Monday, January 14, 2019

By Spring?

I haven't reached despair, yet, but last night I got close.  I thought about how nearI came to dying, and I realized I would have to do it again sooner or later.  It would be no more pleasant the second time around.

This is no way to lead a happy life.

I have led a happy life.

I still don't have gumption.  I can't wander yet, can't spend the day walking and lazing around cafes.  I can't carry a bag on my shoulder.  That will take a while.  You will have to wait a spell for me to come to your own hometown. 

But I wish to. 

I have a friend who lives in Manhattan, who worked for the defunct Interview magazine.  He says that the city is changing beyond recognition.  I want to get back up there before everything is gone.  He sent me photos of Asbury Park.  Photogenic, he says. 

There is much to do.  I must get well. 

By Spring? 

Metal on Bone.  No match at all. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Keep Trying

 He is the kind of doctor who looks you in the eye and yells, "You've got cancer," without blinking.  It wasn't cancer.  It was my shoulder.  And the rest.  The news was about as bad as I could get.  Surgery would probably make it worse, he said.  Everything is a mess.  We'll try physical therapy. 

I'm hoping to be able to put a shirt on without help.  Hoping to be able to get off the floor using both hands.  Etc. 

I'll go at therapy like I'm training for the Olympics. 

I haven't whined, but sometimes in the night. . . .

Flawed photographer, flawed photos.

I try making pictures, but nothing is working well.  My timing is off, my rhythm, I guess.  I'll keep trying.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


I'm getting better, I swear.  I go to the shoulder doc today to see the future.  Anxious, I confess. 

Rough days could lead to better nights.  That's what someone said.  To what can rough nights lead?  Can and could are vague enough terms.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  The future is always couched in such terms. 

I haven't been watching the news at all, but I read that Stormy Daniels was folding clothes in her underwear on Instagram while Trump made his speech.  I'm missing much. 

I'll let you know how this afternoon goes.  Probably. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


I'm not whole, but I long to be.  I am uneasy with how long this is taking.  It is worse at night when I wake in the dark and begin to think.  I dream of climbing mountains.  I dream of surfing.  I dream of driving down the Baja highway and eating fish tacos and drinking beer in the early 1960's.

Then I try to turn over, and I can't.

Throw onto that some other traumas and the despair is overwhelming.  Throw a drowning man an anchor.

But one knows that one's problems are his own and that telling others about it when they can do nothing but sympathize is a sure way to lose friends.  And so you say, "I'm fine.  I'm good."

"You're tough," they say, and it makes them feel better to think so.  They can let it go.

I don't blame them.  I am the same way.  It is frustrating not to be able to help.

I got a call yesterday from an old colleague to tell me that another old colleague had died.  He was 80.  I hadn't seen him for about eight years.  He was an odd one which makes his memory very vivid. I don't think I can go to his funeral.  It won't be much of an affair.  The funeral will be as sad as his death.

I do feel better, I think.  Either that or I am simply adjusting to some things.  I have an appointment with a should doc on Wednesday to see which way we go.  I am very anxious about this visit.

I wait to see which way this story goes.

Sunday, January 6, 2019


Last bit of a beautiful afternoon, light breeze, sixty-nine degrees.  Cloudless blue sky.  Ili has gone to visit her parents, so I had the day to myself.  I made breakfast before she left, and she was on the road by eleven.  I went to the gym and walked an inclined treadmill and walked on a stair stepper machine.    I came home and showered and dressed and got my cameras and lenses together.  I was going to take advantage of the day.  I drove out to a stretch of highway that I thought might be promising.  When I got there, I drove into a market and parked the car.  I felt small and vulnerable as I pulled my cameras onto my shoulder.  I snapped a photo of a palm tree and began to walk.  The distance between things is greater at foot speed than at sixty.  Nothing was as interesting and it took me a long time to walk from thing to thing.  I moved slowly, my ribs hurting, but more just because I was slow.  In minutes, I was worn out.  What had I thought I was going to do?  I didn't have the moxie.

I struggled back to the car, twisted gingerly, slung the camera bag into the passenger seat with great effort, and pulled myself up into the seat.  Then I sat.  The day was beautiful, and I sat on a sad, ugly piece of road on my day off, tired, worn out, spent.

It was a sullen reminder of where I am physically right now.  I am not up to much.  Sitting around the house, I feel fine.  But the world. . . it is still too much.

The sun sinks lower in the sky.  The temperature drops.  Ili is not home.  I will be hungry soon, and I will want a drink.  I am as dependent as a child.

Perhaps soon. . . .

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Means Nothing

Accidental table top photo.  Just advancing the film.  Turned out to be the most interesting shot on the roll.  Means nothing.

Each night, I look forward to feeling better the next day.  Not a little better but a lot.  The next day is much like the last, so I tell myself this will take time.  Of which, I think, I am running out.  Mornings are better than evenings, of course.


Yesterday I went to the beautician.  She does what she wants.  Yesterday she wanted to cut my hair short.  She doesn't consult with me for I've told her long ago that I don't know.  I will have to get used to this one.

But I have confidence.

I have an adapter to fit screw mount lenses onto the Sony A7.  I thought I did, but I wondered why I would.  I found it and put on my two "new lenses."  The Nikon 5cm is a dream.  The Canon 3.5cm is what I had suspected, very soft focus.  These two will stay with the Monochrom.  I want to shoot today if I can find some energy.

Now I must begin my day.  The weekend will surely fly away on short wings.

Friday, January 4, 2019


We live in a specialized world.  When I look at the medical bills from my treatment and stay in the hospital, I don't know who most of the people billing me are.  There are many specialists and many helpers, especially in the operating room.  I'm surprised I haven't gotten a bill from the janitors yet.  

To wit: I went to the dentist just a bit ago to have a crown that had fallen out put back on.  Seemed simple.  Same dentist who had put it on, I think.  Maybe.  It might have been the one before him.  I don't know.  But the crown fit onto the tooth without a problem.  And then the dentist offered me three options.  

"I can put this back on with some cement, but I can't tell you how long it will stay on.  It could be a week, it could be ten years."  

I was fine with that, but it seems he works with another dentist now who is a prosthodontist.  He recommended that I see him to have a new crown.  He might recommend a root canal, but he didn't know.  What did I want to do?

I told him I didn't have sufficient information to make a decision.  I was confused, really.  In the past, this fellow had put on a crown.  Now. . . he practiced "family dentistry."  Had the rules changed, I wondered?  Was he never supposed to do crowns or was this just another change of the type that put Dr. Marcus Welby on the little league team?  Those were not questions that I asked him.  

"Well, I want to do this right, of course."  

And of course, the right choice was to see the specialist.  He put my crown in a case and handed it to me.  I would need to make an appointment with the prosthodontist.  

I left flummoxed.  What the hell?  I felt I should have had the old crown cemented on, but now I didn't want the old dentist to do it.  Would the prosthodontist recommend that?  Shit, fuck, goddamn.  

Driving home, I decided to do some research.  I was going to change dentists.  I didn't need this hillbilly any more.  

But this is the way of the modern world, no?  If I want a one stop shop, I need to live in a less specialized country.  What would have happened in a European country, I wondered?  Or in an Arab country?  I was pretty sure I knew what would happen in Mexico, Venezuela, or Columbia, all fairly modern by world standards.  

It cost me $80 for the recommendation.  They no longer took my insurance.  

I am told I am getting the best medical attention in the world.  

I've decided to have a Belgian Ale tonight.  I had another long day at the factory, and I feel tired and worn.  I am excited to try a new lens that came today, a 5cm Nikkor LTM (screw mount) lens from the late 1950's.  I shot a little with it, and it looks beautiful.  I need to get another adapter, though, as the one I have will not bring up the correct frame lines on my Leica's.  I'll get it right eventually.  Now I just want to go out and shoot.  But not yet.  I am too tired at day's end.  I will study more Eggleston and more Winnogrand tonight.  What was going on in those opaque minds?  Neither explained their works and both said that the photos were just meant to be looked at, but I am convinced there are algorithms in the works that I can partially interpret.  That will be my evening.  

I am preparing for the future that I hope exists.  

Here is the last photo of me as a whole.  Here you see my goal.  

Thursday, January 3, 2019


More film fun.  Healthy veggie smoothy. I need a lot of health.

Quick post at dawn.

That didn't work.  Let's try noon.  But this doesn't work, either.  What do I have to say.  I am able to perform my functions.  Nothing more.  Some of them.  I need help with others.

"How are you feeling?  Are you in pain?"

"I'm doing great."  What else can you say.  "Better than yesterday."  Some days, that's a lie.  After a day at the factory, I hurt all night.  Not much sleep.  Feeling like poop today.  Fortunately, the factory is busy.  I deal with few people.

I put off things that need doing.

Having written that, I realize. . . I must do them now.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


A bad year ended well.  On the last evening, I bit into a gummy candy and pulled off a crown.  December 31.  I am hoping that is the end of it.  I go to the dentist tomorrow.  We'll see if I am lucky or not.

I love this photo for silly reasons.  It is a film picture taken straight from a scan without manipulation.  The colors of film are different from digital.  I can't explain it.  Flowers and light and art.  So be it.

I have returned to the factory.  People are nice, but the day has worn me out.  I am not well though I have fooled myself sitting on the couch.  Long way to go.

I want to take pictures, kids.  I really do.  But all I can manage now are the occasional snapshot, so that is what we'll live with.  I am studying the masters with intensity, though, trying to determine what they did and why they did it.  I look at picture after picture in search of answers.  It is difficult.  I want to look at everything they did, not simply the book or two (or ten) that has been published.  Surely there is an algorithm for each project.

I continue to photograph my house, my yard, the trash cans and car fenders, getting each a bit better or worse but sometimes knowing why.  Everything is a matter of focus and talent.  Talent.  What is that?  It is a cover word too large and ambiguous.  It is in a category of words that oppress us.  It has more to do with madness, I think.

I'll tell you more as I think of it.

A forbidden whiskey and some glee.  We find it where we can.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Annual Cycle

One thing gives over to another.  Old story.  New tricks.  There is a simplistic finality to it.  The last bite of an ice cream cone.  A new flavor.

In a couple days, I will return to work at the factory.  I will be assumed normal.  I am not.  I do not have the juice for a whole day.  No drive.  I cannot conceive of independent projects or deeds.  I want them.  I do.  I must solve this.  I must think.

A short entry, this.  I hope you are preparing.  I am.  In which case there is not so much for which to prepare.

I shot this at the hipster coffee shop.  The dog was eating ice cream our of the cup held by a happily screaming girl.  It was too good not to put the Monochrom on.  Everything is off, the shutter speed, the focus, the ISO.  Still. . . it has a quality.

Until next year. . . .

Sunday, December 30, 2018

In the Planning

Like I said, I didn't think I'd be able to post every day. There are too many factors, none of which need to be discussed here.  Not many.  Not much.

I get tired after too much exertion which usually is simply going places, riding and getting in and out of the car, walking among people, sitting in public.  I have done enough of that these holidays, and I come home and crash like a baby.  I still need rest.  People I know see me and say I look good, and I do for someone run over by an SUV, but I am still rotten inside.  It hurts to move.  If I'm standing still, however, I can fool a crowd.

Some nights I worry about it, but who doesn't worry at night?  Most days I am able to be strong.

I take two cameras with me whenever I go out now, the Leica Monochrom and the Leica M10.  They are fun cameras that get a lot of attention.  Once in awhile, I even make a picture.  They are mostly snapshots or pictures out the car window, but occasionally I try.  A little here, a little there.  Nothing book worthy.  Just stuff.

I have been enjoying pictures as they come out of the Monochrom.  They are more filmic than other digitals.  The vintage Canon lens is not at all sharp, so everything has a bit of a glow.  I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I am letting it work for me for now.  The picture of the shoeshine is made with that combo.  Can I say "shoeshine"?  No, I am sure I shouldn't.

I do not like New Year's Eve.  It has no meaning for me.  I have rarely been out at midnight, and when I have been, I have regretted it.  In all likelihood, I will be asleep long before the calendar turns.    Ili says that's good with her.

But there will be champagne.

There are many worlds "out there."  As much as possible, you choose which one in which to travel and to live.  I am selecting a gentler world than I have hitherto explored.  Ili and I have been planning trips we wish to take, and we have tried watching travel videos about these places.  YouTube is full of them.  The newest ones seem done for Instagram.  Pretty girls in makeup and outfits walking past a 1,000 year old door in some exotic city.  Lots of vicious smiling and party screaming for the camera.  We've taken to watching Rick Steve's videos.  Nope, I'm not kidding.  They are more informational than Diane and Dave's Adventure City.  But I am convinced that travel is useless now, that anywhere you go, there will be more tourists than locals.  Everything is a photo op.  It's not wrong, I think.  That is always what travel has been unless it was for trade and wealth.  There are just more people who can afford it now.  Everywhere you go you can get a professional guide.  And there is Facebook and Instagram.

But as my friend said to me after going to Africa on his own--"It looked just like the t.v. shows."  I know it is lame, but I understand what he means.

It will be awhile, though, before I am able to hit the road.  For now it is all planning.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

2nd Christmas

And we did.  We did go to see Ili's family in the parent's condo on the beach, and I met another of her sisters whom I had yet to meet.  It was fine for me.  All I had to do was ride in the car, then sit in the condo with an occasional conversation or a trip to the balcony to look out over the ocean, beach, and sky.  Everyone was nice to me, and nobody threw anything.  We stayed through the morning and early afternoon, and then it was time to go.  Ili wanted to stop for a drink.  Her family, not mine, so I understood.  We went to a place by the bridge on the river half a mile from the ocean, not our kind of place at all, but the kind of place that would have a bottle of wine and some chowder.

Ili began to relax, and then she began to plan our trip to New Orleans in February.  I did not tell her that I was not sure I would be able to go.  I mean. . . the flights are $89/round trip.  I shit you not.  And the AirB&B is $100/night.  Four nights.  Mardi Gras.  There is no lose in this.  Surely we will go.

I fell asleep on the way home.  I could not keep my eyes open.  My gut was bubbling with old fish stew and my broken side was swollen and throbbing.  But when we got home, there were packages sitting on the front stoop.  There is nothing like getting a delivery.

Still, I was tired and weak and swollen, so before anything, I wanted a scotch.  Ili poured.  I swear she is a dream in so many ways.  And so a drink, then the opening.  All the packages were for me.  I opened the small one first, for I had ordered that, a 1940's or '50s Canon 35mm vintage lens.  It wasn't a vintage lens when they made it, of course, but I have been reading that the rendering on a Leica Monochrom is much better than a modern lens, so I couldn't resist. And man, the lens I got (for a really low price) is perfect.  This lens and camera combo will be my go-to for a long time now.  The images I have already shot please me greatly.  Yes, yes, and there is another to come, a 50mm Nikon that has a great reputation.  I'm in love, I'm in love.

But there was still another package to open, the big one.  And this one was from Ili--five sweaters from J. Crew.  You might be saying, "Really?", but they are the loveliest sweaters you have ever seen.  My favorite is the gray 100% cashmere Mr. Rogers button up cardigan, but they all have a place and a purpose.

After trying them all on, I realized how tired I was (even though the scotch was kicking in, and you know how that can lift you for awhile), so I sat on the couch and began to fall apart.  Which is where I am now, recording these Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

Ili says I look good from behind in those many sweaters, and I will not question what she means.  Rather, and perhaps, you will see some images of me sometime from such quarters.

Maybe I should say, "French."

Wednesday, December 26, 2018


I haven't been taking many pictures lately, of course.  My mother and Ili did, but I have not looked at them.  I didn't even look at my injuries.  The first time I stepped out of the shower in my own home (which was long after the accident and operations), I was depressed for days.  I am better off an ostrich.  Look away.

But I have taken to carrying light film cameras, a little Yashica Electro CC or a Canon Canonet Q 17 iii.  They are easy to carry and easy to use.  I just pop pictures during my walks or when Ili is driving me somewhere.  I never know what I have on the roll when I take the pictures to the photo lab.  And there is usually nothing there of any interest, even to me.  But sometimes there will be something like this, a dad and daughter (I assume) walking by a palm-fronted church on their way to a Sunday service.  I don't even bother scanning the negatives now unless something looks good enough to print.  I let the photo lab do it.  The images are good enough for showing in the virtual world.  I wouldn't mind printing a small version of this, though, so I will eventually scan it on my own.

On Christmas Eve, my mother came over for the traditional pajama party.  I grilled steak and lobster, both of which came out perfectly.  The aroma of the grill must have called to the neighborhood animals, and I ended up with a new cat friend, a little black and white which I am trying to convince Ili is not the one spraying our trash can.  A bit later, a little white spaniel showed up on the deck.  I knew it was the neighbor's, but I didn't know which one as several people have ones that look just alike.  I opened the door and she came into the house.  Ili wants a dog badly and was as excited as if I had given this to her as a present.  It was the sweetest, loviest, most aristocratic and well behaved dog you could meet.  My mother held her in her lap for the longest time, and the dog, Shelby was her name, sat comfortably and calmly with the occasional appreciative "kiss."  I looked up the number on her tag and sent a message to the website that I had the dog, but half an hour later no one had called.  I wasn't sure if the dog was a vegan or not, so I tried a little of the buttery steak on her.  She seemed to like it fine.

In a bit, the neighbors were in their yard, so I called to Shelby to follow me which she did with sweet, obedient aplomb.  By the time I got to the neighbor's (I am slow, remember, still gimpy with injuries), they were inside, so I rang the doorbell.  Shelby sat and looked at the door in anticipation.  And indeed, she was their dog.  The neighbor's a very nice people, an attorney and an anesthesiologist who have a daughter I watched grow up and become a pediatrician and a mother of what seems to be a number of children.  The scene inside the house looked like something from a Steve Martin movie, "Father of the Bride," or "Parenthood."  You know, the sort of movie that makes your life seem so crummy.  Little kids in designer pajamas, a Christmas tree decorated by professionals, the smell of food cooking, everything glowing in a golden light.


I almost felt. . . well, almost.  But only for a bit.  I went back to the house, washed my hands, and began to serve dinner.  We had our own golden light and melted lemon butter and a wonderful bottle or two of wine and a teak cabinet full of liquor and tons of Christmas deserts, presents under the tree.


And I thought about the other neighbors in my moderately successful neighborhood.  A divorced professor across the street.  A divorced surgeon on the other side.  A divorced orthodontist next to him.  A sad family of trust funded drug addicts.  A divorced business woman whose house is for sale. What were they all doing tonight?  It wasn't all Steve Martin.

I like the season, but I find Christmas Eve and day too much.  I am not very good at commitment or obligation, but there they stand, eternal.  We had the usual cocktails with the usual losers and miscreants.  Watched the usual movies.


Now--what remains.  We will go to see Ili's family today.  And then. . . .


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Monday, December 24, 2018


Christmas Eve.  It is colder than usual here in the Sunny South.  We like the cold until it comes, and then not so much.  But today seems particularly holiday-inducing which is O.K. as I have marketing to do for our steak and lobster pajama party with my mother tonight.  Good food and drink will have to suffice as I've not had it in me to go shopping (except for me online).  Oh, I bought my mother a couch and truly have a gorgeous present for Ili tonight, but only one.  Perhaps I'll get to Williams and Sonoma today on the Boulevard to pick up little stocking stuffers for tonight.

I've already received too much this year following my particular fortune and fate.  So many people have sent me too much, really, so that I feel both love and embarrassment.  One should accept gifts well, though, with grace and humility.

Q sent me a ukulele.  I shit you not.  My left shoulder is so compromised I can't comfortably play it yet, but I fooled around on it for awhile when it got here and learned the tuning and some chords and will be able to make music once my shoulder is fine.  But a ukulele is a true surprise.

Jan Bernhardtz sent me a greeting card like the one above back in 2009, I believe.  I made my own and still use it today.  It seems apropos for me this year.

I don't think that way, though.  I'm looking ahead to when I can get out and make photographs again, when I can bring the camera to my eye with both hands.  Yes, I have goals.  I have fallen in love with my Leica M10 which is unusual as I usually resent having made an expensive purchase of much, much longer.  For instance, I am only now falling in love with my Leica Monochrom for which I have purchased some vintage lenses to complete the photographic look.

As soon as I have the arm and energy for it.  I was sorry to miss photographing the season this year.

Now I must think about the day.  It takes me three times as long to do anything right now as it used to take, and I run out of gas pretty quickly still, and I have to say, for all the fun of it, I dread the evening for I will be expected to participate in making fun and all I will really want to do is sit still until bedtime.

But it is Ili and my mother.  They, I think, will understand.

For those of you who have found the signal I am broadcasting, I hope you have a warm and happy Eve.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Partial Return

I feel as if I am writing from outer space, out of touch, disconnected, as if this will transmit into a perpetual void of dark and silence.

So it seems.  I've been away for awhile.  The last post I made here was on a Saturday morning.  That afternoon, I went out for a Vespa ride and was run over by an SUV.  I went to the hospital trauma center with seven broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and "a broken shoulder" which consists of many breaks in different bones.  They began workin on me immediately.  They brought in a priest.  I had an extended stay and eventually an operation.  After my release, I had a home nurse and many, many medicines.  I had a staff infection in my blood that required much attention.

I'm not supposed to write about it at this juncture, so that is all I can say.  It has been about two months since my operation and I am still rather compromised.  I don't know what will happen to my shoulder yet--operation or replacement.  I would hope for neither, but even typing this is a chore.

My friends all say that they are glad to have me alive.  I am fortunate, they say.

Ili stayed with me night and day.  I stayed at my mother's after the hospital, sleeping in a Lazy Boy chair.   So after taking care of her for four months, she got the chance to repay me.  I am still here, I think, due to Ili and my mother.

So that is it.  I don't want to talk about any of it.  I am just explaining why I've been away.

I originally chose a picture of a homeless man lying on the sidewalk for this entry, but I changed my mind.  I took this picture in a hipster coffee house with an old Yashica rangefinder camera and color film just last week.  It is happy.  It is fun.

Christmas has caught me unawares.  It is here and I am hardly.  You and I have missed the intersection of the winter solstice and the full moon together.  Such is life, sometimes.  I will try to stay in touch here now, though maybe not as often as I had before, at least for awhile.  But I am back in some broken form.  A gimp's shadow creeping across the grass one winter's solstice cast by the last full moon.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

One of My Most Confused Posts Ever

I still haven't worked on the trip photos yet, but I will today.  I don't have much enthusiasm for that, though, for they are the end of summer photos and I have returned to the beginning of autumn.  That was marked yesterday by changing the quilted comforter on the bed.  I have two of the same that I bought from Pottery Barn from decades ago.  The green one I put on for spring and summer.  That was put away yesterday as the burgundy one emerged.  I'm a sucker for such simple traditions.  It was almost momentous.

I had a long but successful day at the factory, and after work, I wanted to celebrate, so I stopped at the chi-chi bar for an Old Fashioned.  I was celebrating alone, but it was still a celebration.  The day was pretty, the temperatures a bit cooler and the air a bit drier, and I decided I would grill myself a steak, so after one cocktail, I went marketing, upbeat and looking forward to the weekend.

Back home, I got out of my work uniform and into my "soft clothes," a t-shirt and loose harem pants. Laugh if you will, but the goddamned things are cool.  I've worn them out to get groceries and to the liquor store and even to see my beautician who was mad about them, and yesterday when I went to the garage to run my printer, the tenant went mad for them, too.  Putting them on changes the way I think.  They are dangerous, though, as they have an elastic drawstring waist.  I could get very, very fat wearing them, but of course that is why I like them.  It is in keeping with my new philosophy of being kind to myself and taking "the gentle path."

So, elastic waistband in place, I was ready to grill.  I opened a bottle of wine, chopped the potatoes and slathered them in olive oil, salt, black pepper and red pepper, and wrapped them in aluminum foil (I prefer tin), and then did the same with the asparagus.  Then, grill preheated to about 500 degrees, I put everything on.  It didn't take long to sear the steak on both sides, then I set the temperature down and sat at the dinner table on the deck to smoke a Cuban cigar and drink my wine and think.  I was still happy.  It had been many months since the weather encouraged sitting outside, and it was fun again to wave to those on their evening strolls.  This was to be the first outdoor meal of the season.


Everything was delicious, and clean up was easy.  It was time for a whiskey on the deck, and everything was wonderful and good as the sky went from light to dark, shade by shade, until it was almost night.  I decided it was time to go inside.

I looked at my phone.  Nothing there.  And that is when I began to hear the house.  There was no music.  There was no laughter.  There was nothing to distract me from the empty sound of the quiet rooms.  I thought to read.  I thought to do some writing or to sit down at the computer with the trip's pictures, but suddenly my energy had waned.  I sat down on the couch and turned on the t.v.  I looked at the clock to see how long before bed, then put on a documentary about a Conde Nast photographer I had never heard of.

Sometime later, I woke up.

And that is how I celebrated the changing of the comforter.  The end.

I'm looking forward to some things today, a scooter ride, lunch, a nap.  When I write it down, it looks pitiful.  Still.  And tonight is the big fight.  I am considering purchasing the pay per view for $67, but I am afraid I'll fall asleep before the main event.  I would really like to see it, though.  You know. . . "the fighter still remains. . . ."  Conor McGregor, who I keep mistakenly calling as Gregory O'Connor, is the Donald Trump of MMA.  And indeed, the people watching the fight will be overwhelmingly Trump supporters just like a NASCAR race or a country music concert.  And in the other corner is the Russian Muslim, Khabib Nurmagomedov.  It is a classic professional wrestling card except for the fact that these guys are going to really beat the shit out of one another.  And who doesn't enjoy that?

See, that is the trouble with lefties.  They enjoy a good debate more than a good fight, and that is why they and I are losing.  I keep telling my lefty friends to quit using academic jargon and to go to a Tim McGraw concert once in awhile or go see some professional car racing or just get into a fight.  It will change the way they relate to the world.  Watching soccer isn't enough.  But they don't want to hear it, and every time I open my mouth any more, somebody gets mad and people start crying and leaving the room, and I'm not exaggerating.  My lefty friends are all a bunch of whiny babies who get pissed off if you don't agree with every inch of their intersectional/plant based platform, even if you are on their side.

Oh, I don't want to get started.  They've all resigned themselves to a Kavanaugh Supreme Court without taking responsibility.  Unless liberal values become more inclusive, the right will keep winning.

Yea, I think I better watch the fight tonight. . . if I can stay up.

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Reasonable Man

I slept better last night and feel more "myself" this morning.  Maybe I didn't drink as much last night.  I think that might be true.  I went to my mother's house and made her dinner since I hadn't seen her for about ten days or so.  I put on the news, CNN, and she began calling the commentators liars when they talked about Kavanaugh.  Oh, mom.  What can you do?  There are so many truths, and people get to choose the ones they want.  But I have to say, I am tired of hearing CNN talk about what "college educated women" think.  They say that out loud in front of my mother who lived in rural Ohio and graduated high school in 1949.  She had no chance to go to college, but now she is being disempowered because of it.  Sorry, but that sort of rhetoric is not going to get dems elected.  Besides, college ain't what it used to be.  Everybody has an online degree from somewhere now.  The nature of academia has changed radically.  That is why I so much love this story that appeared in the New York Times today (link).

"Something has gone wrong in the university — especially in certain fields within the humanities,” the three authors of the fake papers wrote in an article in the online journal Aero explaining what they had done. “Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields.”

Here is my favorite part.

In “Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Ore.,” by “Helen Wilson,” one of their made-up researcher names, the study purported to observe dogs having sex, and how their owners reacted, to draw conclusions about humans’ sexual attitudes.

Humans intervened 97 percent of the time when male dogs were “raping/humping” other male dogs, the paper said. But when a male dog was mating with a female, humans intervened only 32 percent of the time and actually laughed out loud 18 percent of the time.

The paper’s author cautioned: “Because of my own situatedness as a human, rather than as a dog, I recognize my limitations in being able to determine when an incidence of dog humping qualifies as rape.”

My own "situatedness" is that we are all fucked, and I feel that in my circumstance, it qualifies as rape.

But enough of that.  I don't want to have to use the leeches today.

I downloaded all of my photos from the Cali trip, and I have to say I have lost my eye.  I am heartily disappointed in the results.  I haven't had time to work with the images yet, and something might come from nothing, but I wish I hadn't used up all my cell phone pics now.

See that kid between the two girls?  That is what I was going to change my life to look like.  That is what I decided while I was out there.  Different diet, no drinking, a vigorous workout schedule.  Here at home now, though, I have different ideas.  I got up this morning and decided to be kind to myself.  My body wanted to be lazy and not work out.  It wanted a sticky bun with coffee.  I decided on the gentle way and yielded without resistance.  I will be a jolly fat man today.

I've taken to asking people if they ever have pc sexual fantasies where all power is shared and everything is equal.  No one, not even the male feminists, has said yes.  That will change, I'm sure, and maybe I'm just asking the wrong people.  I have included college educated females in my query, but I should ask more young, privileged white males.  I think that I might get different results.  Right?  Sex is so wrong, I am deciding to give it up.  Nothing good ever comes from it.  You'll see.  The Japanese started it, but it will spread.  People will decide that it is just too complicated.  At least democrats.  Republicans will continue unabashed and unabated.  But the rest of us who have any sense will give it up for ideological reasons.  Or, maybe, because we eat too many sticky buns and don't exercise enough.  I know what you are thinking.  But my case is truly ideological.  It has just become too dangerous.

I will even give up photography, at least outside the house.  That is dangerous, too.  I will only photograph objects and maybe some Cindy Sherman style self portraits.  Or I will buy some mannequins.  That could be fun.

How did this post take such a weird, cynical turn?  I really am in a good mood, and I am looking forward to some weekend fun.  God knows what goes on inside the mind of even a reasonable man.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Too Tired

Nope.  Life doesn't change just because you go on a vacation and have time to think about "things."  All you did before and all you must do remain.  I was going to change my life, I swear, but I was so tired after work that instead of changing my life, I came home and opened a bottle of wine.  I went to the garage and worked with the printer which hadn't been run for over a week.  I was going to pump up the tires on my bike, but I was too tired to do that, so I came back into the house and sat down.  I called my mother.  She thinks it is a pity what "they" have done to that poor Kavanaugh.

"What have they done?" I asked.

"They've ruined his life."


She's back to watching Fox news.

I decided that I didn't have it in me to go to the grocery store and get the ingredients for one of those "bowls" that were on the menu in the cool Venice restaurant with the twenty-nine year old bartender, so I went to a place that makes poke bowls and ordered a Hawaiian.  I ordered it, but I couldn't pay.  I had to go back home to get the wallet that I took out of my pants pocket after work.

A little later, I sat on my couch with my poke bowl and turned on the news.  I wasn't going to do this any more, but maybe I didn't mention that I was beat after working.  I just didn't have the energy to do something different.  But the news was still saying the same things that the news said when I left for California, so I turned the t.v. over to YouTube where I watched a lot of short videos that matched my worn attention span.  I watched some videos about the upcoming MMA fight between the loudmouthed Irishman and the quiet Muslim.  I am tempted to watch it pay-per-view on Saturday, since it is in NYC.  I mean, maybe I'd be able to stay awake long enough to see the fight.

Some of that, then some camera-porn, but I'd seen most of that, so I scrolled down to music.  YouTube recommended this for me, so I clicked on it.

Oh, fuck man, why'd they have to go and do that.  I was too tired to resist.

After that, I watched a new Mark Knopfler release.  What happens to people.  It is sad.  The next video popped up.  It was Tom Petty singing about my old college town with all the same film images I took when I was in school there, same time as Petty (who used to try to hang out with my roommate and I and wanted to play in our band, but we told him to beat it), so I sent the video to my old college roommate.  As I did that, the next thing popped up.  It was a Tom Petty concert from the same town in 2006.  It was hideous.  He looked EXACTLY like Hillary Clinton.

What happens to people.  It is sad.

What the hell, I thought, as I clicked Paul Simon playing "The Boxer"live from Hyde Park.  I often play that song on my guitar when I am alone and sad and drunk as I was by the time I hit "play" last night.  And when Simon sang, "But the fighter still remains," I was in tears.  It just happened, suddenly and violently.

What the f'ing f?"  Where did that come from?  I was surprised and dismayed.

Lying in bed last night somewhere between midnight and morning, I started thinking, not a good thing to do at that time, but it couldn't be helped, and the past started flickering behind the lids of my eyes, things I never think of, sad things, and I thought about all the people I'd known who didn't know one another and never would yet who were conjoined in my memories, and the intersectionality of life, the way crossroads meet in an individual, and the profound weight of that which one must bear and which grows greater with time began to overwhelm me, and the dam burst again.

Then I thought/dreamt of an old girlfriend who has taken broken things to be her own, and I imagined  her having broken animals for her own, too, birds, one with a single wing and another with one leg.  And then there was one with a broken beak and a blind bird, and the number of birds and the circumstances of their disabilities grew until it was a grotesque manifestation of her inner state. . . .

Jesus Christ!

I got up.  It was not yet five, but I couldn't lie there and take that shit any more.

I dumped some of the camera cards into the computer and began to download, and as the images appeared, I was bitterly disappointed.

Now what I want to do is change my life, but I am thinking I have neither the energy nor the time to do that.  What I really need is a playmate, someone to distract me from whatever weird shit is happening in my head.  But who knows where the playmates are and how far I would have to go and how much time it would take to find one who liked me and who I liked?  And I'm so tired.  Did I mention that?

So the day has come and it is time to slip back into the hideous old comfortable routine.  My friend texted me last night that I should never have given up the studio, and I said that doing so was one of the biggest mistakes of my life.  I wish I had one now, and maybe that is what I should invest my time in, finding a new one.  I have ideas that require a studio space to manage, and a studio is a nice place to go when songs and dreams are too overwhelming.  But right now, I don't have the time.  As I say, the day is calling, the same one that called me yesterday and the same one that will call me tomorrow, and I wonder what will happen when someday soon that day does not beckon any more?  Into what will I be released?  Will I be revealed to myself in the day as I am in the night?  Will the existential void that I've always recognized come to swallow me at last?

I'd better change my life.  I mean to.  I really do.  It's just that I get so tired.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Everything went smooth as silk coming home yesterday.  I got selected for pre-check again, so arriving two hours early was silly.  With so much time, what was I to do?  Q said to drink, but I wasn't ready for that.  No, a big juicy cheeseburger was just the thing, a $20 LAX cheeseburger.

It was good, too.  It was nearly worth the money.

When I got back, there was no one to greet me at the airport.  I'd forgotten that.  The taxi ride back to my house was a little lonely, but my Vietnamese driver was entertaining.  He was 65, never married, a lifetime bachelor.  He explained it all to me, that and his family's history.  Him and me, going it alone.

When we into my driveway, I realized I didn't even have a cat to greet me for the first time in over sixteen years.  You get the life you choose, I guess.  The point was driven home.

One of the things I'd forgotten about, having not gone anywhere for so long, is just how hard it is to come back home.  Everything is as you left it--or worse.  All the things you were going to do to change your life meets reality.  So you spend an hour readjusting, putting dirty clothes from the trip into the wash, putting away the other things as best you can but really leaving much sitting out to be dealt with later.  You are lost in a familiar place.  It is good to be home.  It is terrible.

Which is the more difficult, I can't remember--going west or returning east?  I've always thought it was harder returning east, but I didn't sleep well at all last night.  I am feeling the hours this morning. A three hour jet lag is hardly jet lag, but it is something, maybe jet blur.

Getting back into the groove is more like falling into a rut.  I got up and hit the coffee maker button.  The familiar grrr and whine.  I poured a cup and opened the milk I had gotten from Whole Foods last night.  I poured it into the coffee, and it chunked up yellow.  I smelled the milk and it didn't smell bad, so I tasted it.  Why in the fuck someone would do that after looking at the big, yellow chunks is a mystery, but one did.  O.K.  California chill.  No big deal.  I got into the car and went to the little market up the street.  I only go in emergencies.  The terrorist who owns the dirty little crack supply shop doesn't keep the refrigeration cold enough, so everything is suspect.  But I needed milk.

When I got it home, I poured a fresh cup of coffee, opened the new milk, and poured it into the cup.  It chunked up in pieces.  I smelled the milk and it didn't smell bad, so I tasted it.  That's right.  Same result.  No shit.

Now my belly is churning.

I went for a third half gallon of milk, this time to a 7-11.  Ahh, yes, the third time was a charm.

No matter what I do, though, I can't seem to get the taste of spoiled milk out of my mouth and brain.

It is a work day.  I am late, but that is to be expected.  I'm always late and now I have an excuse.  But when I leave the house today, no one will come to make the bed and wash out the bathtub and to clean the sink and vacuum and straighten up.  That will all remain for me to do.  And everything else.

Where do all the epiphanies go?  They go to the factory where they are shown to be what they are, fantasies of those who need do nothing but walk and look and see.  It is easy to forget what life is really like.  It only takes a few days.

So now to shower.  I will go to work with a mouth and belly tainted by bad milk.  Today, rather than walking and looking and seeing, I will be sitting and talking and doing.  There I was, for a moment, a flaneur, if you will.  And now. . . .

There is still a chance that I might change some things, a slim but possible chance.  Just let go, I say, don't hold on so tight.  Drift a bit.  Float.  You'll be good.

We'll see what a day at the factory does to that.  Yup.  We will see.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Beautiful Day

Mondays are Mondays everywhere, no doubt.  They feel the same, have the same sameness about them.  Monday nights out of town feel the same, too.  Places are empty.  Places are dead.  And so, here am I, packing for my Tuesday morning flight.  And writing this now, as I know I will not have time to do shit in the morning.  Well, I'll do a shit, but. . . . .

When I got up this morning, the sun was shining and the air was cool, a perfect SoCal day.  So I packed my cameras and headed out for Santa Barbara on the long route.  I thought that there was a Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco.  I would have sworn to you I have driven it before.  But I hadn't.  And I was wrong.  There is no PCH in L.A. or anywhere north for many miles.  I tried.  I swear I tried, but roads kept ending and turns kept turning, and then I was in some oil field and cabbage patch in the middle of nowhere.  Thank god I had the presence of mind to grab my camera and make a record of the moment.  I did not think to use my phone camera, though, so for now you will have to take my word. 

I did manage to stop at some of the famous beaches along the way, though: Topanga Canyon and Ventura.  I stopped at the old Chouinard Iron Works building where everything started that became the travel accoutrement business.  The shed was there, but nothing more.  Next door was a Patagonia store, but it was no different from any other you might wander into, young kids selling stuff to old people who remember when it was cool to wander into the wild.  I drove by the compound where Chouinard lives now with his billion dollars, I think, a colony on the beach made up of high rollers and movie stars, walled to keep the peasants out.  But hey. . . he still does god's work. 

Finally, somehow, I ended up in Santa Barbara.  Oh, my!  I hadn't been there before, and I was knocked out.  It is truly the most beautiful city in America.  If you haven't been, go.  See State Street, but don't stop there.  Wander around.  Get lost.  End up at the most gentle beach in California.  I did, and I am happy and glad.  The light in Santa Barbara is the most perfect light in the world.  Take it from someone who would like to be a photographer.  Gimme, gimme, gimme. 

But you need God's money to live there. 

I realized today that since I've been here, I've eaten nothing but fish tacos.  It's alright.  I don't spend money on dinners eating out alone, and fish tacos are good.  I had three of them for lunch today with a cold Modelo draft.  Fish is good for you, and the tacos have all been good.  I feel like a Mexican fisherman now, getting lean and strong and hard.  I don't look that way, but maybe a bit more than when I came.  But everyone looks better on vacation. 

I went to the pier and I went to the beaches, and then it was late afternoon, and it was time to go.  I took Highway 101 back as it was the quickest, but it was also beautiful, more so than I would have thought.  The mountains and golden hills were on fire with the sun, and that morning, when I plugged my phone into the USB port, I found that all my music was up for play, so there was that.  All my life, I have come to California and driven its mountains and coasts listening to music and clearing my head.  Today, I found that there was much to clear in the old pumpkin, but driving and listening and looking and singing along was cathartic for me.  Many of the songs were from old California trips, and the emotions that raged within me were strong and they were wild.  Driving with music is a universal therapy, I think.  Nobody who does it is ever the worse for wear.  The swerving road, the steep canyon walls, the golden grass, the fire of the sun, and music.  I was Jesus beautifully mad with it all and wished it would always be like this and never, ever end. 

The sun was setting just as I got back to L.A.  And I wondered--should I eat?  I was still full from the late lunch, but I did not want to go to bed hungry.  I thought about where I could dine.  But it was Monday, and nobody was out, and the food would all be old and bad no matter where I would go, so I got. . . this.

A romantic dinner for one in a New York Pizza at a dirty table under bright, fluorescent lights, alone.  Just me and the guy who ran the place.  We talked.  It was O.K.  It didn't last long. 

Now I am facing reality again, an early morning wake up, returning the rental car at an offsite facility and making it to the gate on time.  And then tomorrow night, I will be back to my home, back in my bed, and I will forget every epiphany I have had this week.  I know enough to know that.  That is how it always works.  Oh, one or two things will be remembered, but not for long.  Not for very long.  I have already had a call from the tenant complaining about the electrical wiring in the apartment, and an old girlfriend has been sending me mean texts trying to spoil my trip.  When I get home, it will only be worse.  But I will have had this, and it will do until the next trip which I don't plan to be very far away.  Since I came out with no bar, I had to buy all the bottles I drank, so know how much I I've consumed.  It is shocking.  There will be that to contend with and an exercise regime that I will not reveal to you now.  As always, my plan is to be fit and lithe and handsomer than others, but that is a dangerous if not disastrous bet.  Still, it is that or bust. 

I am a dreamer in a realists world.  It doesn't work so well very often, but when it does. . . fuck off, you idiots, look who has come to town! 

Until then. . . .

ALWAYS Have a Camera

Sunday in L.A.  I spent most of the last day of September at the Getty Museum.  Now that might have been a mistake, but it was an unavoidable one as far as I can tell.  I did not consider the days well when I booked this trip, and as a result, I've missed some things.  You see, you can not drive in L.A. most of the time.  You will eat up half your day--literally--driving across town and back, so I have had to plan my visit according to traffic.  On the other hand, some of the things I wanted to visit are closed the days I wanted to visit them.  In some cases, I didn't know that until too late.  Selavy.

That is not to say that a visit to the Getty is a mistake.  It wasn't.  The Getty is a beautiful structure in a beautiful place with fantastic views all around.  I looked at the paintings on the top floors of the two main buildings which was fun, especially noticing the 16th century European inability to capture the human form correctly.  In order to account for perspective, arms were often improbably long or short, and elbows and wrists would bend at anatomically impossible angles.

But the main exhibit was "Icons of Fashion Photography,"which was important to me, but the crowd was interesting, too.  A large proportion were Asian, and they were the most fashionably dressed.  Of course, I had decided to leave my cameras in the car, tired of lugging them around every day, so all I had was my phone.  Phones, no matter what the ads say, are poor substitutes for cameras, and I regretted not bringing at least one.

The Getty took most of the afternoon.  I looked to visit some other galleries, but I found out that most of the remaining ones I wanted to see were closed on Sundays.  Frustrated, I decided to head to Beverly Hills.  

Rodeo Drive.  What can I say.  It was the brightest, clearest day I've ever seen.  I thought I'd feel out of place as I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but I was wrong.  The sidewalks were filled with hillbillies taking selfies.  I took some pictures, too, but didn't stay long.  It was late afternoon and I wanted to get back "home."  

The traffic had gotten worse.  It took over and hour to cover the seven or so miles.  

Driving back, I realized that Sunday was the day to have stayed on the beach.  The crowds were crazy.  This is where the real photographic opportunities lay.  I pulled over and miraculously found a parking spot overlooking the Santa Monica Pier.  No phone pictures of that, but my cameras were popping.  

Back to the car, and a slooooowwwww crawl the next three miles back to Venice.  There were jumping everywhere.  Bands were playing, people were crazy.  I sat in the car, dying.  I had chosen the museum.  Had to.  It wouldn't be open again before I left.  But man, did I choose the wrong day to leave the beach.  

Venice is young and pretty.  Nothing has more ego than a 29 year old bartender here, male of female. They are cool.  They are certain.  I was lucky to get a drink.  


L.A. would be a lovely place to make pictures if you had a long time to get to know the place and the patience to get around.  It is not a town to pop into for a few days with a camera.  Everything here is timing as far as I can tell.  L.A. is a beautiful deception, too often held at an arm's reach.  

I ended my night at the same crummy Mexican restaurant just down from my hotel drinking a couple margaritas and eating a chicken tamale.  

Somehow, I had missed the opportunity.  No, not somehow.  I had missed it.  

Today is another picture perfect day.  Monday.  The crowds will be back to work and on the highways.  I plan a drive up the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway.  North.  Malibu, then whatever.  Mondays are always Mondays no matter where you are.  

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Beautiful Day in L.A.

O.K.  I am recovering from the whiny little bitch phase I had in my last post.  I am toughening up, learning to live on my own on the road without the comforts of home or my cozy 1930's Palm Springs hotel.  The weather changed, and when I got up yesterday morning, the sky was clear and blue.  My mood is overly effected by weather.  After acidic coffee and a bagel from the lobby, I showered and hit the highways.  Saturday is a good day to drive in L.A., at least the mornings.  I wanted to see some photo galleries that were miles apart.  Google Maps took me on a tour of the city. 

The first gallery I went to was the best.  Peter Fetterman Gallery had an exhibit called "The Fashion Show."  I fell down.  The first giant photos when you walked in were by Irving Penn.  But just beyond that was a wall lined with giant Sara Moon photos, color Fresson prints that are hardly ever done. 

That was just the beginning.  There were William Kleins and Lillian Bassmans and Jerry Schatzburgs and Norman Parkinsons. . . .  I was thrilled, but the prices were out of range.  The big Moon's went for $30,000.  In bins, they had other prints for sale.  I could buy a Klein for $8,000, for instance, an 11"x14" signed black and white archival print. 

My knees were shaking. 

The gallery was in a group of converted warehouses that were now home to many other wonderful galleries.  I popped into one where the walls were lined with the paintings of Harlan Miller. 

I've been a fan but had never actually seen one of the paintings. 

Then another exhibiting the works of Elena May Siff's homage to Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities," small 3D fabrications that are too difficult to explain.  From there to another gallery full of photographs by a woman whose name I can't remember (the gallery card is in the car).  In toto, I was there for hours. 

Then into my car and off to the Annenberg Space for Photography.  Long drive, and it was closed for a new installation.  Off againto the Kopeikin Gallery and more photography. 

By now the traffic was picking up and traveling was slow, so I decided to go to the Taschen bookstore that was not far away.  I didn't know, but it was located in some big Beverly Hills outdoor, upscale mall.  I had to park in a lot, and afraid that I wouldn't find my car. . . .

There was a lot going on in this place, kids wanting to be 90210 all dolled up in that rich California way.  As I walked across the plaza looking for the bookstore, I suddenly felt that I was wasting my day.  I hadn't taken any pictures except to mark my car's location, and now here I was in Shinola looking at a two hundred dollar billfold.  Oh. . . don't think I didn't want it.  It was a beaut.  When I left, the clerk stared at me as if I had just stolen something.  I guess I wasn't looking like a Beverly Hills shopper. 

When I got back to my car, the day was waning and traffic had swollen.  The ten miles back to my hotel took an hour, I-10 a solid parking lot. 

I was back to my hotel just a bit after five, and I realized I hadn't eaten anything but a bagel all day, so I picked up one of those little scooters off the sidewalk and buzzed my way down to the upscale bohemian street for dinner at a place called GreenLeaf, an organic, sustainable food restaurant that served killer cocktails.  It makes no sense, perhaps, but it was cool. 

I've decided to eat this way back home, bowls full of healthy, fun things.  Right?  That's what you do on a trip, change your life.  

I must get going now.  I want to get to the Getty Museum when it opens so that I can avoid traffic and get parking which I read is very limited.  So a quick shower and off into what is another gorgeous SoCal day.  

I don't feel so empty.  I don't feel so blue.  I am building up rather than falling apart, inspired rather than tired.  

And so. . . until then. . . . 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Don't Be Negative

I've turned into a traveling wuss, I guess.  That place in Palm Springs ruined me.  I drove to L.A. in the morning and got to my hotel just after noon.  When I got here, they told me my room would not be ready until four, so I put on my walking shoes, grabbed my camera(s), and set off.

L.A. is a dirty city, at least the parts I've seen so far which have been downtown from the highway and walking though Venice Beach and environs.  A sea haze hung over the town yesterday, warm and wet, which did nothing to make me wish I hadn't stayed in Palm Springs longer.  But I was here, and I was out.  I walked to the Venice Pier which was absolutely nothing, then down the beach toward Santa Monica.  Characters and tourists.  Being crazy and poor does not make one photogenic, and to that end, my photo walk was uninspiring.  A crowd was gathered around the famous Muscle Beach Gym, an outdoor facility with rusted equipment and rusted bars that has inspired prisons everywhere.  You can get a pass to work out there for $10/day.  I wasn't interested.  What attracted the crowd was three tatted brothers who were performing some handstands on one another.  I took a few pictures and moved on.

Further down the boardwalk, I came upon another crowd and went to investigate.  It was a skateboard park.  In my head, I picture SoCal as blonde headed white kids on skateboards, but that is not the case.  Asians, Mexicans, and African-Americans.  Well, I haven't been here for a long, long time.

I wandered further until the crowd had thinned, and as I was tired, I turned away from the beach and walked toward a street chi-chi of shops.  I stopped at the first restaurant I came to that had customers, a Mexican place where I ate two fish tacos and drank a cold Corona.  I knew the beer would make me sleepy, but I was already feeling beat.  I texted a friend and told her that I smelled marijuana everywhere but had not yet seen a dispensary.  Weird, I said.  There must be more to it than we think.

Within a block, however. . . .

Well. . . I walked in.  The shop was full of guys in red shirts, the security squad, just about one per customer.  Prices must be high to pay for them, I thought.  To get in, you had to set up an account.  I gave them my drivers license and became, I assume, part of the FBIs permanent record.  The place smelled like a grow house and was overwhelming.  Hundreds of products, it seemed, cookies, gummies, oils, vapes, and just plain bud, all ranked and rated for what they did or could do.  I thought about the kids in my own home state who pay tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees for getting popped for a joint.  It just ain't NORML.

After walking the streets all day, I was pooped and didn't want to walk any more, so I picked up one of the scooters that line the streets everywhere.  Pretty cool.  You download the app, then scan the code on the scooter, and away you go.  I am not sure how much it costs per block or mile.  I just put twenty dollars on my account and will see how far that takes me.  But the damn things are squirrely.  At least for a man my age.  I took off all stiff and rigid waiting for my tumble.  Weren't people getting killed on these?  No helmet, nothing?  But it was cool.  When I got to my hotel, I just leaned it against a wall and left it.  I hope that was the right thing to do.

I got my key and took my bags to my room.  And I was depressed.  My place isn't a dive, but it used to be.  My room is very large and has cathedral ceilings, but that is all.  The carpet is hotel carpet, the furnishing are hotel furnishings.  I am on the fourth floor and have a balcony, but it looks out over a parking lot.  In the gloomy distance, I can see the mountains surrounding the bay.  The isolation and the furnishings and the view and the gloom here are a stark contrast to the cheery Palm Springs room that overlooked the pool.  My heart sunk at the thought of four nights.

I did some quick Google maps routes to places I want to go.  Ten miles.  1hr 30 min.  Everything.  Everywhere.  It felt like lockdown.

I decided to Uber to the Santa Monica Pier.

I missed sunset which I thought would have been beautiful with both natural and artificial light, but that is what I got for moping around my hotel room.  But I am a sucker and a sap for these old sights, and the Santa Monica Pier revived me in some primitive way.  It is nothing.  It is something.  The pier is lined with happy hoi-poloi taking selfies and eating carnival food and lining up in front of the End of Route 66 sign in order to have their pictures taken.  I tried to photograph, but it was dark.  Occasionally, if someone was standing in the light, I got a photo that wasn't blurred and smeared, but mostly I was stuck with photographing the lighted rides.

I was tempted to have Zoltar tell me my future, but I was afraid of how that would turn out.

By nine, I was wiped, so I got another Uber back to the old hotel.  I hadn't eaten and knew I should, but I was too tired to go looking for restaurants, so I went to the crowded Mexican place next door.  Yep, fish tacos and a beer.  The place was like any TGI Friday kind of place you could go.  I sat at a sticky bar with three t.v.s showing the UCLA/Colorado game, staring into a bright beer sign listening to loud music I couldn't begin to identify other than it is the kind of stuff these people listen to.  It was pretty miserable.

I came back to the room and had a couple scotches.  I had lost my bliss somewhere.  I felt lost.  I lay in bed and remembered vividly my trip around the country after college.  I remembered being alone on the road staying in dumps, eating bad food.  But I was looking for adventure, and there was a girl back home.  Last night, I was looking for something nice, and back home there was only home.

This morning I have lingered not wanting to begin the day, but the sun has come out and the day is, in some way, beckoning.  I will go into it and see.  As my one-time-friend said, "Don't be negative.  Make the most of it."

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Zombie Apocolypse

Poolside with coffee in the silent dawn, the hotel guests still sleeping.  Fingers crossed as I pushed the button on the coffeemaker.  The owner is so nice.  It is all set up.  It brews.  

Yesterday after writing, I ate a yogurt.  But wait, there was more.  I had two freshly cooked, still hot, hard boiled eggs and a toasted bagel.  I want to live here in this hotel.  It is awesome.  

Michael is the owner.  He is here day and night.  He bought the hotel last year.  It wasn't for sale, he said, but he made an offer.  When was this built, I asked him last night.  1936.  That is why he can have this lovely pool without a fence, he says.  He was grandfathered in, but that is also why the hotel is 21 and up.  Originally, this was built by the El Mirador resort to accommodate overflow as the resort gained popularity.  But when WWII began, it was converted into a hospital and so it remained (link). With its arches, I knew this was Philip Marlowe era.  

After breakfast, I headed off to peruse the town.  I walked the Canyon shopping strip, but it was essentially nothing.  It was already hot and there were only a handful of people moving on the streets.  I took a few pictures, but nothing of circumstance, and after an hour, I got back into the car and headed for the Ace Hotel.  I almost stayed there.  I'm glad I didn't.  It is a place to get puked on by someone who heard it was a good party place.  The architecture is blah, and the people a rag-tag collection from Instagram.  I walked up and down the street and took a few snaps.  I have to say, the Days Inn looked as appealing as the Ace.  Everything did.  

At noon, I decided to head for the Salton Sea.  My destination was Bombay Beach in particular.  The Salton Sea is a manmade catastrophe that gave hope to entrepreneurs looking to make a buck.  But the lake was not sustainable after its flow of water was cut off and so it became brackish and began to shrink.  The numerous resort businesses built on its shores were vacated.  Today, what is left is terrifying.  I had to take a look.  

I stopped along the way to make photographs, but everywhere I stopped, I expected to be confronted by ghouls.  I was in the lowest region of the U.S., some 260 feet below sea level, and it was 110 degrees.  I would stop at some abandoned building and get out to make a photograph, but I always left the car running.  I was worried that it would overheat and I would be stuck, but I more, I wanted to be able to jump into the car and make a heroic getaway when attacked.  The air was putrid with the small of brine and death, the landscape gaunt.  Why was I here, I wondered?  Why was I here alone?  

I came upon a functioning structure, the "famous" Banana Museum.  I have no idea what went on there.  A lone car sat in the parking lot.  I did not go inside.  I wanted to go.  Further.  I drove along the the shore of the lake, a road leading to a "park" of some sort.  I turned to go in only to find an entrance fee.  What?!?  People paid 6$ to drive along the nothingness.  There was no one at the guard gate to collect the money.  It was self pay.  It didn't seem worth it, though in retrospect I regret the decision.  How could I turn down an opportunity to experience God's destruction?  Maybe I couldn't face it.  I don't know.  I just did.  

The Bombay Beach sign appeared like the apparition of Gatsby's Eyes of Dr. T. J. Ecklburg, garish advertising for the apocalypse to come.  It beckoned the innocent, the foolish, the easily deceived.  It beckoned me. 

I turned down the road leading to "the community."  Another sign welcomed me.  "The Last Stop for the Bombay Beach Resort."  Beyond it was the town's commercial district, a restaurant/bar, a bar/grill, and a market.  One flew a black pirates flag, the Jolly Roger.  Two cars were parked outside. I wondered.  

I creeped along the unpaved roads past abandoned trailers and lots filled with every sort of junk imaginable.  Rusted cars sat in the driveways of trailers with busted windows and busted doors.  I stopped and got out.  There was no sound, just the terrible smell of salty death.  Looking around, I crawled through a fence entered one of the ruins.  I didn't breathe.  I wanted to hear the attack whether it was from some crazed criminal biker, his pit bull, or a mass of undead zombies.  I am not easily spooked, but this place got inside me.  It was as I imagine Chernobyl to be, abandoned in an instant, preserved in some historic moment.  

I got back into the car and creeped along.  I guess I imagined at this point that I was in some weird museum, for I stopped and walked into lots again and again.  Then I heard someone in a trailer next door.  I realized that an air conditioner was running.  Jesus Christ!  Who the fuck lived here?  This couldn't be good.  I was nowhere.  There were only these people.  When the shit came crashing down, there would be no one to help me.  They could easily make my car disappear.  The motor was running, the keys inside.  

I tiptoed back to the car and got in closing the door with a whisper.  It was true.  People lived here.  It was not the museum I believed.  I drove on, still stopping to make pictures but from the road rather than in what apparently were people's homes.  I saw no one.  Then, a lone bicyclist came toward me.  I drove by.  It was a young woman, a hippie in a midriff.  Don't be a pussy, I thought.  Take her picture.  It is too good to pass up.  So I turned the car around and drove up beside her.  I asked her if she minded if I used her riding her bike in a photograph.  "What's it for?" she asked with sleepy eyes and a drowsy smile.  "Just my vacation photos," I said realizing right away that sounded stupid.  "You from here?" she asked.  "No. Are you?"  "Yes. . . well, my parents live here."  I tried to picture them.  Was she here on vacation?  Nothing was making sense to me and I was getting nervous that some Zombie Police were going to arrive any moment.  "I don't really like having my picture taken," she said, and I said O.K. with both disappointment and relief.  "It's really hot," she said, and I agreed.  So why was she riding her bicycle around in the hottest part of the afternoon?  Nothing made sense here.  Nothing.  

Eventually I left with a feeling of relief.  I've never been spooked like that, and I left haunted.  I wanted to go back, though, wanted to go have a drink at the bar, wanted to find out why people lived in such a forsaken spot, why they made such strange things, such odd objects of art.  I wanted to, but knew the chances were slim.  But maybe, I thought.  Maybe.  

It was late afternoon.  I had to make a decision.  Did I want to go on another tour or did I want to return to the hotel?  I was hungry, having eaten nothing since I left the hotel that morning.  I was heat worn, and I was parched.  The idea of a drink beside the pool was too inviting.  The hotel it was.  

I was not wrong.  It was a capital idea.  Mathew brought me a glass of rose and some petite bites on a tray.  It was hot, and after my wine, I put on my trunks and entered the pool.  Yes, I affirmed.  I am older and smarter now.  I know to enjoy what I pay for.  I know better than to run myself ragged while luxury beckons.  A dip, a shower, and a scotch.  the sun began to set, and the other guests began to prepare for dinners.  I sat and wrote and drank and thought.  I cooked up these phone pictures and texted them to friends so they'd know I was living a large life.  I deserved it, they kindly responded.  I had a rough summer, a rough year.  That's what friends say.  That's what friends do.  

And I sat longer.  All the guests were gone now, and Michael came out make a picture of the beautiful end of the day.  Yes.  So would I.