Thursday, September 16, 2021

Don't Try


I don't know.  It's probably just me.  But I feel like people are purposely naive about some things.  Oh, I was going to write about priests and gymnastic coaches and doctors, about parents who think its all o.k., people who expect everyone to act with nobility. . . .   That's just not me.  I mean, I am not surprised.  These are outrageous acts, they say.  I say no shit.  But have you ever talked to any women about their experiences as little girls?  There aren't any I've met without some kind of tale.  It's not just women.  When I was a handsome boy and wanted a better haircut than the ones I got from the barbershop, I started going to "stylists."  Better haircuts for sure.  More expensive, too.  But man, those guys sure leaned on me in a way the barber never did.  They really got close to make sure they were doing a good job.  And they took their time, too.  Women only flirted, but there were teachers at our jr. high school who would let you drive their car if you could stand the other.  In my redneck/cracker neighborhood there were many sayings that warned of sexual assault.  If I wrote them out for you here and now, you would blame me, say I was making it up, but they were truths much told.  These things don't just happen in Africa and India and in the Middle East though we like to think that European blood and influence have cleansed us.  If I had the courage of a Dave Chappelle, I'd tell it to you straight.  But even Dave is going back into hiding.  

Thusly, look at this photograph.  Really something, eh?  Well that ain't nothing.  Watch this!


How about that?!?!  That's the stuff.  One wouldn't want to get caught up in controversy these days.  It's best to stay close to the house and not go out of the yard.  

"Stay where I can see you honey, o.k.?"

That AI colorizer in Photoshop ain't worth a shit yet.  But it will get better.  I know it will.  

I got some good advice on making those ambrotypes I've been trying.  A guy in Australia who is basically inventing the process all by himself gave me some of his wisdom.  It is a cloudy day and is supposed to rain, but if I get a chance with sunlight, I'm going to try to make a couple plates today and see if what he told me helps.  If I can get consistent results, you won't believe the pictures I will make of things around the yard.  It will be a real freakin' wonderland.  

But seriously, I do have a project in mind.  I just have to begin and get some success under my belt.  Starting, as always, is the hardest part.  

I've been reading Bukowski before bed lately.  He is so very good at the thing he does it doesn't even seem like he's doing it.  You can be lured into thinking that he is just a drunk with a typewriter who found some infamy at a strange time in history.  But you would be wrong.  There is a lot of junk in his billion-plus poems, of course, but I wouldn't want it refined by some lit professor curating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.  There is a lot of truth and wisdom even in the junk.  Bukowski is a story teller with a bitingly ironic wit.  Those poems all interact.  They are one big novel.  

But hey kids, listen. . . you don't want to be Bukowski.  Art is a beautiful but dangerous lure.  Don't take the bait.  It's like everything else in life.  You must be careful.  Safety First.  Hell, Bukowski even tries to warn you himself.  If you don't believe me, just look at his tombstone.  That should be enough.  



Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Hoity Toity


I did it, I did it!  Sorta.  I finally got one of the ambrotype dry plate photos to work.  Sorta.  The black edge on the left is due to the Liberator camera not covering a full 4x5 plate.  The white on the right side is due to the dark slide on the film holder not closing all the way.  So yea, I got another fucked up plate, but it worked!  

I am one of the few people in the world trying to do this process.  There are probably so many good reasons for this I can't count them all.  Very few people have been successful.  If I can begin to get consistent results, I will do more.  Then I will begin to wonder why.  It is a slow, deliberate way to work.  Is it worth it?  Are the images more spectacular than other forms?  

Yet to be determined.  This is a scan of the plate.  This is not how it looks when you hold it.  Backed with black, the image looks like this (lousy quality--I took it with my iPhone).  

The glare at the top is caused by my desk lamp.  I just made this quickly.  But the resulting plate can be framed and mounted as a one of a kind photographic image.  

So what do you do with that?

We'll see.  I still have to work at getting the process down pat.  There are a handful of wizards who love working in the dark arts still experimenting.  Fortunately, they share most of what they discover.  I say "most" because I fear I am not contributing enough to get the secret handshake.  I am sure there is information being passed that I am not privy to.  No real evidence, just my usual paranoia.  

I'm an Outsider, don't you know.  

Which became painfully evident to me once again yesterday when I sent around a bunch of silly texts to my friends about AOC and the entire Met Gala affair as well as some comments about the 'baller Russell Westbrook's wearing a skirt and knee boots at a fashion show.  A retired 'baller wrote an acerbic post about "n- - -a's" who where dresses.  I find such things hilarious.  

I only have a couple friends who can tolerate if not enjoy my insouciance/glee at the profound silliness of the world.  But sometimes in my excitement I forget that.  I just want to give my pals a chuckle and lighten their days a bit.  My reward for this forgetfulness is often some cutting remark about my viewpoint or intelligence.  Undeserved, I feel, but I know some real ideologues who do not find any humor off message.  

"You need some viewpoint diversity," one of them wrote.  

"I ❤️ AOC...she can do whatever she wants lol," wrote another.  The [. . .] thing that's annoying about this today is that nobody knows what the hell the word performative actually means, apparently, at least not in a theoretical or critical sense."

Ouch!  I was only trying to have fun.  The Met Gala and the rest of it was like reading People magazine for me.  It was drivel that I was able to find some humor in.  You can analyze it, criticize it, perform Marxist/structural/post-structural/hermeneutical/feminist/identity theory analysis of it, sure.  You can trot out your academic chops, no doubt.  I don't care.  But pandering to referential authority in a text message. . . really?  Jesus, that's like trying to be learned on Twitter.  Texts and Twitter are made for wit, for the bon mot.  

But some of my friends. . . well, they argue within the boundaries of textual authority.  That, fortunately or unfortunately, is not where life is lived, and when MAGA comes for them, they are going to run or lock their doors and call the proper authorities.  The strongly worded letter, however, is going to do them little good at that moment.  Their identity is going to be less than theoretical.  It will show itself in an emergency.  

I love to read and I have a good education, but man, I admire a cowboy.  

It is a wonder that I am so popular in my mother's neighborhood.  But then again, I don't text them in the mornings.  

I must say, though, that I have been intellectually lazy since retiring and my friends' rebukes sent me reeling.  Last night, I began boning up on the postmodern post-structuralists once again.  I will do the same with social theories next week.  I don't wish to be caught in a gunfight with a knife.  

I wrote back to one of my detractors that I just didn't like ideologues.  

"Everyone is an ideologue," I got back.  "Even you."

"Yea?" I responded.  "At least I'm not consistent.  

To wit--Norm McDonald died.  Oh fuck me I loved watching Norm McDonald.  He was such a liar.  He loved his wife, he said, who was beautiful, and their daughter, but he was afraid he might be a homosexual.  His wife was not beautiful and they had a son.  Everything was a schtick.  He revealed himself through misdirection.  He went against the grain.  He disagreed with everyone.  Sometimes he even shocked me.  My world is reduced by one.  

Don't watch this if you are easily offended even if you think you are not.  But this is Norm McDonald. 



Tuesday, September 14, 2021

With Which You Are Comfortable


Oh why am I mucking about with big cameras and dry plates, spending dollar after dollar chasing some elusive look that I don't seem to be able to capture when I can make a simple Polaroid and color it on my own?  Look!  It is really something, I think.  Alas, I can no longer do this.  The film is gone.  Photographers and photography are pawns in the hands of tech companies.  I have been experimenting much, and as frustrating as it has been (mostly due to my errors), it has been fruitful in that I am finding which cameras I enjoy using most.  It comes down to user experience, doesn't it?  Yes, like everything else.  The best boat for you is the one you like to sail.  The best car is the one you like to drive.  The best camera is the one you like to use.  And sure, there are different boats and cars and cameras for different types of use.  No doubt.  In the end, though, you know which one and which use you like the best.  

Probably.  

If someone were to leave me money right now, I know I would get another studio.  I loved having a studio.  It was wicked fun.  But the money. . . I need to feel no guilt.  I need guiltless money.  I really want a studio again.  

I am, however, a slave to guilt.  It is terrible.  I can be guilted into almost anything.  I will hide the fact that I am eating sweets this morning with my coffee.  "Oh. . . I eat a very healthy diet.  I usually have some yogurt or a hard boiled egg or often nothing in the morning, maybe a can of sardines and an apple for lunch.  Dinners are always healthy."  So, o.k., I'm eating a cherry danish this morning, but you know, I feel like tossing it up.  Yup.  That sort of shit.  I was doing so well, then I drank more than I should (about which I will lie) and then there was a cherry danish.  I feel terrible.  

I feel terrible about the present.  I feel guilty about the past.  

Living on the Trump/AOC border makes us all crazy.  It is the id vs. the super-ego minus any referee.  It feels like we live in a house where the parents never quit fighting.  It is an impossible situation.  

I want to be good, mom, I swear. . . but oh, those guilty pleasures.  

"Where'd you get that magazine!?!?!?"

"I found it in dad's closet."

"You need to stay out of his closet.  What were you doing just now before I came in?  Tell me the truth."  

"Are those pictures of you?"  

"That sonofabitch.  I'll kill him."

That replaces a long political diatribe I deleted, but it says pretty much the same thing.  

Did you see the pictures from the Met Gala?  WTF?  But AOC was there.  She wore an Eat the Rich dress.  Actually it said "Tax" not "Eat."  But really, with whom was she consorting at the Met Gala?  I didn't get an invitation this year, did you?  

But maybe I'm smelling too much "Animal Farm."

That is my take away among many others that I don't wish to reveal here and now.  

Monday, September 13, 2021

Failure, Success, and the Zen of Just Being


This is what I got from a roll of film that didn't go through the camera.  The rest was blank.  I am about to give up on analog.  I just keep f'ing things up.  My glass plates are not turning out well at all.  Indeed, I am just burning through the money trying to get a decent picture.  I have to admit, though, that I love the colors I get from my own home development of color film.  It is fairly thrilling.  I may leave the large format stuff alone and just go with the other formats.  I wanted so, though, to become a dry plate wizard.  

But palm trees and blue skies, eh?  That ain't nothin'.  

I took ma to the pool yesterday.  I thought to tread water while she did whatever.  It got to be painfully boring, so I tried swimming.  To my astonishment, my left arm fully rotated.  I could swim!  At least I could make the swimming motion.  I have never been much of a swimmer for some reason.  I don't float well.  I can take a full breath and still sit on the bottom of the pool.  I must have heavy bones.  I don't know.  But in the best of times, I'm slow.  Yesterday, I looked like one of those old hand cranked batter beaters, just churning up the water without going anywhere.  No matter, though. . . I was swimming.  I think that I might try to make it part of my fitness routine.  The only problem is stripping down at the pool.  I have the body of a Borscht Belt comedian now.  It's o.k.  I have lost a lot of my ego/dignity in the past few years.  All I need is a pair of old man trunks and a belted hip-length terrycloth top with two big side pockets to complete the look.  

And a pack of Lucky Strikes or Camels.  

In truth, I've always disliked swimming as exercise.  Plus chlorine plays hell with my new blond hair.  Still. . . a man's gotta do. . . . 

I opened another vault yesterday.  More pictures I haven't seen in maybe ten years.  One file contained all the old surf photos I took with the Holga camera ever so long ago.  I thought they were gone, but there were the big TIFF files from which I can print.  Hallelujah!  And there were many that never made the surf site (link).  I will probably post a few of them here, but most of them will be over where they belong.

I found some early Lonesomeville images in there, too, that might make it into the book.  Yea, I'm still working on it.  Decisions, decisions.  But it will be done. . . perhaps in time for Christmas!

The days are getting shorter, even here.  I am going to bed earlier each night and am rising with the sun.  It is nature's way.  It is my rhythm.  

My travel buddy left for his conquest of the Camino de Santiago this weekend.  C.C. is preparing for Paris.  My republican friend left yesterday to return home after a couple weeks touring Europe.  My neighbors should be home from Eastern Europe soon.  Me?  I'm making myself content with smallish excursions that have me home by nightfall.  I think in a few weeks my mother should be capable of taking care of herself for a few days if I want to spend the night out of town.  Maybe.  If not, no matter.  Since moving back home, I have become more at peace with things as they are.  There is much to keep me busy here and there is still most of the peak of hurricane season left.  I will take some photos today, I think.  The weather looks promising.  There is marketing to do and dinners to cook for mother and still plenty of therapy to take her to.  Maybe I'll get to make some fall journeys with my cameras.  You would like that, pictures and stories.  





Sunday, September 12, 2021

Peeper


I'm out of photos unless I go back into the dinosaur cave.  I haven't taken any for a couple weeks, I guess.  So I am hereby posting one of the 1960s vintage fashion era radical change in direction/Italian Vogue images from a different time and sensibility.  I'll try to make something new today.  

The problem is I'm not working digitally and I am using big, burdensome cameras and am experimenting all the time and so have an overabundance of test shots and nothing of real value.  I have to develop all the film or plates and can only do so much at a time.  I'm not complaining.  I just don't have anything to show right now.  Fingers crossed, something tomorrow.  

But I am a people photographer.  All those building shots from the Time of Covid. . . just ain't me.  I'm a voyeur.  I get excited looking at just about anyone through a viewfinder.  I'm sure there is a name in the psych journals for this malady.  Well. . . voyeurism will do.  Yea. . . I'm a real peeper.  My ex-wife's father had wonderful apartments in Manhattan.  I used to go all the time.  At night, looking out back toward the courtyard, it was like the movie "Rear Window," only more so.  The things you'd see were astonishing.  I read an article decades ago about a photographer who had been making photos from NYC windows for years.  He had a huge portfolio, the writer reported, that would astonish people when shown.  As far as I know, however, that secret stash never came to light.  Probably too many legal hassles.  

I don't have even one person to make photos with.  Not one.  You might say, "What about your mother?" but I'm not going there.  I guess I do have limits.  Actually, it doesn't take too much thinking for me to find many.  O.K.  Yes, I guess I eschew most people.  My interests are. . . I'm sure there is a term for it.  

Refined. 

But I am a good caregiver and a good son.  My mother has never eaten so well.  Last night I made a chicken barley soup with carrots, onions, celery, and spinach in bone broth and wine.  Served with crusty bread.  God it was good.  

I'm taking her swimming this morning at her neighbor's pool.  Not swimming, really, but the therapist said that getting in the pool would be good for her shoulder.  I'll be there as the fat lifeguard remembering that since my accident, I'm unable to swim.  We might both be discovered floating face down sometime in the late afternoon or early evening.  If not, tonight there will be more soup.  

I am trying to stay away from the news, but here is my big takeaway today.  

In a single zany sentence, this is how the once-promising summer of boxing ended: Triller, a social video app that is a much less popular version of TikTok, put on a pay-per-view fight between a 58-year-old Evander Holyfield (who hasn’t fought in a decade) and a 44-year-old mixed martial artist, Vitor Belfort — and paid former President Donald J. Trump and Donald Trump Jr. to serve as live commentators, all on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. (link)

 Trump had hoped to box Biden in the main event (link), but I guess the money wasn't right.  

This, my friends, is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  It is Your Land.  It is My Land.  Stand Beside Her, And Guide Her. . . . 

So maybe we've all gone mad.  It seems so.  And from what I read today (link), t.v. execs are going to feed us an endless stream of sci-fi/Marvel Comics entertainment until we all become addled teenagers once again.  It will be the triumph of Clearasil.  

And so it goes.  There seems to be no sun today, so much of my photo dreams are cancelled for the umpteenth day in a row.  I need sunlight for those glass plates.  I may have to move on to a plan B.  Or make more pictures of "things."  

It is not much of a life for a peeper.  

Saturday, September 11, 2021

9/11

 


It's 9/11.  I don't wish to relive it through television specials or journalistic pieces.  It seems never to have ended.  It seems we live with it every day.  

So my memory of the day is merely personal.  It has not wide-ranging importance to anyone.  Like everyone in America, I remember where I was when the first plane crashed into the first tower that morning.  I was at the gym.  I heard the news on the radio.  No one was certain what had happened yet.  By the time I got home, the second plane had hit the second tower.  It seemed unreal, even looking at the images on the television screen.  One knew right away that things had just forever changed.  

The night before, however, I had decided I could no longer continue things with N.  I'm certain she had already come to the same conclusion.  She had moved and was at the university a couple hours away.  It was impossible, really, and unfair.  I, of course, was confused as to whom it was most unfair.  I had tried to end the affair before she left, but she had not wanted that and so we lingered on.  When it was no longer possible, though, I wanted her badly.  Why had I been so stupid?  I was like Issac Davis deciding he wanted Tracy (link).  

Unlike the movie, however, the story didn't end with a Gershwin song.  Of course.  And so, I wrote a long goodbye on Sunday night, an email that I sent late after a number of whiskeys.  I would wait for her response.  That was 9/10.  

By the time she would have read the email, however. . . 9/11.  

And that was that.  For a long while, at least.  We didn't leave one another alone for a number of years, but those are tales for another time.  

Q lived in the East Village but was in Manchester that day.  His girl, C, was in class at Hunter College on the Upper East Side.  They were the only people I knew living in NYC at the time.  They were both O.K.  

I began a new journal that day and titled it "New World Journal."  Indeed, it was.  

Good old N turned out alright.  She got a job with a major magazine and moved to New York.  Her career took off and she became famous in the fashion world. You can look her up.  There are many photos of her in the Getty Image Library, by herself and with the very, very famous.  We stayed in touch for many years and I saw her a couple times, once here and once in Manhattan.  Then she met the boy she would marry, and I haven't heard from her since.  I check in on her online like a creeper from time to time.  

There is so much more to say, but I am not poetic today.  I have been purging since moving home.  I've only eaten soups and have limited my drinking to one or two whiskeys a day.  Last night, however, I fell hard off a speeding wagon.  The world was, I guess, just too much with me.  I am slow and groggy this morning.  I haven't the energy to go searching through old emails and journals for words from the past.  All that jazzed me a few nights ago overwhelms me this morning.  The past is a grand place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.  Those journals are evil.  I wrote everything there without censorship.  There is joy and depression, danger and lust.  There are things I should regret, perhaps. . . but I don't.  What is clear, though, is that we were all living through a different set of paradigms and assumptions then that look foreign to many now.  N and I were living on the very cusp of change, I looking in one direction she looking in another.  I know that the intersection of our affair was of profound importance to her.  

I know that the end of it was even more so.  

Friday, September 10, 2021

Gone Girl(s)


Being home again is thrilling and dangerous.  Last night I listened to music I had pirated in the time after my divorce, the crazy time, and I read letters, emails, and other writing while I listened.  Jesus. . . things have changed.  I was drunk with it all and wrote a blog post for today that I had to delete.  One must be so very careful these days.  

I am shocked by what I don't remember.  It is important to write things down, to keep a record of what goes on, or it is all lost.  But some of it might better be, at least for me.  So many painful letters, so many hideous responses.  In the end, however, everything works out.  For others, I mean.  Apparently I was an important part of their lives, but leaving me may have been more so.  Ha!  That is my take, anyway.  In the end, the letters were sweet. . . for them.  Bittersweet for me.  

If I'm writing this now, I must have accepted that my last affair is over.  It can go into the pile of old memories with the rest of them.  I only have one regret, really.  I didn't write it all down during that time.  Oh, no. . . that would not have been good.  Writing, art, music. . . those were not things to be lauded.  In others, sure, but not for me. 

Whatever.  I felt something akin to hope and happiness last night.  It seemed a very distant, foreign emotion.  It was probably the music that did it.  

Here is another little piece out of the billions of words that lay in those old drives.  I don't remember writing it, but I used to do that.  I would read a poem and then write my own in the same meter, using the fixed line as my guide, using the same number of syllables, the same number of lines per stanza, the same tone and sentiment.  I don't know if I would have written "fuck" now, but it fit the meter, I suppose.  I might have used another single syllable word, but it was Bukowski you know.  I will leave it.  

It was painting by numbers, but if I didn't tell it, who would know?

* * *


A Poem After Reading Bukowski (2003)

She is seeing a fellow,
She tells me. 
He works for a brokerage firm. 
Oh, I say. 
She looks at me defensively. 
He makes me laugh. 
Well, that’s something. 

We used to be lovers occasionally,
But she has let me know that that is all gone. 
I don’t object. It is not my call. 
But I would like to fuck her now. 

We probably should never have made love, 
I say. 
Yeah, she says, you’re probably right. 
I didn’t want her to agree with me. 
I wanted her to object, to tell me
That it was important, 
That it was good. 

I am just home from work tonight
Fixing my dinner for one. 
She has not written me since she went back
To California. 
I think about her, and suddenly I realize
That she is with her new boyfriend. 
Laughing. 

It is a crummy night. 

* * *

Whatever.  Let's keep dancing.  Don't stop the Dance.  




Thursday, September 9, 2021

Opening the Digital Crypt


I opened up an old hard drive yesterday. Bad ju-ju. Q says, "Old hard drives are trouble, little digital crypts waiting for their spirits to escape." Tru dat. It was not the pictures that got me but the volume of writing that was on them--old journals (lots and lots and lots of them), stories, vignettes, letters, several beginnings of failed novels. . . . I used to write all the time. Constantly.

Here is part of the first thing I read.  It is perfect pre-9-11.  You can get the beginning and the ending, perhaps.  Maybe just a little more. 

1999.  It looks a strange number now.


It begins with an email, then a song. The longing, the pulling of old love. You want to go back, to live there awhile. Maybe you drink the whiskey, consort with faeries and daemons. And then your wife or girlfriend calls your name and you are yanked back to the present, to the world of bad cars, ill health, and unpaid bills.

She wants me to write this narrative, the long-promised, oft started-narrative. It is her story, and she wants to hear it. Maybe it has been long enough now.

She was in my film course, a once a week evening class. I noticed her the first night. She was the most beautiful girl in the room and the one I knew I would teach to. However, I was married and tried hard not to look at her. But I kept her in my peripheral vision, always seeing her from the corner of my eye. Everything I did--every move, every word--was inspired by her. I knew a few of the boys in the class already, and they gave me the look. Yes, she was beautiful

Did we meet once or twice before the storm? I don’t remember now, and surely it matters little. Early in the term, a massive hurricane descended on Florida. I have tried hard in the past to make this an important part of the narrative, but it isn’t. It was simply an incredibly large hurricane that never came. The day it was to cross the state, it turned suddenly north and went inland at North Carolina causing billions of dollars of damage. That morning, I had taken my wife to the airport at dawn, then come home to put away the things in the yard that might become missiles. The last thing I moved was a ninety pound glass table top that slipped from my grasp in the misty rain and the dull gray light, the last thing I moved to the detached garage. It fell on my right big toe which was housed in a flip-flop, and crushed it in five places. I was lucky not to lose it. My wife did not come home to take care of me when she found out and, indeed, never really came home at all. When she got back into town, she told me that she was not happy. A few days later, she told me that she wanted a divorce. And that was that. I was unable to walk, owned a blind, diabetic German Shepard/Husky mix, and had just lost my wife.

The film class did not meet for two weeks. The first we missed because it was Memorial Day, the next because of the hurricane. When the class next met, I was unable to walk and the beautiful girl had a patch covering her left eye. Her name was N. I asked her what had happened. She had been in a car accident, she said, rear-ended on I-4. The air bag had gone off and damaged her eye severely. “Oh, dear, you will be rich. Will you marry me?” I said off-handedly. I was only slightly kidding. She screwed her mouth up a bit, her tongue slightly touching her upper lip as she thought. “Yes,” she said slowly, looking at me with her one good eye. The boys in the class went nuts. Looking back, I think I took her at her word.

And that is how it began for me. I did not talk to N for many weeks, at least not directly, but I was always speaking to her. And when the room went dark and we viewed a film, I would sit near her somehow, always nearer. One night, halfway through the term, N got up early and said she had to leave. “OK,” I said, and just as she reached the door, I told the class, “OK, lets talk about what will be on the test next week.” She paused, turned facing me, and waited. “I thought you had to go,” I said. She put her hand against the doorjamb and leaned seductively. “Oh, go on. I’ll wait.” She was a cinematic image. I swallowed the hook.

I had a student in another class who was friends with N. One day I mentioned to her that N was very pretty, that all the boys in my film class were crazy about her. She did not respond and I thought the effort wasted. But a week or so later, I saw N in the hallway and she said, “I hear you mentioned me to Andrea.” “Maybe,” I said. “How old are you?” I asked. “Twenty,” she said. That was OK, I thought. I was forty-seven.

The next week after class, she came to my office. She wore a short, brown corduroy skirt and as she sat on my couch, she could not help occasionally showing her underpants. She could not drive because she was still wearing the patch and she always got a ride home with some boys. We talked for about an hour before I became worn out and said, “what about your ride?” “Oh, they will come get me.”

The next day, I got an email from her. By then, it was late in the term, close to Thanksgiving, and I was trying to make it to the end of the term without incident. I tried, but it was impossible. One night she called me at home and said she was in my neighborhood, nearby, and she could come over. “Oh, no!” I told her. She was my student. I could not have her over. Not yet. But she persisted and I was lonely and weak. I said OK.

That night we talked and hugged and kissed. There was a week left of class. I knew that it was wrong, but the end was close. I figured that was good enough.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Jiggity Jig

 


It was time.  I knew if I didn't do it yesterday. . . well, it would be bad.  An old man living with his mother just becomes weird at some point.  That point came.  I stayed through Labor Day.  My mother doesn't need me for very much any more, not on a practical basis.  

So yesterday, I moved the coffee pot back home, and I'm going to sleep where the coffee pot resides.  Last night, for the first time in over two and a half months, I slept in my own bed.  I came home. 

I was unexpectedly overcome with sadness when I drove away, though.  I teared up.  I'm like that.  An empath.  But sometimes a thing just has to be done.  

I went back to have dinner with her last night.  She had packed everything up that I had left lying about.  She even packed up groceries.  It seemed a bit harsh, but. . . . 

When I got back to my house, the familiarity with sitting at home alone hit me.  I made some tea and decided to eat a brownie I had frozen for future use.  As always, big mistake.  Jesus, I just can't eat that shit.  It makes me edgy.  

My sleep was none too good.  This morning, I sit with coffee in my usual chair feeling the residual effects of last night's folly.  Today I begin my new regimen.  I'll be back to nightly yoga and meditation, teas and healthy snacks.  So I say, anyway.  I won't try to quit drinking, but it will be limited again to just a couple a day.  It just makes it easier not to drink.  I will eschew big chunks of meat by and large, and make soups and lots of vegetables.  I will snack on hummus. . . .  You know the drill.  But I drank so much at my mother's that I look like Fatty Arbuckle now.  I have to empty my tank a bit. 

Now I will need to deal with my excuses for not living a more productive life.  I won't be able to blame my mother.  I probably will find that I was more productive in the brief time I had to myself than I am in the greater morass of time.  Maybe it was good to have an excuse.  

But the thing is done.  And there is much maintenance that has been neglected, an overwhelming amount. It is already beginning to weigh me down.  So. . . don't worry about me getting too happy.  

We know, that just wouldn't do.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

If Nobody's Watching, Are You Still Living?


I wrote that title just before going to bed.  I'd spent the day at my house trying to get it ready as a habitat for living once again.  The chemistry/photo lab is gone from the kitchen. . . mostly.  I did a few chores outside.  I also began to realize that simply moving home was not going to be a panacea for what ails me.  It saddens me that I may never find the cure.  

Many of my friends are traveling now, but what they report is disturbing.  A friend just got back from Hawaii.  He said it wasn't fun.  His words: "It was weird."  My friend who travels through Europe for business remarks on the emptiness of the cities.  It is not the same experience, he says.  If anyone was in doubt, the world is not going to return to "normal."  Trying to recreate old books and movies is futile.  That world is gone and will never come back.  I'm afraid that art and literature of the past is going to make less and less sense, especially to the young.  It has no connection to their realities.  Much of their world is virtual.  Their pleasures are not the same as those of their parents and grandparents.  

That is what I think, anyway.  

When I see parents trying to be friendly with their sons' and daughter's friends who are headed off to college, I am appalled by their insecure, almost desperate attempts to engage them as familiars, to speak to them as friends.  It is like watching The Disney Chanel where the kids are wise and have a secret language to deal with the oafish, ineffectual adults, tools to be used as needed but little more.  Adults, it seems, have abandoned their authority to a vastly more talented and beautiful generation.  

That is what I think, anyway.  

After cleaning up the house a bit, I came back to my mother's.  We were going across the street for a barbecue with the neighbors.  Neither of us wanted to go, but it is what you do.  Fortunately, there were a few other neighbors there, so the need to be constantly engaged in conversation was somewhat mitigated.  The men had a common interest it seemed.  A giant t.v. was blasting the Rays/Red Sox game, and that was the gist of the conversation until dinner was served at which point one might reasonably think the television would be turned off, or at least the audio, but no. . . I guess they are used to sports bars.  The food was bad and I eschewed the whiskey.  I did my best with the conversation and had the women laughing though one of the men seemed surly and not to care much for my company.  I didn't care beyond wishing I could show him to be stupid, but I was really only there because of my mother, so I suffered his painful face and smug look as I would have done at any meeting with outsiders at the factory.  

Three hours later, we were home.  I poured a scotch and sat on the couch.  I turned the television to something on YouTube and immediately fell into a coma while my mother sat outside and watched the rain.  When I came to, a documentary about the life and career of Linda Ronstadt was just beginning.  I watched that and then another documentary on studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew.  As much fun as the music was, such stories never end well, Ronstadt no longer able to sing, the result of Parkinson's disease, the Wrecking Crew left unnoticed, some diseased and broke, others dying or dead.  

I didn't sleep that well last night.  

The inside of my head needs cleaning.  I just need to have it all scraped clean so I can start anew.  But that would not work, either.  The body is failing me, too.  I watch my mother, crooked and shuffling from place to place, room to room, in wonder and despair.  She found a large bottle of oxycodone the other day that she had not taken when she had her previous accident.  I mean a BIG bottle.  She just got a new prescription, too.  I eye them for future emergencies, an insurance policy, if you will.  

I won't report the news to you.  It is mean and dangerous and awful.  Rather I will drink my coffee and go to the gym.  Then I will take my mother to therapy after which we will have lunch.  Then I will go back to my own home where I will prepare for and consider my eventual egress.  

Whatever that means.  

Monday, September 6, 2021

Stumbling Into Labor Day



I'm lap-topless again today.  I keep forgetting to put it into the car when heading home.  Home?  I mean back to my mother's.  But I think I'll be heading back to my own home soon.  It will be a difficult extraction, but it has to happen.  

Labor Day.  Most people I know have not labored for a very long time.  If it weren't for garbage pickup, I'd be completely at a loss to name the day of the week.  Such things are dangerous.  After watching commercial television with my mother for the past months, I am sure that I know why Alzheimer's is on the rise.  Hour after hour of the same television commercials.  I get angry.  My mother says she doesn't hear them, that she checks out.  Great practice for aging minds--checking out.  I am positive that a study could find a correlation between commercial t.v. watching and mental impairment.  People learn not to pay attention.  They just "check out."  

But without work and a vivid social life, it is hard to stay engaged.  Intellectually, I mean.  

But I know today is Labor Day.  My mother's neighbors have invited us over for hot dogs and hamburgers.  They have been very nice to my mother during her recovery, so it is impossible to say no.  But it is not a thing I look forward to.  In fact, I dread it.  But it is a duty and must be done.  

I've never enjoyed public holidays.  They have always been something that must be endured.  Today I will simply have to endure.  

I woke late today.  I don't know why.  I took no sleep aid.  And my sleep was not very pleasant at all.  My dreams were disturbing and my back and hips hurt.  But I would wake and fall back to sleep again and again.  I am hours behind.  

And so. . . I must away.  The day is. . . well, not calling, but passing, and I must stumble into it with all the gusto I can muster.  

Muster gusto?  Huh.  

Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Aristocrats



I left my laptop at my house again, so I'm on my mother's this morning which means I can't read the N.Y. Times.  Which is probably good for you.  It distracts me from the nothingness of my life and then I opine stupidly about The Texas Taliban or some other thing you already know about.  Still, it takes me from the hollowness of my own empty life.  

My art dealer sent me this photo yesterday.  Apparently it is very well known.  I had never seen it before.  German royalty from the '50s.  Colorized.  It is important to bring kids up right, of course, whatever that means.  Surely these two were more interesting than the kids I grew up around, though I must admit, they smoked and drank, too.  It is not simply the smoking and drinking, of course.  The air of sophistication is what strikes one.  Holy smokes, those kids are handsome, too.  Probably have all their teeth, etc.  I don't understand people who are against royalty.  People need something to envy other than Grizzly Adams or Grandpa Walton.  That's why I have always liked those Hilton girls, that pathetic blend of faux-royalty and hillbilly idiocy wrapped in a pretty package.  

But Paris would be ashamed to walk across the campus of Country Club College today.  There are hundreds of girls there that would break her heart. They've learned the lesson and trumped it.  There are skinny blondes with hair lighter than the sun draped in the most expensive sensuality you will find anywhere.  You wouldn't want to be a schlub on that campus.  

That's why I stay away.  

Meanwhile, since the advent of map apps, schlubs have taken over the Boulevard, at least on weekends.  They come in their crummy t-shirts and cut off jeans and wander around like they are at Disney.  

I liked it better when I was the only one.  

Yup, those little Nazis at the top of the page look great.  You'd never know they lost the war.  

You don't have to BE and aristocrat.  You just have to act like one.  

Is anyone still with me here?  I become more bitter every day, I know, and it doesn't just show up in my writing.  I'm afraid it comes out in my daily life as well.  You need only ask my mother.  I am getting sick of myself, I must say.  But change is a-coming.  

Late yesterday afternoon, after spending a fruitless day at my house, I went to the Cafe Strange for a mimosa.  It was as hideous as usual, but isolation has not helped me find a more comfortable spot.  When I went back to the house, I called my mother to see if she was o.k. and to tell her I was going to get some sushi for dinner and eat at home.  She was fine with that.  Oh, Lord. . . .  The evening was pretty comfortable, so I ate out on the rotting deck with my feral cat who obviously has missed disdaining my company.  We had a swell time, she and I, me throwing down the occasional food for her, she acting as if I were trying to poison her before eventually eating it.  And when that was done, I lit a small cigar and poured a scotch, and it was just like old times.  Yup.  I remembered what eating alone and wishing for something else was like.  I remembered it well.  Soon I won't have my mother to blame for my. . . whatever it is.  But, I think, my bitterness will turn back into that empty sadness I have become so inured to.  

While I was home, my neighbor who has been feeding the feral cat while I have been away came over to tell me that they were leaving for ten days on a trip to Eastern Europe.  My art/travel buddy leaves for over a month on his own European trek in a little more than a week.  C.C. and his wife are headed for Paris.  My conservative republican friend is in Europe all the time.  Me?  I'll just sit here and read the daily news to you.  I'll provide my casual observations.  You know. . . keep you informed.  

By god, though, that picture.  

When I came back to my mother's house, I told her we were going to watch a movie I watched about once a year, "The Long Goodbye."  I put it on and she was asleep pretty quickly.  Not her sort of thing, I guess. I have to say, it wasn't the same watching it here as it is at my house.  The noir-ish humor of it was somehow lost.  

Selavy.  I'm thinking I'll make my move home after Labor Day.  But then, you know. . . with the storms and all. . . . 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Simply More Artless Complaining and Self-Absorbed Misery--Do Not Bother Reading--You Won't Like Me Any Better For It

Took my mother to the doctor and to therapy and to Costco today.  It took all day.  I didn't make it to my house.  I don't feel well.  My belly is bad and I am achy/tired.  Probably breakthrough Covid, but maybe something else.  I drank whiskey all night and it seemed to help.  I put on a fairly good movie after dinner tonight, "The Railway Man," I think it was called, but it bored my mother so I switched everything back to commercial t.v. so she could watch "Quigley."  Whatever.  I am going to take a bunch of drugs and go to bed.  My mother is doing well but is not "there" yet.  I am heading toward three months here--a season!  And you?

* * *

I did just that--took drugs and went to bed.  In the night I woke with a bad stomach.  And this morning.  I am weak and punky, so I probably have gotten a breakthrough case.  I probably got it at the gym, but maybe from all the waiting rooms I sit with my mother.  It's a drag, but I have all the time in the world just to lie about.  The girls will just have to wait.  

I really have nothing to tell here today but my disdain for "the crowd."  In the main, people are dumber than dogs and more self-interested.  Sitting in the waiting room with my mother for an hour (how do doctors fuck up scheduling so badly?), was all I could take.  A woman (I am not allowed to mention race or ethnicity, right?) kept playing horrible (I guess I can't say what kind, either, as it might give away the other) music on her phone while she stared at the screen.  I was a gnats hair of screaming, "Ear buds, Lady!!!" but knew my mother wouldn't like it.  Chairs were in rows of three, so of course people would sit in the middle one rather than on the end so that someone could sit on the other.  I moved three times to make a place for someone else to sit.  One woman texted the whole time with the typewriter click on.  We not only got to listen to her keystrokes but to whomever was responding keystrokes, too.  I could go on, but I won't.  

I won't even get into the annoyances at CostCo.  Holy shit.  

Isolation has taken away whatever crowd coping skills I might have had.  

I just want a studio where I can go back to making things.  The life of painters and writers (except for Fitzgerald), working alone and having drinks with a few friends in friendly confines, the right sort of conversations. . . .  

I'll probably lie low today.  At my house.  My mother is pretty much able to handle things now.  Total extraction will be difficult, though, logistically speaking.  My big grinding coffee pot needs to be where I am going to wake up.  That is the pivot point.  When I take that back to my house. . . well. . . my mother will know.  Soon.  

Then I will be left to live with the consequences.  

Friday, September 3, 2021

The New Normal/Team Bourdain

 


I know, I know, I know. . . but I just wanted to show you.  This is the first glass plate attempt using the new developer I had to mix by hand from half a dozen powdered chemicals.  The developer that I wasn't sure would work.  The dubious brass lens and the super-estimated exposure time.  I got an image.  It is terribly flawed, but I feel like I'm participating in the early stages of the development of photography.  Just getting an image is amazing.  

But yea, it's the milk can again.  And yea, it is boring.  And yes, I did. . . I colorized it.  But if I am able to get the process down, I have real plans.  There are not so many people making dry plate pictures right now.  Why would anyone go to the trouble when a phone will give you a much cleaner, clearer photograph?  

But that's the thing.  

Last night, I watched the news with ma, and I heard the new Governor of New York say the very thing I've despairingly predicted.  She said the terrible storms were a result of climate change and were here to stay.  We just have to learn to live with it.  IT IS THE NEW NORMAL!

An article I read by a climate scientist this morning called it the Dystopian Moment.  

I'm too old to be Mad Max.  I'm too old to Escape from New York.  I'm even too old for The Road.  

But people would rather read about what Lil Naz has to say.  Is that how you spell it?  

You wait.  The satellite watches me.  Soon everyone will be saying "The Texas Taliban."  Sure as shittin'.  

Today marks the end of ten weeks of living with mother.  I take her to the doctor today.  She has many complaints that she will poorly relate about how well she is doing.  I am pretty sure he will take X-rays, tell her the bone has healed, tell her to stick with therapy for the next X number of weeks, and to call him if she doesn't begin to feel better.  He'll say it will take time but eventually the pain and swelling will lessen, etc.  She will come home with a complexity of feelings about it.  

I am wondering about my extraction.  I have to go home sometime.  I don't know that she feels that way though.  She can't imagine that my life is any different at my own home than it is here.  You sit and talk, make dinner, watch the news, eat, then settle down for an evening of "Frazier" and "Gunsmoke."  It's the same everywhere.  What else would one do?  

Her friends tell her she's lucky to have such a caring son.  

"You don't tell them how mean I am to you?  You don't tell them about the mental abuse?"  

That is a form of self-defense on my part.  I am getting to be snippy.  Most nights now, I feel entombed.  

But I am certain that when I go home and am alone, I will be miserable, too, and will feel a terrible guilt as frosting on the cake.  

There is no winning in this life.  

I'm getting a t-shirt made that says "Team Bourdain" atop a noose.  

But my travel/art buddy is much different.  He is getting ready to leave in a couple weeks to walk the Camino de Santiago on his religious pilgrimage (link).  He will be gone for many weeks.  And he has two other European trips planned following that.  He tells me I need to hit the road.  Sure, I say.  Just as soon as. . . . I tell him he should start a travel blog.  He has been a traveller for many, many years, and who doesn't like a travel story?  

But not everyone likes the idea of shaming themselves in public daily the way I do.  

It is Friday.  The Labor Day weekend is upon us.  That means within a week or ten days, we will have our first hurricane warnings in my own hometown.  It happens every year.  Most years we get lucky, but sometimes we get hit.  All we can do is cross our fingers and lay in supplies.  

Ma and I are too cheap to get a generator.  

Thursday, September 2, 2021

If This One Doesn't Cause You to Leave Me. . . .


Yea. . . this one is really f'ed up, but it reflects what the world is becoming, I think.  A mess.  I read an article this morning about the number of whale species that are checking out.  Maybe they have the right idea.  Bring no more baby whales into oceans of pollution where they can struggle and suffer before they die.  Citizens of India, I've read, can expect to cut nine years off their lifespan due to air pollution.  That's just air.  Everything else in India is polluted, too.  The phantasmagoria of color and ritual is not saving them.  Now we have the new Texas Taliban.  Maybe not so new.  My mother and I spent the last two evenings watching "Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp," two movies about the same thing that were virtually simultaneous.  "Tombstone" is a classic masterpiece simply due to Val Kilmer's portrayal of Doc Holliday.  "Wyatt Earp" is a pile of dung largely due to Kevin Costner's sappy simp brain.  Neither movie takes place in Texas, but you know what I mean.  Stupid people and Greedheads make the world a miserable place.  

The Texas Taliban and their skinhead bearded allies, so I've read, are cheering the Afghan Taliban for liberating their homeland from the corrupt wimps of the U.S.A.  They cheer the Taliban for fighting for their religious freedom.  True dat.  If you really like gunfights and vigilantes, get your ass to Texas right away.  You can carry a gun and get $10,000 for reporting abortions.  You know by now I'm not making this up.  But here's the thing that isn't reported that I'll point out.  These White Power Evangelists are rather acting against their own interests in that the rate of abortions for women of color is five times that of whites.  Oh, I'd better give sources on this one (link) (link) (link).  So. . . these Nazis are going to be in for a real surprise, I think.  I know that poor white trash like my hillbilly relatives love to have children out of wedlock and collect those government checks every month for doing it, but surely they are not the only ones.  

But whatever.  Now that I am not the man I used to be, I need to start packing.  My only chance in a fight is to be putting a bullet in someone's brainpan.  

"Surprise, motherfucker!"

That's why they call guns the Great Equalizer.  

But you know I am being provocative.  I'm not a fan.  I'd rather live someplace civilized where guns were outlawed and people just formed soccer clubs and beat people to death.  

O.K.  I'll quit it.  But the world is too much with me as someone once said.  He didn't actually say too much with "me."  That is my take.  Old Wordsworth was ahead of his time, though, as many perverts and sages are (link) (link).  

If I had the money, I'd move to Switzerland.  

That's enough of that.  Yesterday, I shot two glass plates in the 4x5 camera with the old brass lens that is not really made for cameras.  I was lazy all day and didn't want to do anything.  I had thought about Grit City, but I couldn't face it.  I pissed away most of the day until I forced myself to make the photos and develop them in the chemical concoction I had fucked up the day before.  I had no hope of getting an image.  Truly. . . none.  The day was drizzly and without light.  I forgot which plates I had put into which holders.  One plate is about five times more light sensitive than the other.  There is no shutter on the brass lens, so I just take the lens cap off and count until I think I should put it back on.  What could spell success less than this?  Probably processing the plates in a developer that was not made according to recipe.  

I needed to do something, though.  My day had pretty much been a disolute waste.  I took the camera and tripod into the drizzle, metered the plates on a guess, focused the (oh, man. . . not again) milk can on the glass screen, placed the film holder in the slot, pulled the dark slide, and uncapped the lens.  Then I did it again.  

To the garage and the dark tent.  But the goddamn plate holders are too tight and I couldn't get the glass plates out.  Half an hour later, or so it seemed, I managed to get them into the developing tank and take them back to the laboratory I have made my kitchen.  Set the timer.  Pour in the developer.  The stop.  The fixer.  Wash.  All without the faintest glimmer of a hope.  And then. . . holy shit.  One of the two plates had an image!!!!  My god and holy cow, I was on the verge of religion.  This was surely a miracle, some divine intervention.  Almost without doubt.  

Upon close inspection, though, I was less impressed.  The plate seems murky.  I'm not sure how it will look when I scan it.  It doesn't look like the ones the other boys and girls are making.  It will probably be just another f'ed up image, but hey--that is my new M.O.  Modus operandi for you youngsters out there.  Look it up.  

I was supposed to have lunch today with an old colleague in a far away town where I could mess up more film, but she texted yesterday to cancel.  Medical issues.  She is the woman with the three teenage daughters I would like to photograph.  I would, and she says she wants me to, but I am pretty sure we are not on the same page about this.  

I guess I'll spend my day filling out the forms for taking in some teenage Afghan refugees.  I'll do what I can.  I'm thinking I can only afford two.  But from what I am told, these girls don't want to end up in Texas.  


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

As Usual, I'm Full of Merde


Oops.  I made another mistake yesterday, and it wasn't photographic.  Was I drunk early in the morning?  I said that 450,000 Allied troops lost their lives on D-Day.  My buddy corrected me and accused me of Trumpian exaggeration.  I stand corrected.  4,414 is the correct number.  Just shy of 1,500 were American.  That is what I get for not citing my source.  That is always asking for trouble.  Still, I'm denying that my exaggeration, as he calls it, was Trumpian.  No siree.  Don't go throwing slurs for shits and giggles.  

Perhaps my blog will get cancelled by some as a result of my mistake.  It happens (link).  It is the culture in which we live.  

Here's another photo from my weekend travels.  So many mistakes, such lovely things.  

I was texting with a buddy yesterday who has been diagnosed with a terrible disease for which there is no cure and for which there are relatively few medicines that will be helpful.  Understandably, he is having a hard time.  For my part, I try to say that all of us of a certain age are compromised to one degree or another and that we have to focus on what brings us the most pleasure now.  I asked him at what point in his life was he happiest.  He admitted that maybe he was just not happy.  He was a flatliner, he said, not much up, not much down.  

I started thinking about my own happiness.  I have never been enamored with it.  I've never trusted it, really, for I know it will not last.  Happiness seems the briefest of things.  I've always enjoyed a mid to upper level melancholia.  While it is defined as a sadness, I find it to be a rather sweet pensiveness, a comfortable place of  longing.  Perhaps I misuse the term, but I think I am tainted by just its gentlest touch, perhaps the merest whiff.  It explains, maybe, why I react so negatively to happy, chatty people, those members of a certain order who portray a verbose contentment, if not wild enthusiasm, for their cult of upper middle class existence.  Those lilting voices and smug, self-satisfied smiles that identify them as members of a clan.  Only children can be that happy, I think.  

I do believe in pleasure and all things pleasant.  But it is not the same thing.  

Perhaps it is genetic.  I am Germanic, though I confess to being an Anglophile in love with much that is French.  You know, "The Sorrows of Young Werther" and all that.  Proust, even though I can't read him.  

Etc.  

But having said all that, upon reflection, I realize that I have spent most of my life trying to make things pleasant for others.  I think I have even tried to make them happy.  And I know that I have succeeded to some extent, but the trouble lies in just that.  They were happy for the moment, but it just couldn't last.  The moment they stepped outside my office, happiness began to fade.  Perhaps they felt they had been duped?  I'd become adept at setting the stage.  I'd unconsciously learned a form of minor hypnotism.  I'd spun a hallucinatory web.  I'd taken advantage of people's desires, misdirected their attention briefly.  

I don't know.  I'm just riffing now.  

I do think that I was the beneficiary of my attempts, however.  I think it gave me a sustainable pleasure no matter how short lived it might have been in others.  

I'd thought to go to Grit City today to try to make those ruined photos again, but the weather is not very encouraging.  Yesterday I mixed up some chemicals to develop the glass plate negatives I have.  But predictably, I fucked that up, too.  I had the formula in front of me for 500ml.  I wanted to make 1000ml.  Easy math.  The chemicals were to be added to hot water, 50 C, in a particular order.  Okey dokey.  I weighed out the first chemical, Metol, doubling the amount.  When I got to the second, however, it became evident that my digital scale was inadequate.  It was too small.  I put a piece of paper on the scale and zeroed it out, but when I began pouring the powdered chemical on, it piled high then fell onto the counter top.  These chemicals all come with big skull and crossbones.  Shit.  I tried again, this time pouring just a fraction of what I needed, dissolving it and adding the next fraction to the total.  I guess this is where I forgot to double the amount.  As I did for the next four chemicals.  By the time I'd finished, I had chemical powders all over the kitchen counter.  That is when I realized I'd quit doubling.  So I went back to the second chemical and began adding the second helping--remembering that they were supposed to be dissolved in a certain order which was no longer the case.  Goddamnit, it was late.  Why was it alway so late?  I started cleaning up the powder on the countertop realizing that I had bought nitrile gloves that I wasn't wearing.  How bad was this shit, anyway?  Powder was going every which way.  I wasn't happy.  

Who trusts happiness anyway, right?  I just hoped I hadn't poisoned myself.  I hoped I'd be o.k.  

Hope?  Maybe that is what I need to reflect on next.  How do I feel about hope?  How has hope worked out for me in life?  

Maybe another time.  I will make a glass plate photograph today and try the developer and see if it works. 

Would that make me happy?  I hope.  

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Flaws, Mistakes, and Beautiful Tragedies


Such beautiful tragedies these mistakes.  This is from the rolls of film that were accidentally exposed to light during development.  Just prior to, actually.  I processed them anyway.  I'm glad I did.  It is thrilling to me just now to be processing my own color film.  I wouldn't have even thought to try if it weren't for shooting 4x5 film, but this is from my medium format camera, 2.25x2.25 (inches) or 6x6 (centimeters).  God, I'm falling in love with them.  After shooting 4x5, they seem absolutely small, but they give such a different image than the smaller 35mm.  

I just can't bring myself to shoot digitals right now. 

The "dimples" you see on the left side of the image are from the water droplets that were on the film when it was exposed.  I worked for a very long time yesterday to make this image what it is--lots of Photoshop magic.  I couldn't fix it entirely, but I can always go back.  

But, in truth, you can never go back, can you?  

That image, though, is surely pure old semi-tropics.  It was the Bahia Temple that stopped me.  There was no place to park.  They did not even have a parking lot.  The street next to it was full of cars as a farmer's market was taking place on the other side of the street.  I almost passed it up, but I decided to make the photo no matter.  You can't be a photographer if you don't take pictures, and you can't be a good one if you only take the easy ones.  It is so declared.  So I parked ever so far away and hoofed my camera back to the Temple to make some images.  Voila! 

I have salvaged six images so far from the wreckage.  After the gym, I went back to my house to shower and mix up chemicals so I could try some glass plate stuff, but when I got into the house, I picked up the 4x5 film that had dried overnight and sat down to scan them.  And that was it.  I worked on negatives for the rest of the day.  Five hours later, I had six fabulously flawed images.  You will see them.  It was everything I could manage not to post them all today.  There are a few more to process, too.  

While working away on the pitiful things, I looked up at the clock, and it was already time to travel back to my mother's to prepare dinner.  I hadn't left the chair.  I hadn't showered, hadn't even taken off my shoes.  If I were living at my house, I would have worked for another couple of hours, made something to eat, and had the first big scotch of the day on the big leather couch while I sunk down to watch whatever I wanted.  But I wasn't.  Duty called.  

I showered and changed and took out the garbage and fed the cat who wasn't there, packed up my things (remembering to take my laptop), and drove back to my mother's.  I got there in time for a quick cocktail before I began making our dinner.  I told my mother of my day and she told me of hers.  The evening had cooled and was something pleasant now.  There was a slight but comfortable breeze.  In August and September in the sunny south, you take what you can get.  

Back in the house, I began chopping vegetables for my hybrid Greek salad and turned on CNN to find out what hideous things they had to say today.  Oh, man.  I should not comment.  I have told myself I wouldn't.  But I am astounded by the New Normal.  Hurricane Ida was just another result of climate change.  That is a big part of the New Normal.  That such a horrendous thing has been normalized is terrifying.  It is just something people say now.  

"Yup. . . climate change." 

Accept it and move on.  WTF?

And I really shouldn't comment on the End of the "War."  Really?  The Afghan "War"?  More Allied troops were lost in one day--D-Day--in WWII than in twenty years in Afghanistan.  "War"?  It was something else.  This was part of "The War on Terror."  You can't fight terror.  Try it.  Do the home version.  Arm yourself to the teeth and defeat terror.  You can't.  

The U.S. hasn't won a war since WWII.  Can you imagine--that was done with draftees!  Kids off the farm who had no choice.  

"You're in, kid.  Pick up your uniform and rifle.  We're sending you to the War."  

None of the soldiers in Afghanistan were drafted.  They signed up.  It was a job.  

And so everyone I see on television who has made money sending soldiers off to "war" is really sad that thirteen soldiers died.  Thirteen.  They've never felt so badly.  Such a terrible loss.  

450,000 Allied troops lost their lives on D-Day.  

I don't know.  I guess this, too, is part of the New Normal.  

But fuck that.  Did you see my picture?  It is ruined. . . a mistake.  I should rename my blog "Flaws, Mistakes, and Misdemeanors."  

Maybe I should speak of the New Normality toward sexual things?  

Nope.  I've got to let this shit go.  Tomorrow, I'll show you another of my beautiful broken dreams.  

Monday, August 30, 2021

Sure. . .but at Least I Didn't Cut My Arm Off!



Yesterday was to be a day of chemistry.  Having travelled out of my own zip code twice this week, I was ready to mix up some chemicals and soup the film.  That's hip tech lingo for the aged.  Soup some film.  I got up in the morning and did my usual morning drill and sat with mother for awhile before I packed up some exercise clothes and my laptop and headed for the house.  I was going to exercise, but the day was already getting away from me and I am hurting and tired of exercising, so I just went home.  Once there, however, home ownership took hold.  I haven't been living there for over nine weeks now, and the outside of the house is a mess.  I put my things inside and went to the gardening shed.  I was going to Weed and Feed my yard as the university ag page says I should do.  Lawns are delicate this time of year in my own home state, they say, and so it is important not to stress it with too many or too harsh applications.  Finding I had no Weed and Feed, I headed to the local hardware store.  

It is not difficult to push a broadcast spreader around the yard, but doing it made me feel manly.  I was taking care of business, by God, and not just dicking around with cameras.  This is what REAL MEN do on weekends. . . take care of business.  

When I had covered all of the lawn of my considerable estate, I put the spreader away and got out some weed killer.  Oh, boy. . . I'll hear about this I am sure.  I hate Monsanto, I say, but there I was using there terrible, earth and human decimating product.  Just a little, though.  It's so easy.  You just point and squeeze the button and try not to get any of the carcinogen on you.  Pay attention to the breezes.  Always stand upstream.  

When I finished poisoning things, I put the chemicals back in the shed and took out my machete.  Oh, yea.  My neighbor has planted some hideous vines that are taking over part of my yard, so I went to hacking.  I can tell you with great and tremendous pride that I didn't chop off a finger, an arm, or a leg.  Nope.  But I could feel the danger of an old man uninitiated in the ways of machetes in the smart part of my brain.  I could envision trips to emergency wards with towels wrapped tight trying to slow the bleeding.  It was hot.  My clothes were soaked with sweat.  One could not tell that I had hacked at those vines from afar.  I decided there were better things to do with my day.  Machete back in its sheath and back in the shed, I headed for the house. 

But I wasn't finished yet.  For years, the a.c. duct in my kitchen has been a problem.  I've had no fewer than three air conditioning companies look at it.  Condensation forms and drips from it.  It has caused damage to my ceiling that I have had repaired several times.  It was beginning to look like Fido's ass.  Manly Me, manning up, got a screw driver and a chair and removed the vent.  There was moisture inside.  Maybe, I thought, the problem is no more than cold air hitting the vent.  I put the metal vent into the sink and cleaned it good with bleach.  I looked at the open hole in the ceiling.  I would leave it and see if any moisture formed.  I am sure it won't.  The solution isn't to leave a hole in the ceiling, however, but I am sure to find one.  

It has only taken me a decade to look at this for myself.  

Having done manly things for what seemed days, I decided it was time for a shower.  And then a mimosa. I still had some film frames in my cameras from my beach trip that hadn't been exposed.  I would drive and finish off the film.  Right after a mimosa.  

The Cafe Strange makes theirs with oranges they squeeze right before your very eyes.  And you can see them pour the not bad champagne, too.  They are not chintzy.  A big stemless wineglass for $6.  You just can't beat it.  That and the misfits who work and gather there thrown in.  It is quite a deal.  


I journaled and took photos like this and texted them to friends in the early afternoon warmth until the air became too still.  It was time to take some pictures.  

A little drive and the film was done.  Back to the house to. . . you've got it. . . soup some film.  I had two medium format rolls and four color 4x5 sheets that I would process.  Out to the garage, everything into the dark tent, film on the reels, film in the holders. . . boy, I said to myself, you are getting good.  My hands have really gotten used to working independent of my vision.  What used to frustrate me so now takes little time.  Skills, buddy.  What's that saying about old dogs? 

Back to the house across my newly doused lawn.  I had set the color chemicals in a pan of water with the sous vide set to 150 and they were up to temp and ready to go.  First, I would soup the medium format film as the tank held more liquid than the other.  Good thinking.  First, a water soak for one minute.  Then, when I turned it over to empty it out, the top came off.  I clamped it back on, but I knew it was over.  It would only take 1/200th of a second to overexpose the film.  My heart sank.  Why?  Why?  I can't have anything nice.  Something always goes wrong.  I am cursed.  

I finished souping the film anyway, lid leaking those dangerous chemicals over my hands with every turn. If Monsanto doesn't get me, CineStill will.  

Chemical processing done, I rinsed the film and took it out without hope.  It is a good thing I hadn't hope.  The top reel was almost black.  The bottom reel, further from the light, still showed images, but I knew they would be damaged beyond usefulness.  Still, I hung them up to dry.  

It was getting late.  I needed to get back and make dinner for ma.  But I still had the 4x5 sheets to go.  What the hell.  They probably were ruined somehow, too, but I decided to process them before I left.  I heated up the developer to the proper temperature and poured it in. 

Shit!  I hadn't presoaked the film!  I was distracted and in a hurry watching the clock.  Whatever.  What the fuck ever.  

3.5 minutes developing.  8 minutes Blix.  3 minutes washing.  And then. . . three out of four sheets had images.  Two of them showed terrible light leaks.  WTF?  One of the holders is no good.  I am going to have to figure out which one.  

I was late.  I took out the garbage and pulled the big can to the street for the morning.  I grabbed my clothes, fed the cat, and dashed.  

Oh, yea.  I forgot my computer again.  My mind is not what it used to be I must guess.  Too many mistakes.  Too many bad accidents.  

I've made a lunch date with a friend in a far away town for Thursday.  I will go out and photograph and then have lunch with her.  On Friday, I take my mother to the Ortho for her check up.  It will be the ten week mark.  Will I begin to move home then?  I don't think my mother believes that I need ever do that.  Things are fine this way.  I am certain that is what she thinks.  I am absolutely certain of that.  But I need to have my time again, time to watch what I want, to work on pictures late into the night, to abuse myself in any way I wish at any time of day or night. . . .  

When I got back to her house, we had the usual cocktail and then I made dinner.  We watched the news about Hurricane Ida, then she put on "Naked and Afraid."  What can I say.  We let that play late into the night.  

If this is drivel (IF?!), maybe you can understand why.  One day, hopefully sooner than later, I will have a real tale to tell.  

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Am I Becoming Bitter?

Is That a Light Leak?

The kids are back in school.  Country Club College is having its first weekend.  The kids are all around looking excited to be back to "normal."  They are young.  They are pretty.  O.K. Mostly.  All across the country, the stadiums are ready, too, to return to "normal."  The feeling is nice, of course.  

I decided to get out of town.  With kids back in school, I figured the beaches might be nearly empty.  I was wrong.  They were completely empty.  I drove to my usual beach for the day.  I hadn't been in over a year. I thought to get in the ocean water and float, swim a bit as much as my body would let me, get a touch of sun. . .  When I got there, however, the beach was gone.  The sky was murky with Sahara Dust, and the ocean was in turmoil.  The beach ramps were all closed due to outlandish currents.  It was a long, wasted drive.  I peed and got back on the road.  

No matter.  I had decided to get out of town.  It was difficult.  I have some weird "shut in" syndrome that has me fearing to get more than a few miles from the house.  I had packed my big 4x5 cameras, and I had brought some medium format as well.  There were places I thought to visit for photos.  I did.  I took a few, almost all with the smaller, medium format cameras.  Color.  I will develop tomorrow.  By and large, the big cameras did not get use.  Selavy,  In spite of the Saharan Haze, the day was too bright for the Black Cat Liberator.  

I drove the small highways, then went to a nearby town.  I drove all day, stopping rarely to make a photo.  It was important, though, to get out on the road.  There was some liberation in it.  

When I got back to my own hometown, I bought groceries and some more film, then hopped back to mom's for the evening cocktails and spaghetti dinner.  I had picked out a movie to watch for the evening about which I was very excited.  I spent over half an hour trying to get it, but apparently it is not available in "my region" (link).  So disappointed I could cry.  

Frustrated, I let my mother put on commercial t.v. which makes her so happy.  I argued out loud with Fox News, and we had a spat.  I left the room so she could have some peace.  One day. . . I will return to my own home.  

I am now in the tenth week of living with my mother.  I think we need some space.  

* * *

It was another night of terrible sleep even though I took one of the Sand Man pills.  My apnea kicked in.  I woke choking, breathless time after time.  Nightmares interrupted.  No matter, though.  I picked right back up where I left off.  This morning, I have the Sand Man hangover but am tired still.  It promises to be a sterling day.  

It might not have helped not eating all day and then having two margaritas before dinner, Cab Sav while I prepped and cooked, more with, then the after dinner scotches.  I had more liquor than food, that's for sure.  Maybe I should get a medical marijuana card.  But I can't smoke and the edibles are uncontrollable.  Why is it that you can take an oxycontin and feel it within minutes but if you eat THC it takes hours?  Can't they do something about that?  The whole "medical" marijuana thing is a joke.  Anyone can get the card.  You just have to pay the money.  But it isn't medicine.  You can take medicine in public, but you can't smoke marijuana in public even with the card.  I'm with Oregon.  I think all drugs should be legal.  But I also think they should be free.  I think the government should just provide them at dispensaries.  If life didn't suck, nobody would need them.  Just look at Scotland.  The weather is so bad there almost everyone is a junkie.  I am considering it.  I've thought of just giving in to the shit, of just becoming a junky.  Hell, almost every kid in the midwest can't be wrong.

In the past few weeks you have probably read about the Asian youth movement away from work to "lying flat."  No more "996."  

"But kids, you need to work hard to make something of yourselves."  

That is what rich people say.  "Look at me.  I've worked hard all my life."

Bullshit.  Rich people have made money off other people's labor.  That is how you get rich unless you find gold.  Or, once you get enough money like a doctor, you invest and make money for having money.  Oh, sure, the markets are uncertain, they say.  But as long as they watch me invest, they should be fine.  Just do the opposite of what I do and you should stay afloat.  But for people obsessed with money, life isn't work, it is like playing a game.  It is like being a gambler or a video geek.  It is what you enjoy thinking about, what you enjoy doing.  For the middle class, even those successful ones who live in the larger houses and have the nicer cars and the trips to resorts, it is a death march, a grinding down.  

Asian kids are saying "enough!"  The old competitive sense is killing them.  They are emulating hippies.  They aren't buying things.  They just want to lie down and think.  The rich are going insane.  Who will make them more money?  I worked in a hundred degree Coca-Cola warehouse for minimum wage with a bunch of Black and Mexican men once, and I'll tell you something--hard work didn't make any of us rich, but Coca-Cola did alright.  

So here's what you do.  Get yourself some lawn mowers and weed whackers and a big truck and go to Home Depot and get yourself some workers.  Put a sign on your truck that says "EnviroLawn" with your phone number.  When you start to get clients, drive your workers to the job.  Oversee their work and talk on your cell phone.  When they are finished get everything back into the truck and head off to the next job.  Charge $140/lawn to start so that you undercut the other companies.  Pay out half of that to the workers.  Later, when you pick up more jobs, get two trucks and more workers.  Get a foreman to run one crew.  You will have to pay him more, but not as much as you make.  Stay in touch with him on your cell phone. When you have enough money, you can start doing landscaping, too.  More workers, more money.  One day you'll pick up some commercial accounts.  You can tell people you worked hard to build your business.  You can buy a bigger house in a better neighborhood, a big fishing boat, etc.  Then, one day, people will say, "Oh, yes. . . we know Bob.  He owns EnviroLawn.  Hell of a fellow.  Started that business with nothing.  He has investments now.  I think he's decided to sell the company."  

Just make sure you get some of that "small business" money from republicans before you tap out.