Evil Little People

Man, I prefer riding the bus in summer.

In summer, the kids are all little, on field trips to the museum or the zoo. Happy, enthusiastic balls of energy.

In Fall, in Winter, in Spring I end up rising with High School aged kids.

I try to cover their voices with music, but some seeps in. Mean, evil, especially the boys, I don’t remember how I survived.

Call me in 20 years.

Profound Ambivalence

Untitled

A flickr contact, davidteter, recently posted the above to his photo stream on that service.

It depicts a person sleeping, head on top of his backpack, in front of the large glass windows of a coffee shop. He is wearing one of his running shoes with bright blue laces and the other is off and sitting in front of his head. The window of the coffee shop is filled with people, apparently unconcerned that a person is passed out on the street, just below their field of vision.

I am profoundly ambivalent about capturing candid photos of the large population of persons who seem to be, temporarily or permanently, living on the streets of the city of San Francisco.

Historically, there is a precendent. Paul Strand had a special camera made, which allowed him to take a picture of something/someone, while appearing to photograph something else. Dorothea Lange’s portraits during the depression and dust bowl were rallying points for social justice.

I take BART and MUNI daily and walk around this city.

Just this morning I passed a homeless person’s “nest”, leaking urine, being cleaned up at the Civic Center MUNI platform AND witnessed a drunk, disorderly, and abusive person being removed from the N train.

Did I stop and take a picture of either? No.

First off, when on public transit, I am generally in non-communicative mode. I am afraid, by taking a picture, I will engage a person and risk an interaction. In my experience, the vast majority of interactions on public transit are pleasant, but the ones which are unpleasant are SO unpleasant, (risk of being beat up, robbed, threatened, yelled at, or worse,) that I try to avoid all interactions, unless someone is apparently lost or genuinely in need of help.

That either makes me a coward or a savvy city dweller.

I am uncertain of the protocol. Do I ask before taking a photo? What if they want money? If so, what’s an appropriate amount?

Also, really, I am not much of a people photographer.

I know people who are good at getting people to look their best, or in a certain way, for photos.

I don’t really enjoy that sort of interaction.

My whole photographer thing, what I enjoy, is capturing a moment as it happens, the way light is falling on a leaf or a face, not ME creating a moment for a photograph. I tend to be kind of stickler-ey about not even moving the subjects of my photography. Camera can move, but the thing is where it is.

Finally, I am not really comfortable exploiting others’ misfortune for my own gain, even if it is just internet kudos.

Both Lange and Strand were attempting to expose something that was not being seen by the larger public, idealistically you could say, for social justice, although, Lange for profit, Strand certainly not.

I am as ambivalent about the homeless situation in San Francisco as I am about taking pictures of it.

A person could spend all day, every day, taking pictures of the wasting expressions and faces of the youth in the upper haight and Golden Gate Park.

It is tragic and heartbreaking.

On the other hand, those people often REALLY annoy me with their intentionally comical requests for money and offers of “bud”.

So I look at davidtdeter’s photo and think: Is it staged? Did he give the guy money? Those are awfully nice shoes… Wow, it would really have been a better photo, if the cafe goers had been the squeaky clean en-tatooed young people in a trendy coffee spot on Valencia St, not anonymous Asian folks in a down town Starbucks…

..and on and on and on…

Lack of Adult Beverages

As wonderful as it is to have a profound selection of drinking waters, it just isn’t as fun to drink water with dinner as it is to drink wine or beer.

With water, there is almost zero chance of a miracle interaction, like where your wine pairing brings your food up to a new level.

And, well, every other damn soft drink on the planet is aimed at children, or at least those with the palates of children, pumped to the gills with sugar and cartoon level flavors.

Grapier than grapes. Applier than apples.

I don’t always feel like Coffee or Tea, though I do almost always feel like Cold Brewed Tea. If only it were easier to find decent, well made, unsweetened Iced Tea in the real world.

It seems like there is a whole category of non-alcoholic adult beverages missing from the market in the US.

Die Like A Dog

From an interview with Saxophonist and artist Peter Brötzmann in Wire Magazine by David Keenan:

“The best decision I have made in my life was to stop boozing,” he reveals. “I would have died earlier than (Paul) Rutheford.” Near the end, Brotzmann was kickstarting his mornings with a cocktail of rum, champagne and mixer that he admits was “mostly rum”. “I didn’t drink beer anymore, I didn’t drink wine anymore, it just was booze all the time,” he says. “And then I got what Rutheford had in the last years of his life. I think you English call it gout. It starts mostly in the toe but it’s fucking painful because there are some crystals in the joints and so whenever you move it hurts. I came home from a tour in Poland, a cheap tour, everything was really shit. I was sitting at night and suddenly it was like someone put a spear through my leg. I called an ambulance and a young doctor came and he took his time and told me what he thought would happen: that soon I would not be able to move, that all the organs fall apart, that everything would swell up and shit like that and then it goes to the heart and you can say goodbye. He was a nice guy and very convincing. I decided that was it. I said, OK, I don’t move out of the house. I called my wife, asking her to bring the necessary things. It’s shaky, it’s sweating, you feel like shit really. But after a week it was over and then you just have to keep it in mind. I still have a bottle of schnapps in the house for visitors, and I don’t mind being around people boozing. When I’m on the road with the guys I tend to go earlier to my hotel because if they’re getting too drunk I don’t want to know what kind of shit I was talking back in the day.”

Props

Even once you get past the physical and psychic reasons to drink, there are the pathetic psychological reasons, like having a prop to hold in your hand.

I’m not really a go out to a bar for drinking and fellowship sort of guy, but I am a music club kind of guy. The idea of going to a rock show and not drinking a beer? Crazy.

My whole idea of “what is cool?” is tied up with drinking, or at least holding a beer.

Reading an interview with the members of X, John Doe drinking a long neck beer and leaning against the wall at the back of an LA club.

Not drinking, what do you do with your hands?

What do I do to cover up my normal fidgeting tendencies?

Water bottle? Nalgene? Smoke?

Systemic Analgesic

One of alcohol’s strongest selling points, per yer average Western movie dentist or surgeon, is as an analgesic.

I always think of the body as struggling towards equilibrium.

If you add another element to the balance, it adjusts the other way.

The body has a bunch of strategies for dealing with pain, mostly psychological.

However, if you pour in an analgesic pain reliever into your gullet every day for decades, your body probably discards a bunch of those strategies for dealing with pain, or they fall to disuse.

You stop drinking and everything just sort of hurts.

Even worse, habitual use of a painkiller allows you to damage yourself physically without noticing it so much.

Routine

250ml Sicilian Nero d’Avola.

Like I mentioned, I had a drinking routine.

I would come home from work, make and photograph a Savoy Cocktail.

Attempt to get it blogged.

My wife would then get home from her work, and we would have a beer together.

After which, we would go out for dinner.

One of our favorite local pizza places is always busy and we’ve been going since it opened. As there is always a wait, the establishment let’s you hang out in a nearby bar and then they come and fetch you when your table is ready. We’d usually have another beer and play some pinball.

Well, they take the excuse to leave work and get a shot of Fernet, Jaeger, or Tequila at the bar, then tell you your table is ready. It’s a cozy arrangement.

So, by the time we’re finally in the restaurant and our salad arrives, we’re feeling pretty toasty. Of course, we then order a bottle of wine to split while we enjoy our dinner.

In January, I was trying not to drink, and so my wife just got wine by the glass. “Oh that is very healthy of you,” was the comment from the waiter.

Lately, we’ve taken to not drinking before dinner and then just ordering a carafe of wine to split with dinner, instead of a bottle. The waitress was downright Sarcastic with her comment about Carafes vs Bottles the last time we were in.

And it’s not even that they are grumpy that we are spending less, as often they would just charge us for two glasses, and serve us a whole bottle.

It’s like we’re letting them down. And, of course, they are now charging us full price for a carafe of wine.

No Drinking Alone

Seems like a no-brainer, eh?

However, my method for the entire Savoy Project was to get home from work and get a drink made, photographed, and blogged before my wife got home from work.

Early on, especially when I would attempt more than one drink in a night, (hey, I don’t like to waste,) this was a disaster.

As relationship mistakes go, unbalanced levels of inebriating substances being consumed has to be right up there in the top 10.

Being mostly in the bag before your significant other gets home from work is kind of a disaster.

Heck, the opposite is even challenging, one partner trying to stay sober, while the other doesn’t quite feel as urgent a need for sobriety.

Well, anyway, the new rule is, no drinking alone, and it is a good one.