FRANK AND ERNEST
Yesterday started out a little different from most. I’ve been managing to get myself out every other morning for 3 miles of something. It’s usually a half mile of running, a half of walking, a half of running and then I walk the mile and a half back. There was a time when I could run 5, 7 or even 9 miles each time out, but that was a few years ago.
What was different about yesterday was what I listened to. Usually I walk to the Counting Crows or Luther Vandross and run to some series of heart pounding dance beats. Instead, I downloaded an audio book by Hemingway, called The Sun Also Rises. I’d been told I write a bit like him and a little like Thoreau and wanted to know what that meant.
You know when you read about or listen to a professional talk about how they got their start. They usually say something like, “… well yeah. I went to this Comedy Club and saw this guy up on stage telling funny dirty stories, and I thought, I could do that!” Or when you hear someone say, “… so I was at this Museum and saw a Picasso or one of the Modern Art Painters and said, I could certainly do that!”
Well that’s what happened to me listening to Hemingway yesterday. I mean really. Come on. Go to a bar, have a good time and write about it? I think I was doing that when I was 15 one summer. It was a summer that I lied about my age because I had to be 19 to get the job. And I ended up learning how to get drunk and write about it when I was very young. But that’s a whole other story.
In bars people become someone else. Or in life they are someone else, till they get to the bar to be themselves. Some celebrate the best of the best all the time and others lament about the worst of the worst. They take their position, holding court at the end of the bar or sitting on the stool with legs crossed, holding a cigarette with such deft, you’d think they were born with it in their hands.
I had gone to one of the many Marinas in town and stopped at the Tiki Hut lounge for a cold beer. This is not my usual place of comfort but as an observer and writer, I’ve spent many hours in bars expelling the quandary of my days and nights, poured into countless journals, now boxed and shelved . On this day it was just a short visit to whet my whistle. Then I grabbed the beer and moved on around the park.
Down the path there was vessel wrecked on shore. I thought of my buddy Melville. This too is a whole other story about how I stumbled across his childhood home during one of my own wandering walks. But I thought about how these great writers would score the events leading up to a ship wreck. This too I thought I could do. Not to disrespect the legends, but telling stories has a rigor driven by creative fuel. I got that.
Further down the path I stumbled upon a man sleeping behind a bush. In another time in my life, I rode a motorcycle with a tent and sleeping bag strapped to it and pitched that tent wherever and whenever I felt the urge. I slept in many parks and there are few things that grant the same relief as sleeping under the stars or stretched out on the grass.
For a fleeting moment, I thought this guy was Santa Claus, taking the summer off in Sarasota. I shot him from different angles, but this was my favorite. If I had to write a whole book about this guy from this one shot, I could.
I kept moving. Passing the end of the path, it curved around and headed back. That’s when the Thoreau in me came out as I approached this tree. Seeing how the baby Banyan twists just starting and how someday this little braid would be a giant dropping vine with a mighty mesh of roots.
A personal share about me is my attraction to the wild. Be it hanging from a tree or pouring out of a woman’s head, setting fire to all men’s eyes who view her. When the wild stops for a moment to let you glance, she is giving you the opportunity to feel her for a fleeting second, before she becomes someone else and forgets who you are. Wild tangled vines… I got you.
Jews taking pictures in flip-flops. Those damn ants. It was like they put out an all points bulletin, that a barefoot Jew was standing on their hill. There were tons of great shots of kids playing in the water but this was the only one I could get before I ran off screaming from having my toes bit. There ya go. Another nod to Thoreau and his damn ants.
The masterpiece of yesterday afternoon was seeing this gentleman sprawled out against the wall, just outside the Men’s Room at the Marina. I respected his dignity and gently asked if I could photograph him and through his toothless talk, he requested a few bucks in exchange. It was a real quick couple of shots. One up close and one from a distance.
His cool foggy eyed twinkle combined with the play girl centerfold pose made my mind race as to the stories of his past and how he ended up here. I caught him in the middle of eating a bag of potato chips and loved that one had dropped on his chest at the moment I walked by. He too I could write a whole book on but I was getting hot and sweaty, needed some cool AC real bad and there was nothing more to see.
I suppose I feel lucky these days, in that I know one thing. I love to shoot and I love to write. And if anyone ever asked me the question, “if you could do anything you wanted … literally anything without any financial restraint or restriction of any kind, what would that be?” My answer would be this. Wander, shoot and write about it.