In the village of “Thrift”, all residents are hoarders, unwilling to let go of any precious memories and all stores merely sell possessions to each other who simply mark up their purchases and resell them to tourists or senile residents with poor memories. When I visited the village, I had no idea what I would find there so I just walked into the first shop, on the first block, with my camera and an open mind.
That’s where I met Jesus…for $2.00. Obviously, a Jesus with his hands up in the air, wearing flowing robes from where the divine wind blew him, would cost a little more. One could own the more standard staff carrying halo hung Jesus, for the turn-the-other-cheek price of only $2.00. And if some sinful negotiation skills were applied to the cross-promotional shop keeper, plastic Jesus with a halo could be delivered and begot for $1.50.
I strolled through the other stores filled with polyester pill covered couches missing cushions, tables with water stained legs missing chairs, and chipped rimmed cups missing saucers, and found myself strangely drawn to the abundance of lamps that seem to be collected. It’s as if someone had taken the phrase, “let there be light” a little too literally, pardon my alliteration.
Most fixtures were pretty ordinary but every once in a while something rare and unusual would stand out. I stared at the monkeys hold up the glass bowl for the lamp. I wondered how the designers arrived at this particular style of Illuminati. I pondered about its origin and was sure I’d never see anything like that again. I wondered if enough time passed, whether or not these lamps would evolve eventually to a style portraying human beings holding up the translucent dish.
All around the stores one could see bird cages piled up on top of bird cages. Old cages, new cages, wire cages, wicker cages and wooden cages. I thought it odd that there were so many empty cages in these stores, in this town but before I could solve that mystery a cute doll caught my eye.
Her pretty periwinkle hat and porcelain complexion gave me joy just to look at her. I thought about getting her but passed, not being a doll collecting kind of guy. But some doll people love this stuff and collect it whenever they can. In the village of Thrift there seemed to be an abundance of dolls of every kind. Must be something about preserving the best of times when they were young, surrounded by the safety and security of lots of playful stuff.
In this village there is no divorce. Regardless of the age when people wed, they hold onto each other like the precious part of their happiness depends on never letting go. This senior couple looked young and in-love so I had to capture them. I watched and wondered if they knew how much impact they made on me and you who read this. To them, they might just be taking a walk but to us they represent a seemingly unattainable level of bliss.
My parents who just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary… when I look at them, I just wonder how they did that. The best I can figure… is that they just live one day. It’s all in that one day. It starts in the morning and ends at night and it’s lived like the first day and lived as if it could be the last day… but it’s just that one day that matters. Days turn into decades and time means nothing to them as they too still hold hands when they walk; loving each other forever in just that one day.
Lost in romantic thought I walked into the next shop. The bell at the top of the door jingled in a way that made the past present.
Wandering through time and searching for some sign that I was in the right place, I saw the message that humorously validated that I was just not at my usual 100%.
Even the homes in the village of Thrift would not be discarded, abandoned or destroyed. It’s amazing what a little window dressing can do to spruce a place up.
In the middle of the village, there was a church where the residents could pray for more stuff. Even there, they brought their tables out to sell their wares. If they didn’t have a shop, they would just put a table out and sell what that could to all who walked buy. Here too they seem to worship Jesus the great saver.
It’s amazing what you can put on a table. While some were selling their favorite rocks, nuts and flowers and others were just selling glasses.
Some stores had signs in the window, “We Sell Everything” even though they just sold books. I guess in a way books are everything.
Across the street from the “We Sell Everything” bookstore… there was a “We Sell Everything” table store. This was a very popular store because so many people in the village of Thrift needed tables to sell their stuff on. Oddly, in the window of this store, I was able to capture the reflection of a ghost doing its own ethereal shopping.
All this walking and gawking was starting to make me hungry and I could smell something in the air. Some kind of barbecue was going on so I just followed my nose. I eventually came to a sign that shouted, “Grilled Chicken Cheeseburger”! Only this sign was in the background and in the foreground there was another sign that promoted an exotic bird show. Show birds in the front… grilled birds in the rear?
I wondered if anyone else noticed that there was something wrong with this picture. Bird’nd by curiosity I entered the show…
Inside, there were birds of every shape, size and color. Some were amazingly loud while others were timidly quiet. It seems that in the village of Thrift, not only did everyone collect possessions continuously but they all owned birds! Everyone in the show knew each other and in this show… they too had opened up their tables, but here they were selling birds and everything for birds.
Bird toys, bird food, bird seeds, breeding birds, talking birds, love birds…naturally, and birds that would live so long that all the bird owners had wills giving direction who would inherit the birds after the owners passed. Ironically, the inhabitants of the village of Thrift would eventually forget everything over time but the birds never forgot a thing.
Living 75 to 100 years and beyond, these birds carry the memories more permanently than the imminent effects of dementia or nature’s eventual disintegration of old property. Folklore in the village of Thrift tells the story of the common thread between the people who live there. It’s been said that all those living in Thrift have had precious things taken from them unwillingly when they were helpless and young. This is what drives them to collect, surround and be content in the comfort of clutter.
Still starving from the thought of having a grilled chicken sandwich, I left the bird show in search of fewer feathers, less squawking and a little nutrition.
Further down the road I came upon a strange man leaning on a trash can staring at me. “Excuse me sir. I’m starved and new to this town. Could you point me the direction of the best restaurant that only the locals know about?” I asked.
He smiled and responded in a Jamaican accent in a melody not too distant from a Bob Marley song with, “Sure ting fella. Just head down da road anutta block or two, turn left at de hospital and right undah de highway you’ll come to a flower covered house. You’ll know you’re at da right place mon, because dey have special albino flowers shining at you from da front.”
So I thanked the Rasta man and set off in search off the albino flower.
Hungry and sweaty I eventually found the magnificent monochrome blossom. Perched in front of a little cottage, the flower sparkled like a cross between a sea anemone and the result of an electric shock.
I walked into the camouflaged restaurant dizzy and starved. The menu was also the strangest list of items I’d ever seen. All the dishes were named after the exclamations and remarks that the people shouted after they tasted the delights. There was the “Holy Crap” Wrap and the “Damn This Is Good” Salad. They had “Oh My Gawd”Burgers covered with smoked Gouda and their specialty, the “Kill Me Now” delish Kinish!
They called my name when my food was ready and I took the tray upstairs to eat in peace and see if the flavor of the food actually resembled the names it was given.
I ate every last drop of my “Holy Crap” Wrap licking the crunchy crumbs and swipes of buttery avocado that were painted across the empty plate. I leaned back, closed my eyes and inhaled deeply at the fragrance of hot chocolate exhaust wafting upstairs from some decadent desert they were preparing down below.
As I exhaled with my head back, I opened my eyes once again and a light fixture hanging from the ceiling came into my view. As I turned and focused, I stood up to get a closer look and saw that it was another one of those damn monkey lamps! What the hell is the story with those damn monkey lamps?
I had to know… so left the Albino Flower Cafe in search of answers…
What goes on inside some people? We see them from the outside, their tie dyed bandanna, their Bluetooth, their Tom Cruise Mission Impossible shades, their attempt at perfect stubble, their reading glasses, their odd simple atrophied bicep tattoo hung out of a sleeveless hole of a shirt that covers sagging breasts and belly.
What kind of role-play game is this?
I was driving home the other day and passed this company that makes storm shelters. I had to stop the car and snap a few because it looked to me like a little storm shelter neighborhood, complete with mail box and wooden shutters. I thought to myself that whoever buys these things may use them as storage shelters but more likely they will be places for their kids to play in. After all… not since the Wizard of Oz has anyone really needed them, I thought.
That is, till the disaster hit Oklahoma and only those who had the damn shelters survived.
An ancient couple marches onto the beach. Their skin shows the signs of many Sun-days when they set up the red chairs and stuck the matching big red umbrella in the sand between them to expose their flesh to the solar prune maker. Their whole life they played in the sun on the beach. It’s bright, it’s warm and when we are young it changes our color; way better than playing with make-up.
The extremes of life’s cycle meet on a beach towel. Grandpa and grandson bend over and look at each other with no age difference between them. Some day when the boy is grown he’d say, “I played on this very beach when I was young with my Grandpa from Bergen Op Zoom, Netherlands.”
” Then I played with the sand, pouring it from one cup to the other. Nothing was more fun than that.” He might grow to be a CEO that either preserves or destroys beaches for some mysterious reason.
A single mom takes her baby to the beach. She wants to give her daughter the attention she never got as a child. She is determined to not let her little girl go out on that date with that handsome biker dude, much less let him make her pregnant. This mother will make sure that will not happen to her baby. It all starts with proper playtime with mamma on the beach.
Just not sure who is having more fun.
I walked down the beach where a gang of ladies were playing with a captured crab in a bucket. One of the older ladies used one of the young girls’ dolls to bait the crab to clamp down its claw. It looked like a fun game of play with the crab. Do we ever really grow up? Or are we just older children secretly playing with dolls on the beach.
What if we all hope no one finds out about us? What if we are all still children playing grown-up with other big children playing grown up?
How is dressing up our Barbie any different from dressing up our mannequin outside our retail store? How is going into those stores or buying anything, any different from selling lemonade when we were little, from a plastic chair and a folding table that was our stand ?
A grown craftsman who always wished he could be a biker, decides to make a rocking horse motorcycle for children. A grown shop owner buys it and puts it on display outside his store. An actual biker parks his Harley next to it because he thinks the child’s toy is a special sign the city put there for bikers to tell them where to park his motorcycle.
He only rides a motorcycle because he never wanted to stop riding his bike when he was a kid.
Inside, the shopkeeper sells a cherubic vase for $8.50. Across town a couple celebrates their 60th wedding anniversary. The senior bride of 82 years passes a mirror in the lady’s room and stares at herself and wonders who this woman is in the mirror. Inside her mind she is a young bride of 23.
Are we not all feathers blowing in wind to the next fun destination with only some of us guarding our childlike secrets better than others?
The artists, the only honest playful souls out there, imagines throwing a big ole grapefruit on the wall and then painting the fruit in its dripping orange juices.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” ~Pablo Picasso
“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche
“Adults are obsolete children.” ~Dr. Seuss
While others work to pay the bills, a grown woman secretly plays in her kitchen making cookies. Since no one is looking, she will eat cookies for dinner.
Elsewhere the biggest beach in the world offers a giant chess set for sun bathers to play with, in between kite surfing, throwing around the ball and giggling in their bikinis on the blanket.
In one corner of the room a mother lets her child go play. He spills water all over his new shoes; the mother and the child both giggle. On the other side of the room a mother holds onto her child for dear life for fear that he might too soon discover that he can play without her constant attention. Elsewhere in the world a beautiful young woman finds a sugar daddy. She get’s to play grown up and he gets to relive the missed opportunities of his youth.
“A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who does not play has lost forever the child who lived in him.” ~Pablo Neruda
It’s okay. Go play. Get dirty and giggle. Squish something. Color outside the lines. Fill your mouth with water and say your name without swallowing and let it all dribble out in front of you.
I know you want to.
If your last name is “Pain” you know you are destined to be a dentist. I once knew a guy named Doug Stone and thought for sure he would end up selling cemetery plots… you know…head stones? He ended up becoming a blues singer which is almost Rock’n Roll. I recently met a guy named Chris… naturally he is a walk-around minister… easy… Chris short for Christ.
What do you do with a name like Barry? Own a Bar? Eat lots of candy bars? Get barred from places? Pass the Bar? Hopefully not end up behind them. Not sure what destiny my name is trying to tell me I should become? Though John is a very common name which finds its way into pretty much every profession… it’s almost the exception when a John ends up servicing Johns.
In some creative way this place could even be a cover for a massage parlor advertising to Johns for miles around; specializing in drain feeled repair.
If you’re a Catfish… do you get that handle from your long whiskers, your aloof purr-sonality or your ability to get people’s tongue?
Okay… enough writing calisthenics and warm up. Just had to get the juices flowing and catch the magic. It’s a funny thing about magic… it’s always there, no matter who we are, what we do or where we live. But we just forget we have it.
These days I live in a town called Spring Hill, Florida… population 69,078 with a median income of $48,000 a year. It’s inhabited by 93% white people, 3% black people and 4% people of other races, colors and creeds. Most of the people here are retired and the businesses and institutions that exist, do so by catering to them. Like retail and restaurants… that’s not including the usual prisons, farms and meat-packing plants.
Spring Hill is right next door to an equally anonymous Florida town called Brooksville. I usually find a certain unique charm in all the places I’ve ever lived or visited. I don’t know if Spring Hill is full of hills especially during the spring… doubtful as there are none in Florida… or if Brooksville is full of brooks or maybe it may have one running through the center of its village.
This past weekend Brooksville, Florida hosted its second or third annual Blueberry Festival. You heard right. Blueberries. They have antioxidant properties why shouldn’t they have promotional properties as well.
The promoters did as well as they could to attract exhibitors, advertisers and attendees.They even sold advertising on the bumpers of golf carts… like their Nascar cousins.
I guess one of the funniest things I noticed is that they blocked off all the roads entering the town in order to funnel all the traffic into certain areas so they could control the cost of admission. The only thing was that they had plenty of “road closed” signs but very few detour signs.
Basically getting to this little village honoring the juicy blue marble, was close to impossible. But to those that found their way… they would be rewarded with the view of others who located it, as well as a handful of craft and food booths.
Some people brought their dogs though this was not a well-known canine event. This couple added some type of festive collar to their dog’s neck and when they saw me with the camera they shouted, “Hey! You want to get a picture of our dog wearing goggles? We have a pair right here…”
Perhaps the wife in the morning said…”John, don’t forget to bring Bambi’s goggles. There might be someone from the media at this festival and maybe we’ll get in the paper!” Little did they know they would appear in my Street Photography and Creative Writing Blog.
Not sure how I feel about dressing up dogs. They have dignity right? We think they have no sense of time… but they do feel embarrassment don’t they? It’s one thing to put a spiked collar on a Shitzu. But it’s a whole other thing to dress up some kind of giant white Burmese Mountain Dog.
Ironically or maybe not so… if people could find their way to the town… they sure as hell could not find their way around the town. Actually this festival was like a great feast for the eyes of people wandering around lost but not caring. Everyone had a great time and just wanted to be carried around by the tide of wandering and the idea that the Blueberry is worth celebrating.
Some booths had people in them and some booths had people in them waiting for people to visit their booth. It was a cloudy rainy and sometimes chilly Saturday morning in Florida. The rain misted on and off like a sprinkler system with a tiny crack in the line spurting spritz.
Some booths actually sold Blueberry related items. Like Blueberry Shortcake or Blueberry Beer. Some booths sold items completely unrelated to Blueberries… like this one selling really cool masks with a Rat’s face on it.
There were some rides and games… but again the opportunity of theme was missed. All these balls should have been blue to celebrate the festival… or at least something blue on them. But instead, one would simply unzip them, pour their children into the hot plastic sphere and hope to get them out within a reasonable period of play before they would suffocate.
You know it’s an amazing thing how people react differently to the camera. At the Blueberry Festival I felt virtually invisible capturing what ever I could from who ever I wanted. Then, suddenly I was visible and Ronald McDonald wanted his picture taken…
And a beautiful woman in cowboy boots also wanted to be noticed and then some other lady practically started jumping up and down… “shoot me… shoot me…”. These ladies remembered they had the magic, they knew it and wanted everyone else to know it.
However… on the other side of town a very different event was going on. It was the weekly Flea Market where people everyday people put value on those things that others have discarded. They are the deal hunters and entrepreneurs who defy business description and cluster together in a make-shift mall occupying hammered together store fronts built into abandoned storage containers; unless they were among the privileged who had table tops that were used to border their stalls where they sold their wares.
Though they permitted me to capture their image they were not on the whole from the “look at me” crowd; many of these folks had long forgotten that they had the magic much less felt like their image was of any value at all. These are the folks who speak in words not paragraphs. These are the folks that we read about in books, watch in movies and think about in our imagination. These are the folks from stories that have not been written yet.
Inside a covered space on an old scratched gray plastic table were shoe boxes filled with baby birds. This one box had a warming light attached to it and all the baby chicks huddled close to each other in a yellow ball of fine furry feathers to stay warm underneath the light.
When I was a young boy, a nasty older brother of a friend of mine offered to give me a baby chick. I was over at their house and couldn’t have been more than 10 yrs old. We were down in the basement and the older brother brought down an egg carefully wrapped in a towel. He whispered softly… “this chick is about to come out and all you have to do is very gently sit on top of it like a mother hen for just a few minutes and the chick will be born.”
He ceremoniously laid out the towel and gently placed the egg down on the towel. “Now slowly and carefully squat on top of it so your butt just touches it and the heat from your butt will warm it up enough for the baby to be born.” And I did, just hover over it… carefully squatting over it and just as my tiny boy butt made contact with this egg… the big brother pushed down on my shoulders, collapsing me on top of it and the egg was smashed to smithereens! He ran upstairs laughing as he shouted…”You killed it… You killed it!!!”
I started to cry as I got up off the towel thinking I had just murdered this tiny helpless creature. I looked beneath me and saw a smashed egg-shell and yolk but no chicken. Then it occurred to me that there never really was a baby chicken… and the yoke was on me…
All grown up, and hopefully a little bit wiser, I concentrate more now on hatching creative ideas, stories one can feel and awesome pictures found in the right place at the right time. I’m always waiting for that moment when an image appears in front of me and I have the camera ready and all the conditions are right and I snap the picture perfectly and people see it and it goes viral and articles get written about it and movie producers contact me and I get interviewed on how I captured this amazing image.
Yep… I’m always ready for that to happen. I kind of almost thought it did with this next photo till I shot the ones after it. It seems that every photo I take is the greatest one I’ve ever taken… till I shoot the next one.
Now this next guy. He was sitting on the back of his pick-up truck behind his scratched up gray plastic table-top booth at the Flea Market. The radio was blasting from his truck, playing a song from this guy Toby Keith. I knew that was the singer’s name cause that guy was looking so sad as he listened to each and every lyric. I walked up to him and said, “Hey, that’s good music. What’a ya listening to?” He paused the dream inside his mind held by his past, just looked up at me and said “Toby Keith”.
Good thing I had my Shazam application on my IPhone or I would never know the name of the song. I snuck over to the side of his truck, crouched down by the driver’s side door and lifted my arm with the IPhone high enough to hear his speakers while I watched this guy frozen in time. The name of this song was called “A Woman’s Touch”. Here’s a few of the lyrics:
Right from the first day
One man stood alone
And somehow he missed
What didn’t exist
How could he have known
He looked all around him.
And lifted his head
For he heard a voice
And rose to rejoice as somebody said
This place needs a woman’s touch
To share in the plan
For without a woman’s touch
Life don’t mean much to a man
Up through the ages
The stories the same
A king to himself, alone with his wealth
Is living in vain
His castle will crumble
And he’ll wonder why
‘Cause wealthy or poor,
There’s one thing for sure
He just can’t deny
The need of a woman’s touch
I visited with him for a while and we talked about his booth, his music, my camera. Not sure if he lost a woman’s touch or maybe he never had one. As I am a father of two precious women and having watched them grow from infants, I can say without a doubt that women are nothing short of magical; they just forget that they are from time to time.
Just as I was about to leave the Flea Market I passed another man in a completely different pick-up truck who had gotten stuck in a ditch. This in itself is a country song in the making. A bunch of old fellas came over to help out and push that truck out of that ditch. That’s the thing about these folks is that they all help each other because they’ve all been in that place when they needed help.
As they pushed that truck out and felt good about their little piece of accomplishment, I watched the woman who was waiting to get in the truck once it got back on the road. Despite this huge success of liberating the vehicle from the muddy grip of fate… she looked overwhelmed within herself, carrying some kind of sadness… some kind of fear and anxiety. Something that made her forget that she was magical.
I snapped her picture from the side. This too I believe is the greatest picture I’ve ever taken… until I take the next one.
At first I thought it would make a great country song. But then I thought it would make an even better Blues Song; something Doug Stone might play. Maybe next year at the Blueberry Festival bands will come from all around to play the blues and throughout the venue there would be portable toilets conveniently located, provided by a guy named John.
Does anyone ever stop to ask, “Who are these creatures? Where did they come from? Why do we love them so much?” or do we just go to the next day as if they have always been here. Beautiful or not so. Brilliant or not so. Full of disease or not so… these beings will lay by your feet unconditionally regardless of how you look, how smart you are or how healthy you might be.
I woke up this morning, from a deep sleep, to the sound of my dog licking herself and biting herself, or so I thought. It turns out that the sound of everything dripping outside after a rainstorm sounds exactly like a dog licking and biting itself. These creatures will endure us yelling at them for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with them.
We lose our minds, become bonded to them and begin thinking about them with such consideration that we think it would be a nice idea to take them to the beach this weekend. Yeah, let’s pack up some food and drinks and folding chairs. Lets take some blankets and bowls of water and umbrellas to shade us and take the dog to the beach . Yeah… she’ll like that.
So matter of fact, let’s take our huge shiny immaculate Doberman to the beach. “Mom, we’re going to the beach today and we’re taking the puppy. We may not be models but we’re built for comfort not speed… put on your bathing suit and let’s go.”
The really insane part of this whole experience is how the dogs actually take to it without hesitation. Some stay with their people obediently on the blanket. While others socialize with other dogs who they’ve never met and play like children. “Throw the ball into the water…throw the ball…”
“Honey, let’s pack up the baby and pit bull and head to the beach… it looks like it’ll be a nice day today…”
It’s as if it’s all perfectly normal. Tons of half-naked people, tons of completely naked dogs, of every size, every temperament and everyone socializing and playing together so wonderfully and so mysteriously.
“Honey… the dog’s fine… let’s you and me go take a dip.”
It’s an amazing bond that’s hard to describe. Dog with ball and man with ball thrower, walking in step, at the same pace, of one mind without words.
They’re hairy, smelly, dirty, they have bad breath. They shed, they get their hair over your clothes and furniture, they bring in fleas that bite you and make you itch, they have accidents, they eat the remote control to your LaZBoy rocking recliner with heat and 12 massaging speeds.
They eat your sharpies and drip ink on your rug. They scratch at the door and get into your garbage leaving it strewn all around. They’re happy to see you when you get home and always greet you when you wake up. When you’re happy they’re happy. When you’re sad, they sit by your side. They look at you with such adoration because nothing in this world matters more to them than you.
Then the sun starts to set and it’s time to go home. Time to get that filthy beast who will be biting and licking itself all night long, into the car. The sun begins to set behind you as you walk off the beach. You look up and see a yellow house catch the sun as it glows like a hot lemon colored briquet between the wet blue sky and the dry green water.
I miss my children. It’s kind of hard to explain how we see ourselves in solitude throughout the course of our lives, then one day the consummate drain and exhaustion arrives to deliver infinite energy that ties generations together for thousands of years.
To most people, today is Sunday, April 21, 2013. However to our tribe of doctors, accountants and traveling comedians, us paranoid neurotics in search of discounted name brand clothes wisely purchased at retail, it is the year 5,773 and we recently completed another Passover.
This is the holiday when we all get together to relive our atrocities, slavery and hideous plagues. We’ve been doing it just this exact way for almost six thousand years. We gather as a tribe, those of us lucky enough to have immediate family nearby, set aside tensions and focus on abundance and joy. That’s really what makes this day different from all other days.
Everyone sits around the table carrying the strange traditional plates slotted for eggs, greens and lamb bones, reading phonetic phrases responsively from the food stained booklets. Attendees sipping wine when they are supposed to and when they are not. If one looks close enough, they could see themselves and all those around them in the reflection of the goblet.
Eventually, we’ve all sipped many times this wine. We’ve gotten past the ancient traditions and have normalized the everyday phenomena of turning water to blood, being overrun by frogs, lice, flies and all forms of pestilence. We embrace the thick milky pus of boils, the battering of hail, the crawling disgust of buzzing locusts and just as we settle in to comforts of darkness and the slaying of our first-born… we open the front door and let the angel of death into our house.
Ah… the joy’s of tradition. The annual memory of watching the rim of Elijah’s cup to see if he actually sips from it. Crunching horrid matzoh and expounding great phrases like…”this isn’t so bad” and “it could always be worse”. I look around the table and am painfully grateful to still have my parents and emotionally cramped sitting alone wondering what my daughters are up to in New York or Georgia while we dine and discuss the Charlton Heston movie, his robes and gun control.
The holiday passes and it’s time to return to my distant pond, away from tribal gathering where it seems I can be a big fish once again. It’s Thursday night and one of the many gathering spots occur at the local auction house. Not many Jews in this part of the Floridian desert unless they go by the name Bubba Cohen and drive Cadillac Pickup Trucks.
I look through the junk. Twisting my eye to see that which appears to all others as ordinary but to me stands out. In a dark corner sits a couple of ivory statues. None of the patrons even notice these as they are obsessed with examining the stacks of gigantic Hershey’s Chocolate bars and dusty cans of non-Italian brand Ravioli that will be auctioned off that evening.
I turn a corner and find another priceless doll draped in pearls. I’m alone at this table admiring her as the others fondle 8-track tapes, rusty pocket knives and argue about the value of knock-off Rolex watches.
It’s almost time to be seated as I take one more look at a glistening statue and marvel at the detail of the flowers in her hair.
There’s an empty seat in the back of the room. For a second I imagined inviting all these folks over, to a Passover Seder and wondered what it would be like for them to eat Matzoh or pronounce Maror or consider dipping green parsley sprigs in salt water.
I am overjoyed at the diversity of our world, each of us so different and each of us in the same exact way trying to fit others into how we see things.
I settled into a seat in the back. There was a young lady behind me bearing a freshly penetrated tattoo. All the people in the room noted me with the camera but in their beautiful and simple accepting way just went with the flow without arguing or objecting; very different from the life or death/insignificant debates that happen at our Seder table, between courses of overcooked chicken and brisket bathed in fat juices.
I turned around and complimented the child on her body art and asked if she would mind if I took a picture. She granted me permission and as I snapped away I inquired as to what her thought process was for choosing that image. She told me that she had turned 18 recently and that meant she was an adult. She saw herself as “self-reliant” and gators are self-reliant so she identified with the image and permanently had it emblazoned on the side of her calf.
Finally it was time for the auction to begin. They started with the candy, worked their way up to bidding on light bulbs and once they started to bring out the canned food I started to suspect I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. My eyes wandered for characters to shoot before I’d make my hasty exit.
Up front an amazing guy stuck his head in the door as the sun was setting on the side of his face. I couldn’t get my camera up fast enough as he saw me raise my weapon he turned away. I just got a slice of him and the message on his hat. I think it said something like, “I ain’t doin’ Shit”.
Just then, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye on the other side of the room and grabbed the shot. Another fella had a hat with shit on it too. This one said, “Don’t Ask Me Shit”. I don’t know if they were related but clearly they were not interested in a career of customer service.
Weeks went by since the Passover Seder and the Auction and a little breeze of heaven blew my way when my youngest daughter came to visit. How does one explain the way time stops and thoughts freeze and a thousand percent authentic comes out and life is lived in the present?
How does one explain being in awe at watching a woman apply lipstick and seeing a little girl of six years old playing with make-up and hearing her call you “daddy”, in your mind, in a way that sounds like mythical urging chants from magical Greek sirens intoxicating sailors across Mediterranean seas?
“Daddy… I’m ready… let’s go see Grandma and Grandpa” she said. We had a mission. Just one photo I was trying to get. Just one good one of her and her Grandma. Her Grandma who I came from…she who made me, I who made my daughter. Along the way, I was happy to grab one of my parents together… they will have been married for 60 years next month.
Every year on their anniversary I ask them, “So…how’s it going… the marriage?” They always say the same thing, “I don’t know if it will last… ” he says. She say’s, “Your father is a pain in the ass…” And then they look at each other in that way that you know they have been together forever and will be together forever.
Through the course of the afternoon I kept shooting. My mother would not stop talking, my father would not stop talking about how my mother would not stop talking. My daughter bathed in this whirlpool of love and admiration and in one moment she leaned into her grandma and hugged her… and I caught it. The place where no words go but you know what it’s saying.
I had heard about this place on Clearwater Beach that offered a great brunch. To me Sunday is Sunday. How was I supposed to know that it was the start of Spring Break 2013!
I ate way too much free lox and wasted way too many high calorie desserts that were just picked at and tasted. Out I went to see what a Spring Break was like… never having actually gone to one of the more popular destinations.
My first sight was of a little girl crying. “Note-to-self” Spring Break means things happen that make little girls cry.
Dad’s and babies were also out there showing and pressing flesh in worship to the son.
And mothers and daughters gawking at the bathing bikini beauties.
Then, suddenly, a naked baby popped out. Is there anything more natural than a naked baby posing on the beach?
And where there are children, the toys are not far behind.
If one is lucky, they will not fall victim to Pier Pressure while on Spring Break.
Over the years I’ve met different women who had given slang names to their private parts. If it was a made up name then the reference remained exclusive but if it was a re-purposed name like “Scooter”… well, then every time I saw one of those I thought about … well you know.
And no Spring Break would be complete without the roar of biker gangs. Tons and tons of bikers poured into this parking garage where I stood. And they liked getting photographed.
In contrast to these mobile menaces were those less mobile watching from the sidelines.
And just as I thought the thought…”this is just like Sons of Anarchy”… I saw a T Shirt for that.
I was stopped at this red light the other day… that just wouldn’t turn green. As I sat in traffic I wondered maybe if this was a sign that there was something there that I should see. Why else wouldn’t the light turn green after several minutes? I looked around and discovered I was in front of the entrance to the largest flea market I had ever seen.
Since turning right on red was legal in my own personal traffic rule book, I turned into the massive lot filled with cars and booths. It was a bit overcast and windy and I took this as a sign that a storm was brewing. I quickly parked, got out of the car and began a quick trek through this make-shift mall.
The first booth I came to was a guy selling wooden signs. I thought this was a sign too… or a whole booth of signs actually. “Who are these people who buy these signs?” I wondered. This set me on a journey, to be open to the signs to come and to follow the signs as I passed through one person and place to the next.
I didn’t know where the path would lead but I was eager to see where I would end up.
If a guy was to buy a wooden sign that says, “Jack’s Shack”… I imagined this fellow below would be Jack. One time long ago, he was instrumental in putting up phone lines in your neighborhood. He worked day and night and replaced those wires when the lines went down in a storm.
He would measure the distance between places by how many beers he would drink as he drove his pick-up truck from here to there. From his mobile home to the supermarket was two beers. From the supermarket to the Walmart was a beer. From the Walmart back home was three beers.
A couple who would buy a sign “Mary and Bob Taylor” would be visiting Florida on vacation. They would be escaping the cold of some northern blue-collar town where they lived. In this town Mary was a well-known masseuse who led healing circles. She would get together with friends and if you were sick… she and her lady friends would pray for your recovery… for a fee.
Bob was of Greek descent, a carpenter by trade who had a musical talent. Secretly, Bob had always wished he was a Native American Indian. When they would come to Florida on vacation, Bob would set up his booth where he would dress as an Indian and sell his home-made CD‘s of him playing the flute and mumbling some indistinguishable chant that remotely sounded like some southwestern medicine man was curing a member of his tribe.
These two healers were chain smokers, who wreaked of Marlboro Red and coughed often. Long loud big phlegm type coughs.
The disguised hippie below is John. He would have bought the sign that says, “John’s Man Cave.” John used to be a Creative Director at a large advertising agency. All the female interns would flock to his office den to marvel at his long white beard and matching long blonde white hair.
He did sit-ups often because as he approached 60 years old… his abs started to sag. He didn’t want the young ladies to think he was too old for them. When he would speak, he would deliver everything he said in the tone of a punch-line or head-line… always out of context and no one ever knew what he was talking about. But the way he said things made it sound important.
He liked to drink beer and let the frost from the malt head sit on his mustache for as long as possible. These days he dresses in Tie Dye frequently and spends a lot of time remembering the old days when he was king.
The clouds grew darker and the wind started to blow and I took that as a sign to leave the Flea Market. I traveled down the road a bit and found myself close to the beach but stuck in traffic. As I sat once again pondering the significance of this next pause, the clouds blew past and so did the quick shower.
I got out of the car to look ahead of the traffic to see what was holding us up and could see that a draw bridge was up letting tall yachts pass through the channel slowly. I took this as a sign too. Over to my right there were a bunch of tents pitched in a parking lot. Apparently there was a craft fair going on… and I pulled over to join in.
As I strolled through the little event, I looked for the hidden messages I was meant to find. Naturally because I had my camera on, I was drawn to the booth filled with TV and Movie Star marionettes that had a sign that read, “no photos please”. I saw it as a sign that a photo must be taken.
I thought for a minute about the irony of performing talent being controlled by sponsors and entertainment executives and thought that the maker of these puppets might have either been the executive pulling the strings or perhaps one of the performing puppets.
Next to puppet booth was a booth filled with restored bicycles. This guy would take old bikes, restore them, paint them in all kinds of crazy colors and then sell them for 3 times the cost that they would have cost if they were purchased new. As art they could be sold for a lot more.
More importantly I was taken by the attraction of the tall mirror amidst the display. Merchants spend so much time trying to figure out what kind of device will lure customers into a space and I thought this idea of a fancy mirror on a pole was just brilliant. Who can resist looking at themselves… if not themselves…looking in a mirror to see who is behind them.
I envisioned a field of mirrors that resembled large tall sunflowers but instead of the flowers …they were many different types of round and oval mirrors on various types of poles like stems. I thought a field of floral reflection like this might be the coolest thing anyone has ever seen or done.
Deeper into the fair was an amazing craftsman who made the weirdest stuff out the weirdest stuff. I was taken by the crowd being dazzled by this guy’s work, most of which was bizarre metal type sculpture. That’s when I noticed the guy on the left with the metal prosthetic leg.
For a second, I wondered if he was real or did the sculptor not only make the works of art in the booth…but also the gawking pedestrians standing in front of his booth! I imagined an artist sculpting real people to suggest his own personal crowd to build attraction to his art.
Among this guy’s great works of art… was a Dragon Fly that was made out of an electric guitar!
After strolling through this little craft fair… I could see that the traffic was starting to move again. So I returned to the car and continued on my way to the next destined stop.
I found myself parched after a while and just happened to be driving through one of the many sleepy resort villages near the beach. I pulled into one of those angled slots right in front of the shops and decided to get myself a cold one. I walked past the bizarre tall wooden directors chairs which bracketed the entry and reeked of cigarette smoke… and entered the dark den.
I bellied up to the bar and got a cold bottle of beer. As I looked around I noticed a collection of dollar bills stapled to the wall. I wondered what Feng Shui book this bar keep was reading to come up with that idea. I wondered if anyone ever pulled those bucks off the wall in hard times to finance a drink.
After my beer I left the smokey hole and meandered further into my day. Across the street from the bar was a dead theater. I wondered what would happen to these places as well as what could happen to these places. How can structures once intended for one thing… be re-purposed for something else?
I once heard of an old Synagogue that was converted to a tavern that was called Bar Mitzvah. Maybe an old movie theater can turn into a store that sells all kinds of pop corn or more obviously… movie posters, movie memorabilia and DVDs.
So I got back in the car and kept driving. I had lost track of where I was and had truly begun wandering into the unknown. Once again I got caught into traffic but this time it was the moving kind of traffic. The kind where you have to go where everyone else is going… so I just went along.
Everyone was going to this mall apparently, so I went too. I parked the car and carefully noted the location because I can never remember where I park my car in those places. I entered through the first large department store door and this is what I saw. Everyone frozen in time, standing there in black and white.
Even the sales ladies were posed in frozen position as if they were arguing about something.
I walked out into the mall where a little girl was getting her ears pierced. All still frozen in black and white… but I just went with it.
That’s when I entered a ladies clothing store because I had seen a beautiful woman from the side. I blinked my eyes a couple of times and the color came back to everything, the people started moving and I could hear the drone of mall echo sounds and smell the baked dough from Aunt Annies fresh-baked pretzels.
I blinked again and it all went black and white again as people froze all around me.
I turned 360 degrees around and found myself staring at myself in a mirror. Apparently I had been transported to some type of beauty parlor. I thought to myself if I clicked the shutter maybe the day would return to motion and color, but it did not.
I looked around this frozen hair place and saw the strangest vision. A bald guy was sitting in the chair getting his hair cut! He didn’t have any hair to cut…but there he was. I took this as a sign of something. I started to think about how bald guys don’t cut their hair any more. They don’t shampoo right? They don’t have anything to comb or brush.
I wondered why some bald guys’ heads are shinier than others. I marveled at how everyone’s head is shaped differently with their hair off. Why do some guys have a flat back of their head that draws a straight line down to their neck while other bald guys have a sweeping curvy crown on the back of their dome?
I blinked a couple more times and found myself out in the mall with things moving again back in color. A man was talking on his cell phone while his amazing dog stood guard on his lap. The man was calling someone who worked for him on a Saturday to find out what time the sun was going to set on that day… so he could determine if he had enough time to go play some golf.
He would often play by himself because no one else was as good as him and he was hard to get along with. On these evenings he would drive four balls and play 9 to 18 holes as if he himself was a foursome. Each morning he woke up and ate the same thing… a toasted bagel with peanut butter.
Angela has always searched for love. She found it a few times but life was difficult for her. Her father who led a successful career as a pimp taught her the strengths and weaknesses of men. Her particular challenge was that she preferred men outside her race. Something about Caucasian men turned her on and she didn’t know why.
On this particular day she took a break from her routine of caring for the sick and elderly to surround herself with children that she had never had. Her huge breasts helped to attract men but she has always had trouble trying to secure a traditional relationship that would last.
Surrounded by the children that she adored, she read about romantic vacations in Jamaica that someday she would take with a white lover.
The little mall playground was close to the exit so I took it as a sign to leave that mall and that the end was near for this adventure. I drove and drove and waited for my next sign to signal the end of this story… the end of the lessons learned and people discovered during this chapter.
I crossed many roads that went nowhere and could see bridges in the distance but I couldn’t get there from here.
As I drove down the road with my window open, going nowhere in particular, I heard flapping in the distance. Ah hah… it was sign… a sound to follow. It kept flapping and flapping and I pulled over to follow the noise. Tucked between a car and a curb was a fish fighting for its life.
It tried as hard as it could to breathe and get back into the water but that would no longer be its destiny. It finally surrendered and took the form of an inanimate object that could be seen in a grocers freezer case.
I lifted my head up from where this once living being flapped… to see its brothers and sisters stuffed into a dry wall mud bucket. Miniature whale tales pointing to the sky like half a dozen crashed airplanes filled this pail. I think I will call it “tail’s in a pail”… and maybe someday I will be famous for this photo that I found from following the signs.
Resolved, I looked around and there was nothing else to see and nowhere else to go. A bird stood and posed for me and I smiled, exhausted. I saw the signs, I followed the signs and every coincidence confirmed that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, exactly when I was supposed to be there.
Somewhat okay with completing a story that had no real end and possibly no point in particular, I just let it all go.
When I went back to edit and proof this story… I took a closer look at the signs… the wooden signs in the beginning that I shot completely at random and realized that only one of those wooden signs had a location on it. “The Carlsons – Greg and Karla… from Troy, N.Y.” and a chill came over my whole body… as this was the town I came from before I moved to Florida!
In shock, I examined that first picture once again more closely, because I couldn’t believe the only town indicated was Troy, N.Y.. Upon even closer examination… I found another sign fading off to the left… also from Troy, N.Y.! Even more amazing was that this second, tiny, faded, fuzzy, hard-to-read, angled back, hidden sign, contained within a picture taken completely at random, was burned in wood for a guy named Barry from Troy, N.Y.!
One incident of serendipity can be explained as a coincidence. Two unexplainable coincidences at once is usually called a sign. But three impossible and unrelated segues, colliding at once, in a single random photo, not even noticed at the time of capture… what does one call that?
It must be a really significant sign that I was where I was supposed to be at that exact moment. What if we all are exactly where we are supposed to be all the time and these convergences are just the evidence of that universal truth?
It’s always the same. Should I take the camera? Shouldn’t I take the camera? There’s never anything out there to shoot.
That’s what I thought this past weekend as I waited for my favorite Italian Market to open. I wandered the streets in this sort of industrial and residential area, knowing for sure there was nothing to shoot. That’s when I stumbled upon the Girl Scout Cookie Warehouse.
I don’t know about you but if I let my mind twist in a certain direction, it could conceive of a plan to break into a Girl Scout Cookie Warehouse and not steal anything, but just grab a case of Samoas, sit on the floor and eat them till the sugar shock made me pass out. Then wake up maybe drink a tall glass of Almond Milk or sip a perfect cup of Espresso or Cappuccino and continue to feast on the gooey treats till I passed out again.
I admit my mind could go in that direction, as it has in the past, but these days I can appreciate without possessing.
I mean when you think about it… where do these cookies come from anyway? They show up at work. They show up outside department stores, grocery stores, parking lots, friends homes… but where do they come from and why is their warehouse location a secret except for the loyal scouts who seem to know where to go to pick up their crack… I mean cookies.
Are they made by aliens and find their way into our bodies under the guise of teenage girls? Thank God Andy Rooney investigated them.
Despite Rooney’s expose on their ingredients and bakers of origin, they still seem mysterious to me. After finding the warehouse just by chance, I offered the workers ridiculous sums of money to buy a box. They just replied with “we don’t accept money at this location sir… you’ll have to buy them from a girl scout.”
Well… it was time to return to the Italian Market, so I left the warehouse as the cars started lining up to pick up their orders.
The adventure at the Italian Market is a story all to itself; the way people race to secure their stool at the coffee bar or how the place gets packed in a matter of minutes after it opens. For me on this day with my camera in hand it seemed to be about odd glimpses and strange faces. I resisted processing the photos and writing the words because of how insignificant it all was.
Then I thought to myself that so much insignificance actually becomes a significantly substantial thing. In other words, nothing really is something.
Like take ravioli for instance. To some they mean nothing. To others these puffy pillows of cheesy delight are heaven’s front door. I guess that makes Samoas heaven’s back door.
Even the people who come to a market like this all look like a feast for the eyes. Colorful saucy souls stirring around a counter drooling in their mind about the drippy mess they will consume later that day. Molten melted cheeses over delicate dough cut in a variety of shapes that all turn into mush once they are consumed. Squeezing shafts of long hot crusty bread and dreaming of smothering it in Oregano wafting red or white juices….
All the shoppers secretly in their mind dreaming of their personal private eating orgies that will be held later… but for now they must remain as if they are just buying meaningless food items.
I once had pasta in Italy that was so good, it instantly disappeared after I put it in my mouth and all that was left was the memory of how it looked and the essence of its flavor.
After leaving the Italian Market I went to visit the huge Saturday Market by the bay in St. Petersburg. A lot more of nothing got found there. Nothing but people and people and more people. Booth after booth of every conceivable consumable.
In my attempt to capture as much nothing as I could, I found myself shooting into the crowd at no one. Naturally what I got was everyone.
Occasionally a canine would cross my path. I just love dogs. Who invented these creatures anyway? I mean really… they come in every shape, size, color, texture and temperament. Clearly another contribution from the extraterrestrials.
There’s always a few clever fund-raisers twisting a naughty phrase into greater awareness for spectacular causes. These ladies definitely knew how to get someone’s attention.
And of course no array of nothing is complete without the requisite fruit and vegetable shot. Who invented these rough skinned, conical orange root tubes? I mean really… how would anyone even discover that a carrot was even edible? And who knew they originated from Afghanistan! Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Soon after recovering from being poked in the eye by hairy roots, I saw another vendor studying a pair of scissors. He was a blade sharpener and he also sharpened scissors. I took so many pictures of this guy as each glance at the scissors seemed to produce a different facial expression. This one was my favorite. Ahhh… if his customers only knew that all they had to do to sharpen scissors was cut some aluminum foil… he’d be outta business pronto.
Then there was this guy. I took a few shots of him because he looked more like a character that would be produced on a television series rather than walking around in real life. Perfectly worn woolen cap on this 75 degree day with just the right political buttons shown off-center on the cap. Dark aviator shades covering most of his Lenny Kravitz/SuperFly face. And the dreds and sport jacket… man this guy was cool.
I wonder how much actual thought went into him putting together his ensemble and how much of it was just casually thrown together?
Then there was this lady. She rode up to the Belgium Waffle booth on a bicycle in order to speak Flemish with the woman running the booth. I ordered a cinnamon waffle from the vendor and as I waited, I stared at this lady’s ring. I wondered about the whole story of who she was and what she looked like when she got married and who she married and what she had to do to get him to marry her.
I wondered why I can’t seem to find a way to get a real Belgium Waffle like the one I once ate in Brugge. I saw that vendor pull a ball of yeasty soupy battery dough out of a bucket and eject the ball from the scooper onto the super hot super old super thick cast iron waffle iron. That waffle was like its mother might have been a waffle but its father was definitely a Pillsbury Dinner roll. I’ve never tasted anything that good in my whole life nor have I been able to find it since.
Rumor is it has something to do with Belgium water being different as well as their butter, cream, eggs and yeast. And their waffle iron costs like $2,500!
Anyway… I thought her ring was pretty magnificent as well.
Some more of nothing includes more dogs. More human than humans, this puff of pup just sat in another women’s bicycle basket and let everyone pet it. Can you imagine a being whose sole purpose on this planet is to let people pet its head?
A few steps away another woman was showing off her little black Chihuahua puppy.
As I left the market a woman with a twisted spine passed me on the street. She was eager to enjoy all the nothing that delights so many people. I imagined her being grateful for just having a twisted spine for it could always be worse. I of course was grateful for so much… even so much of nothing.
Today is my birthday. And the greatest gift I could receive, besides the good health of my children, family and dog… is the ability to walk around, shoot the odd, interesting and beautiful… and then put it to words.
Long ago, when I lived in Manhattan, I’d visit and capture many of the New York Sky Lions. This past weekend, I visited once again in the frigid cold and said hello to my high roaring friends as well as greeted the many characters, sights and sounds that make New York City the best ride there is.
I was in search of The New York Peanut Butter Company to stock up on some Mighty Maple, when the cold forced me into many unexpected warm places. Along the way, there was this tiny florist filled with the oddest flowers. I grabbed a couple of shots of those strange stems.
The hunt for Mighty Maple continued only to find that the store didn’t open till later on that day. Behind me was the metaphor of remembering how to roam those streets. It’s like riding a bike that you never forget, just on this day it was a cold bike ride.
If you know Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, then you want to know Century 21. You want to know them for two reasons. One, is that Century 21 is like the grand-daddy Disneyland of all off-price clothing retail stores. Complete with endless floors and racks and rows and lines to the cash register. The second reason is how it’s located right across the street from Ground Zero.
Where two buildings came down, four amazing towers rose up in their place. In 2001, I went to this exact spot, a few weeks after the towers got hit. I can’t describe the ferocious feeling of horrible offense, the depressed destruction, sooty smell or the floating ash snow that continued to fall for weeks… but I can describe a place where I never expected to see spring back with such vitality.
I think there’s some bible story about this guy who built a well in the desert. And the controllers of that time who destroyed his well in an attempt to force him to comply with the mass control; to pay the price and drink the public water like everyone else. Each time his well got destroyed, he would go further out into the desert and dig another.
And each time they destroyed the new well, he would just go further out and dig deeper for another. Demonstrating determination and the fortitude to recover, no matter what.
Four new icons where two once stood that say this nation will never be beaten, never give up and will always be willing to go further and dig deeper in order to bounce back bigger than before.
Next stop was the Beer, Bourbon and Barbecue Festival. I decided to spare the sight of the pig on the spit and just move the story along, passed the Pork Party to the Rolls Royce Showroom that was located across the street from the Swine Shindig.
I squinted at the sticker on these cars as I was curious to know the price of The Spirit of Ecstasy. With all the commas, zeros and decimals, my brain wanted to read $350,000,000 though I found out later these four-wheeled chariots that get a person from point a to point b… are a mere $350k.
The Spirit of Ecstasy is the name given to the hood ornament found on the front of the Rolls Royce. I also find it in wandering, writing and capturing the flood of bizarre that washes over me each day.
I continued to walk through the dark, frigid streets and somehow found myself in the wholesale flower district and stopped into a little shop of horrors to get warm. Now I shoot a lot of dumb flowers all the time, for no good reason and without ultimate purpose… but have always been curious to find one colorful in a certain way, that it looked better in black and white.
As a designer, I’m always looking for the rationale behind every creative decision. As an artist, I’m always looking for the opportunity to express preference for no good reason other than because I just liked it. This guy below, I walked past from across the street and had to snap the shot. I just thought the lights and shadows were sweet and the scene was timeless.
Below, another nostalgic friend who I dubbed, “The BatGoyle”. Years ago, I collected many mushy and fuzzy shots of it and other high-flying statues, as I would shoot the shaky frieze. But this time I deftly pressed the shutter and composed the shot giving it lots of room to sit and scare the crap out of any evil spirits in the vicinity.
And then there is the proverbial, “what are they looking at” scenario. Down an alley, some folks were shooting a picture of something that I had to investigate. When I walked over, I too had to own the towering black zig-zag wearing the razor wire boa.
Down the street from countless coffee shops, restaurants and bookstores stood this odd little store front promoting Valentines Day for Men. The sign said, “A Valentines Day to Kill For” and the merchandising window display was a murder scene that obviously took place in this bathroom. Blood or something red was spattered everywhere.
If getting the pass-er by’s attention with a show stopping offering of skin care and grooming supplies, was their objective, they certainly made the cut.
I stopped into several bookstores and reluctantly viewed the photos of great masters. They were undeniably extraordinary. I don’t like photo galleries and I don’t like reading those gorgeous photo books. It puts my brain on fire and get frustrated not knowing what they were thinking, what they were trying to communicate, where did their inspiration come from at that moment.
Deep, deep down… I’m unimpressed. I see their masterpieces as irrelevant to me and acknowledge their greatness but am painfully motivated to find my own path to taking one’s breath away and freezing their site on one of the images I just happen to capture.
Despite my frustration with them doing what I think I could easily do… I remember what I saw and leaped out into the Manhattan street and looked for my own timeless images that would someday appear in a book, that would cause someone elses angst and admiration.
And so I begin my quest. Torn between learning from great masters and someday wanting to be a master myself. I recall the words of the Zen Master, as he placed his order with the hot dog vendor… “make me one with everything”.
I patrolled the streets looking for images that looked like they could appear in some over-sized book, with large shiny pages, sitting on a plywood table top in the back of basement bookstore bearing the name of some obscure word, run by a pretty girl with thick woolen hair wearing an over-sized man’s sweater.
I patrolled the streets in search of story. A sense of place as they say. Something that would draw a viewer into my humble frame in order to investigate my frozen moments.
I connected with the strange and obscure and invited them to come out and play.
And I sought to capture the sadness of the impoverished masses sharing the frigid road we all walked on that day.
And no matter how hard I sought to be that somber, solitude driven, black turtle neck wearing photographer, my stone friends peered down at me from the roof tops and collaborated with those heads stuck in keystones above archways. They all chuckled and shouted “shoot me”.
On this day, NYC was indeed Icy and its throngs of homeless street folk found shelter in every warm shadow that was cast.
It was so cold in fact on this day, that the coats of dogs were not warm enough to sustain them. Four legged fashion broke through to a whole new level at the dog parks where over protective owners shielded their pooches from the frigid elements.
Even the flying rodents had to take pause to watch the furry friend’s freezing fashion show.
But pigeons were not the only thing sitting on fences. It seems that the artist gangs who turn garbage into art had been busy at work beautifying this particular neighborhood.
I’m not exactly sure what was being created but it was bright and colorful and made me smile and shoot away.
And then it got too cold again for us to be outside and shelter we sought. Endless odd coffee houses filled with beautiful people and pets, once they were unwrapped from layers of hats, gloves and scarves.
And then… back out to the streets once again. Everywhere and anywhere in New York City there is art happening. Whether it’s garbage on the tops of fences or impossible graffiti on bleached brick walls… every turn holds a new exhibit to view, a new gallery to enter.
For some, the streets grant fame, fortune and discovery. For others, the streets take all a person has and then eats you alive.
For others the streets of New York are nothing more than a place to walk the dog. A place a person has always lived and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
And others still, the streets become a blank canvas to be painted on or an empty stage awaiting the next freaky performance. As Freud would say, “sometimes a street is just a street” that provides jobs and the spark of endless work to keep it all together.
There’s something for everyone and everything for someone.
New York is a great place to visit if you can keep your wits about you. New York is a great place to live in, when beauty, art, talent and business combine… or just when insanity becomes the norm. Regardless if you’re a visitor or a resident, it’s always nice to finally find a warm place to rest and go home in the end.
It was about 8:45 am on a Saturday morning and I had found the legendary Italian Market that everyone was talking about. It didn’t open till 9am so I had some time to wander around while the sun was low in the sky. The building was surrounded by statues to give that Roman Garden feel and I snapped away like a tourist.
I can’t explain the blankness of my mind when I see sun splash on a statue’s face. I just feel lucky I have the gear to hold onto it. All week long, I too was looking up at the sun and letting it shine on my face appreciating its bright warmth.
I’d turn the corner and there was another one up against the wall. Some sort of princess I suppose with feather-like flames surrounding the top of her head and a beautiful pendant resting perfectly centered between her bosoms. Who was she?
I turned another corner and a sensuous woman was stretching out her arms in a seductive pose. A woman stretches and smiles and a man freezes and drools.
And then there was Brody. I think he’s about 2 or 3 years old these days. His whole life he has always had Sammy, a gigantic golden retriever by his side. But last week, Sammy died. Brody has never known what it’s like to be without Sammy. I caught him, still in shock, sadly looking out the window panel of his front door, waiting for his big brother to come back.
The sun was setting late on Sunday when I pulled over to respect its drop. I walked along the shore and admired all the boulders in the bay.
There was this one craggy rock positioned perfectly aimed to the angle of the setting sun. I imagined a jewelry maker wanting to display her art differently from all others would rest a beautiful necklace on the shoulders of this stone so the gems and silver would twinkle and shine.
Unexpectedly a Pelican flew by, emptying my mind once again of everything but that simple beautiful image.