Wednesday, June 19, 2024

All It Would Take

I haven't any pictures to post.  I've tried.  I've been taking them, but I have been trying to shoot film and I keep effing everything up.  Once, I loaded the film but it didn't advance through the camera.  I shot one roll at the wrong iso/asa.  I have a habit of taking different cameras out and not finishing rolls.  Yesterday, I got a wild hair about doing some candid (sneaky) street photos, so I picked up my little Leica CL, the tiniest of Leica film cameras, and attached a 28mm lens.  I was going to shoot blind with zone focusing.  I loaded a roll of Portra 400, a color film.  

That is by way of explanation for what comes later, but let's come back to that.  

My reading night was interrupted by a call from my boyfriend Tennessee.  He was Puff Daddy high, sitting on the balcony of his beachside condo.  First I got some texts, then a call, then a switch to FaceTime so he could show me the sights.  It is a lovely property with a large, long, green space between the condo and the dunes leading to the beach that is manicured as fine as a golf course.  It's good to have money, I thought, with a big house on the lake here in town, a cabin home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a condo at the beach.  I was always fond of ideas.  My rich friends all say, "I always liked money."  When I was reading, they were investing.  When I was younger, their wives and girlfriends. . . oh, never mind that.  I was more interesting, you know, but now. . . whatever. 

I don't like talking on the phone and hardly ever answer a call unless I think it might be something intriguing, of if I feel guilty for not answering someone's call too many times.  The most irritating are the drive time calls.  The most interesting are the ones from girls.  The ratio in recent times, however, has been about a thousand to one.  Girls don't call.  They text.  I get texts from girls.  I got one yesterday while I was at my mother's house.  My phone was in the car, so I didn't get it for over an hour.  

"We're at Ojos.  Come join us."

Ojos is a restaurant at the end of the Boulevard.  Two of the factory girls were there and sent a selfie.  The one who texted was the girl who barely kinda/sorta asks me out.  She looked gorgeous.  I would have gone, but by the time I got home, an hour and a half had passed.  

"Damn, girl. . . give a fellow a little heads up next time."

The line went dead.  Selavy.  

Before mother's, I had gone to the Cafe Strange.  Have I ever told you about that place?  Ho!  It is truly endlessly fascinating.  I wish the town had more places like it.  I don't want to be "a regular" in a place like this, and so I limit my visits.  But I could go every day just to watch.  Girls--always girls--come in dressed in such wonderful and weird costumes and giggle and line up to take pictures in the Photo Booth.  They are making a fortune on that thing.  I am, probably shamefully, one of the only boys I ever see go into it.  I've gone in with women, of course, and have cherished photo strips from the past.  But I go in alone, too.  I do it when nobody is around, sort of sneaky like.  

Otherwise the place is populated by people working on computers, by and large.  Once I sat next to a fellow who was working a help line.  I know a university psychology prof who often does his online classes there.  Then there are the eccentrics who are a bit off, who sit with coffee lost in interior dialogs muttering to themselves.  

As I say, however, there is nowhere else like it in town, so. . . . 

There are a lot of people who work the counter there, almost all women.  Most often they look harried, bothered and bored.   They work in front of the kitchen where the air is warm, and they seem to me coolies laboring in the sun.  They often have a slight sheen.  So who can blame them if they are, at times, surly.  I admit, they make me nervous.  But I don't go so very often, and I almost never see the same counter help for weeks at a time.  But. . . and here's the mystery to me. . . they all seem to recognize me.  Am I the straight guy in the freak show, or am I just another kind of freak?  I always fear the worst, of course. . . "Oh, here comes that weirdo with the. . . " blah blah blah.  

But most often they know what I want at the time of a particular day. . . and I think their attitude changes and they smile.  

"Large mimosa?"

"Cafe con leche?"

Of course, it is probably that I over tip.  I'm certain that the clientele of this place are not big tippers, so. . . yea. . . it could just be the money.  

Or, as has been recently said, it could be that I have a certain charm.  

When I walked in, the woman behind the counter lit up.  She is a "legacy" worker there.  She's been there for many years.  She's a hipster, still is, but she has had kids since she began working there and they are now getting to be big.  She has beautiful sloe eyes and a languorous, musical voice.  

"Hey there," she fairly cooed as if she were meeting a long lost friend.

"Can I get a decaf latte?"

"Sure.  That's a nice camera."

I started to give her a treatise on the little Leica CL.  My hands were shaking, my voice quivering.  I was making no sense.  Why was I even telling this?  Holy shit.  But she stood looking me in the eye, listening.  I was an idiot and here was the evidence.  Still, she listened as if with interest.  

Oh, fuck it.  

"Can I take a photo?"

She looked pleased.  "Sure."

I haven't used this camera for a very long time.  This was not the ideal situation for it.  The viewfinder is small and has grown dim with age.  Nothing is automatic on it and the meter keeps cutting out.  I fumbled with settings fairly panicked, fairly blind.  I tried to trip the shutter, but I hadn't cocked it yet.  I was beginning to sweat.  So, in embarrassment, I just took the photo.  I could barely look her in the eye.  

"I'll send you a copy of it turns out."

I took my coffee to a table and sat down in shame.  I looked at the camera settings.  Fuck--an eight of a second.  It would be blurry.  The aperture was set to 2.0.  There is no way I got focus.  And, it was color film balanced for daylight.  There was mixed window and fluorescent light.  The colors would be wildly off.  

I have to learn my lessons over and over and over.  Why hadn't I brought in my digital M10?  Everything would have been fine.  Lesson learned, once again. . . painfully.  

Outside sat an Asian girl in a pretty unusual getup.  Unusual for this town, I mean.  All of this is everyday in NYC or SF or even LA.  She was spectacular.  I wanted to photograph her, but, per usual. . . . 

All the while, girls lined up at the Photo Booth.  Boys are so dull and unimaginative when it comes to self expression.  Not girls.  I've seen their photo strips that come out of the tray.  They don't just sit on the stool like they are getting mugshots.  They do wonderfully creative things.  I especially like the ones they are giving to their boyfriends like little love notes. 

The world is so very photographable, but I haven't been any good at it lately.  It seems that anymore all I am doing is experimenting.  I go from camera to camera, format to format.  And I've been nervous for no reason.  People want me to take their photographs.  I meet them.  We talk.  These last few years, however, I've grown self-consciously insecure.  I had help to start with, but it has developed into a near psychosis.  So it feels.  I am, it seems, trying something dangerous in a very divided land.  

I watched a documentary on Tom Wolfe last night (link).  That was after I watched one about Kerouac.  Wolfe invented the phrase "New Journalism," but I think that it began with Kerouac.  That's how I taught Contemporary Literature, anyway.  Wolfe, Mailer, Talese, Thompson, and Didion.  They all wrote about distinct cultural phenomena.  Wolfe got famous for his essay on the car culture of California, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby," in which he broke with the straight arrow style of traditional journalism.  

Pow. . . Vrroom!!!!

I sat and thought afterwards about the Cafe.  There is a culture there.  What would it take to truly work at writing an essay about it?  Photos and words?  What would it take?

Too much, I concluded, at least in my own hometown.  But goddamnit, it should be done.  All it would take is talent. . . and charm. 


  1. I'm not sure what you are looking for

  2. They look to be the same. Terrible quality, though.