May 17th, 2004
I'm a slow learner. The weather has been nice for the last two months, and I got a job working for P..B.... I parlayed my one day of photo assisting into a possible career as a merchandise coordinator. A whole lifetime of opportunity, paychecks and discount furniture.
In New England people build houses with basements. Perhaps this stems from the root cellar tradition, where pilgrims (religious terrorists?) dug holes to store fruits and food stuffs. Or was it colonists who did that? I'm not sure when the transition occurred in New England, from Pilgrim to Colonist. I suppose once the Natives were killed.
Out West here not many people have basements. I was recently remembering that strange sensation one has when it is winter and the snow is three feet deep, completely covering the little basement windows that sit just below the siding of the house. You are usually in unfinished basements if you grew up where I did, in New Hampshire, and the metal spikes of the cement forms are still visible in the unpainted concrete walls. It is grey and the ceiling is unfinished as well, the criss cross of joists covered in cobwebs and pipes snaking through them. An uncovered light bulb hangs down by the wood stove. I remember drinking beers with friends at night under all this snow, beneath the frost line, I was young then, and it didn't frighten me. We would go outside into the dark, and it was late and the moon on the snow made it much brighter than it would be in a summer's night darkness. Snow is stuff that can kill you, steal all your heat, stop your organs, freeze your blood, your snot and your saliva. But we would lay down in it with our heavy jackets and boots on, and it felt so good to cool the heat from the alcohol in our blood, and feel the cold air on our faces after the burning wood in the stove had taken all moisture from the damp basement. It was a life of extremes, playing with fire and ice, just the walls and foundation of the house seperating them.
San Francisco doesn't offer that. It has an ocean with a rip tide that kills. It has a ghetto where youth are murdered. It has infections from the many travellers. It has churches and prisons and dichotomies out the ass. But sometimes I think about being under all that snow.
March 25, 2004
Here in California people can make money. Or relax in a van in the park. They can develop software or spare change a good downtown stop light. Opportunity is on every street corner. Some people can go from growing yams for survival in a warlord controlled village in Vietnam to owning their own hardwood flooring business and living in the Avenues of San Francisco. They can also go crazy from drugs and gambling and end up pushing a Safeway cart along the string of city garbage cans running down Market, rummaging for pizza crusts and aluminum. Shiny things. Tweakers like shiny things.
Is it true yams grown in Vietnam ? I don't know. But I sure do enjoy California . I had the opportunity to be a photographer's assistant on a P... B... shoot in San Rafael , a town in Marin County , across the Golden Gate Bridge . What a beautiful drive that was. Okay, the toll costs as much as a deli sandwich, but I was going to make some money today -I was working in advertising! I could appreciate the beauty of San Francisco behind me across the Bay, small like an architects model, and the hills were green and alive with the winter rains that had just stopped a week before. Poverty melted off me like a reducing ratio, the lure of money compounding my happiness.
Marc, my connection, showed me the light stands, the filters, the screens, the gay guys, the homeowner and the photographer, Alex. (not his real name). I would be assisting him today so that Marc could get back to the city by noon and get ready for an art opening. I was thinking about going out to eat later, with all this advertising money in my pocket. I would buy bottled beers at a bar and eat a hamburger sitting up on a stool, watch a little t.v. and talk to whoever was sitting next to me. I was about to be the King of France once again.
I'd like you to take a look at the photo I've scanned in. Aren't the blues absolutely arresting? Notice the myriad folds in the comforter. This isn't accidental. That is the handiwork of Johnny and his two assistants. Johnny has been a set stylist for years now, and since we were working a Friday, he wasn't exactly putting his whole heart into it. At one point he laid down on the bed, a horrific taboo for anyone but the stylist to do, and began a lament.
“I need a cocktail. And man canyon.” Man canyon? I had arrived in San Francisco. Alex was shooting nicely folded linen. It was the second to last shot, and the light was fading. The prop crew was sitting around the empty salsa bowls and sipping diet coke and bottled water. Just waiting for the sign to wrap. The fake floor had to be taken up and packed, the French doors put back on their hinges, the screens and scrims loaded, and all the lighting broken down and cased. The photo takes 1/25 of a second to snap, but a day to set up, and days and days before-hand to prepare. It is madness.
The homeowners were hosting a neighborhood sleepover that night and seven little boys were running through the yard playing war. The master bedroom, where we were shooting, had two of its mocha walls sloppily painted white, and Johnny dropped a prop and it punched a small hole in the wall. These things would be taken care of another day. When the last shot was taken, I wrote the number on the film and bagged it up, and the breakdown began. The homeowners had slept on their bed out on the lawn the night before. A nice wooden Neo-empire style bed had been out in the yard all day, while the P... B.. linen product was being photographed on a metal P... B... bed inside. It was all illusion, and that's what little boys have when they run through a yard playing war. Illusion kinda sucks when you are grown, and its kinda nice when you are young.
March 19th, 2004
I woke up at 7 this morning. The fog is back at this end of town. My lady likes to talk like a little girl when she is lying next to me half asleep in the morning. She tells me her dreams from the night before.
I got out of the house around 11, went to the market and bought some vegetables and chunk light tuna because it has less mercury than solid white. I have done a lot of bad things to myself by concentrating and inhaling chemicals so I could enter a nighttime dream state in a living room in the afternoon for a minute or two. But those days are over and I want to live long and make a difference. So I chopped up carrots and red pepper and stirred it into my tuna, and had a glass of juice.
I stopped at a yard sale and bought a 45" single by Paul Hardcastle: 19. Do you remember that song? Chrysalis Records, 1985?
"In World War Two the average age of the combat soldier was 26. In Vietnam he was 19." Nah nah nah nah nineteen.
Do you ever think about going to war, and running through a village with bullet proof Kevlar on, night vision goggles, finger on the trigger of a machine gun, a mission to kill? It would be harder to kill at 26 than 19. What do old soldiers dream about at night? Do they miss killing when they come home? Do they miss it like they missed a good tunafish sandwich in Vietnam? One on white bread? Do you like it toasted? With mayo and lettuce and do you want pickles? I'll shred carrot really fine for you and stir it in. It's delicious that way. There's enough here for another one. Do you want it?