, she shook her head again. O.K. O.K. Namaste.
Piss shit fuck goddamn.
So I took this photo instead.
I crossed the busy highway and walked back to my car. It was 4:00. I needed to do some things before I went to my mother's house. I had an invitation to meet some people at a Michelin Japanese tapas bar at five. What to do?
I called my mother. It sounded as if she were in a store. Rather, there were a lot of people at her house. She'd been out with my cousin all day shopping. I figured she wouldn't mind.
"I won't make it over today," I said. "I'm invited out for happy hour at five."
"O.K. Well, be careful with your drinking."
Jesus. I should have done Dry January without telling anyone.
I hung up feeling both guilt and reprieve. As I pulled out to cross the busy highway, I saw a girl in a car. Her eyes popped and she smiled and waved manically. It was the tall girl from the Cafe Strange who I haven't had the cojones to ask if I could photograph yet. And here she was, excited to see me driving in my car? Maybe she thought I was someone else. Maybe she had eaten a handful of mushrooms. I don't know. But, I thought, maybe I will ask her if I can photograph her after all.
I'd spent less than an hour out on the street, and I had learned a lot of things. Most of it was bad, you know, but it all had me thinking. I know what I don't know pointedly now. I know what I need to learn and what I need to do. It was all O.K. Quasimodo might learn to function outside of the Bell Tower again.
I had taken a long route around town after I decided to go to the grocers. It was five when I got home. I was in no hurry, though. I had a ritual to perform. I poured a short Campari, fed the cats, and sat out in the cool afternoon sun with them as I reran the hour in the street in my head, thinking of the lessons learned.
I got to the bar at five-thirty. The "boys" were already seated in a lounge. They are not boys. They are married men with grown children. They are not my crowd though I have met them before. I came to get out of the house. For whatever reason, I have a reputation among the group. The gymroids are responsible. They are myth makers. I am a myth. The Shaman. Wild Man. Eyes light up.
"You're the only person here that I haven't done drugs with before."
"I'm not going to do drugs with a bunch of dudes. You guys like to get coked up and wrestle around in your underwear. Fuck that."
"Holy shit. . . over your right shoulder."
It was that kind of thing. Everyone looks at a woman in a short black skirt. Head shakes. Moans. One of the group is at the bar. He is talking to two young women. They are wide-eyed and laughing. They seem interested in what he is saying. I ask if he is good with women.
"No! This is really odd."
After a long while, he comes back to his seat, everybody "what the fuck"ing him.
"That is Pat Mahoney's daughter," he says, and postures collapse in laughter.
Men begin recounting tales of adventure and daring. I'm the only one who isn't part of the group, the new audience who hasn't heard the stories, so they are told to me. They are the typical exaggerated stories of drugs and women.
"Ask Bob! I swear it is true!"
Bob is laughing and nodding his head. They have bought my drinks, put tapas on the table. I grin and nod.
As I finish my second whiskey sour, I tell the group thanks.
"You're not going?"
"I'm going down the street to the good bbq place. Anyone?"
"No. . . we're going to another bar."
And so handshakes and goodbyes all around.
I pull into the small, full parking lot just as a car is leaving. Score! Just in front of me is a street mural. I snap it and send it to the group.
I have no idea why. As I stand there cooking the picture up on my phone apps, a tall, thin woman walks before me. She says excuse me in a cute way. Then she walks back in front of me the other way. I tell her I'm sorry, and she says no, no. . . .
The bbq place is packed. I stand in a line that barely moves for half an hour looking at the crowd. People don't look happy in the main. They do not look joyous. But the thin woman who walked in front of me is sweeping floors and bussing tables. She is freakishly thin and very tall. Her cheekbones are high and prominent. I want to photograph her. It is a sickness, I guess. She looks at me and smiles. It takes me by surprise, as everything seems to do anymore, and I manage a quick, confused grin as I nod my head. Another waitress glances at me. This has been happening, though. I think, perhaps, it is this shock of bleach blond hair and my terribly blue eyes. Ha! I don't know. I should check my horoscope. Things like this don't usually last for long.
After a long while, it is my turn to order. I won't tell you what the very pretty cash register girl said, but I could feel the floor moving beneath my feet. And, as usual, I mumbled something stupid and grinned like a schoolboy.
The sandwich is great. Nationally recognized, they say.
Back home, I pour a whisky and collapse. I'd had more contact, weird and otherwise, with people I don't know in the last six hours than I've had for years. I was buzzing.
Today is another flawless day. I try not to expect "more." But I am going out with my camera to see.
Oh. . . I almost forgot. That photo at the top of the page is my favorite. I tried some hip shots while walking yesterday. I don't need this big old medium format camera for that, but I wanted to see. I like it, like the blur, the off kilter framing. It is my favorite photo of the day.
That, of course, is not saying much. But. . . incremental progress, you know. . . poco y poco.