With all the coronavirus stuff going around it’s been hard not to think about grand subjects. Life, politics, all forms of inequality, the environment, and on and on. And so here I am, doing the small parts that I can (isolating, reducing consumption and waste, voting) and still feeling like I, personally, could do more.
I’m going to put this out into the world. For the few people this reaches, I have questions. What are you doing? Doing and not doing are subjective, right? To some these options are negative and positive. Dichotomous. To others, they’re shades of gray. Still, we all understand the question and are, hopefully, compelled to answer it in one way or another. I hope you do so here but I also hope that, even if you don’t answer it here, you ask yourself.
And no, to be sure, I don’t care if you’re playing parcheesi to keep your mind off of the state of the world. Both I don’t mind your self-care and I also don’t need to know. What I’m more asking is what are you doing to help. And yes, I’m happy to quibble over even this little bit of question framing. All the better to narrow and frame it.
At the risk of appearing single minded, I am posting another National Seashore forest photo. The sun was warm and the tree was a perfect place to thumb through a how-to-survive book as we made our way through to the coffee place for a latte and some pastries.
That’s only relevant in that, despite coming back to cold and gray, with lifeless browns and crunchy, leafy detritus underfoot, I was kind of happy to be in the woods again.
late afternoon light
filtered through skeletal limbs
I need to remember to see this on my laptop. The small screen of my phone only does it justice in my remembering the moment. Which, hey, that’s okay with me. I am the ultimate audience for mental musings.
I’m a lucky man. I have wonderful children. A foxy saint loves me and I love her. I love my job. And mixed in with these and other fortunate turns in life, I find myself living on the border of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
I’m also enamored of little people.
So there is plenty of nature around me in the sense that there is a lot of natural beauty. And whether in contrast or as a parallel, I find equal joy and beauty in the city.
Maybe it’s because I watched so much tv growing up. Maybe it’s just how my brain fires. But it’s all very cinematic. I try to do that vision some justice and more often than not I fail but sometimes I make a thing. Or.. I capture that thing that I had a vague notion of… or.. I create a thing that appeals to me that grew from a seed of a vague notion. In any case, I made a picture that gives me enough courage to post in the world.
Hodgman is right. But I’m going to try to avoid telling you to get off my lawn or convince you of any good ol’ days. And even though politics’ and movies’ corner building block is cemented in with nostalgia, I’m going to try to be agnostic about this.
No, actually no I’m not. I like the colors too much. I like the feel. The grittiness. The ironically unpolished look that one can spend too long trying to replicate or enhance. I dig it. I don’t apologize for it. I understand the pitfalls of nostalgia and, at least in this circumstance, I don’t care.
I am blessed to love the city I grew up in. I’m blessed to work in its nooks and crannies. I’m blessed to look at her from the rooftops of old artist lofts and the alleyways filled with trash. From JP to Chinatown to the Leather District and Fort Point. I’ve been inside the South Station (or whatever it’s called today) clock and in the bowels of the main branch of the Boston Public Library. I get a kick out of it. History weeping from the cracks in the marble. In the goddamned bricks!
This city is filthy with bricks! (This will be a rant for another day)
Anyway, having grown up here in an atmosphere of constant remembrance, a worship of history, I think nostalgia seeps into the fiber of our being. No? The birth of a nation happened here. In all it’s smoky browns and grays of wood and cobblestone. It’s attractive. Sure all things should be in balance but that cloud of history is never far. Even history writ much smaller but no less significant to those who lived through it. Bussing and gentrification. Displacement. Or smaller still, years wasted in traffic. Or smaller still, metal slides at the grammar school playground. Or smaller still, the smell of the steam heat coming on in the winter.
And so like the brick facade on that residential tower or the pigeons on the power lines, the things that never change (at least in memory) are a thing I find deep beauty in often. It’s something that compels me to take my camera out a lot.
I don’t know for whom I take picture after picture. My external memory drive is full of years of pictures. The vast majority of which are bad but that I can’t be bothered to erase. But it’s silly to say they’re just taking up space like some box of old magazines in a hoarder’s bathroom because I do go back in from time to time and it does bring me pleasure. And no, it’s not a sad replacement for memory because memory is faulty and pictures just aren’t. And yes, I lived the moment. AND I got the picture of it too. Not as proof, because not many people will see those shots but as markers. Little memory joggers. And if we can be touched by that old man asking google to remind him of what he loved about his wife, we can understand the need to take pictures.
I thought to myself, huh. And leaving aside the comment thread under the text, yes. That was a display of this country’s immigrant culture. I’m just not sure it was in the way he means.
There is a lot to unpack here and I won’t do it justice. Partially because I haven’t done the kind of cite-your-sources work that satisfies me immensely but also because I struggle to think of everything I want or will want to say when I’m actually writing. Also, being scatter shot, I’ve already put this down and picked it up again.
Immigrant culture? Sure. They were two brown women on center stage of the biggest sports event in the USA. I don’t remember and it bears researching but did we say the same for Pitbull? Maybe some did.
To me there is an inherent creepiness, a necessary vibe of colonialism, a misogynistic overtone to watching a de facto strip club routine at center stage of a Super Bowl. And even if they’d done a straight not overly-sexualized routine this praise seems weird to me. Credit to my gf for pointing out that these women were praised for their fearlessness but what they had done was show their booties for, largely, men.
Isn’t this a sexual minstrel act? And yeah, sex sells. But why?
This is one of those thing I have to keep coming back to but, as incomplete as it is, I’m going to let it free for now.
Thanks for joining me, but what does this mean? What journey? What beginning?
Forest and trees.. light and shade. Truth is this journey started so many years ago that I struggle to remember. Sure, experiences shape etc etc, but there is that seminal moment when you realize you want to create. Before the age of computers this was a lot harder. You needed to be more dedicated.. focused.. have at least some vision. You needed time, maybe money, ideally a mentor, and, of course, you needed the desire to kick yourself in the pantalones and get off your behind.
Some years back, thanks to nostalgia, iPhones and Instagram, and an honest love of the sights too many of us take for granted, I started taking pictures. In large part, that’s what this blog will be about. As I grow and learn and teach myself other things (and I have a laundry list of things I want to learn), I plan to make note of them here. Sometimes that may be physical art, sometimes that may be social thoughts like feminism or the state of this country/world, and other times it may be mundane work related or family related or the like. Time will tell. I hope that this is my own kick in my pants. I’m too old not to be scratching items off my list.