Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Car Wash

I like to go through the car wash with my dog so I can take photographs. 

This time, my car was so dirty that I helped wipe it off after the outside guy sprayed grease remover on the hood, the right side, the back and the top. I have no idea what had happened other than that the tree I park under drops gunk on it. He suggested that I take it through again, free. I was embarrassed that I'd already put my dollars in the tip box so I had  no proof about how appreciative I was about all his hard work and embarrassed about having such a filthy car. 

I almost drove away, but I  thought, 'this is such a good photo opportunity, go for it' and so we rode back through a second time. 

     My camera pauses between shots. It would probably be better with video.

     Maybe I can spend all summer going through the car wash making videos. It only costs $6.99 plus tip.

When my daughter was little, we used to take her up to the Bronx to visit her grandfather. He would buy her take-out fried chicken and then they would ride through the car wash. She really liked to do that a lot.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Suffolk Downs, June 27th

Paul, a blacksmith, or a horse shoer which is sometimes the preferred term, checks the shoes as each horse comes into the paddock. Sometimes I see  him between races and listen to his stories about his time in the Marines or about his two dogs that he walks for at least an hour a day or about his boat which he fishes from and sometimes stays on. Yesterday he'd been out on it and the fog had rolled in so thickly that he could hardly see.
     Today he showed me pictures from his son's wedding in Chicago a week or so ago. His son's a Marine, a career officer. The new wife either works with special needs or dyslexic kids. His other son is a Marine, also.  
     In the morning, when I'd been over at the barns, it was sunny, humid. By the time the races started, it had gotten cooler, the air had dried out. I went to see the 8th, a Stakes race. Harry's horse was #11. His stalls are a ways down from Elena's and I see him whenever I'm there, making feed or filling water buckets. He's a soft-spoken guy, friendly and informative. I almost never bet, but I put $6 across the board. I would have won a pack of money because the odds were 70:1. No such luck for Harry's horse. 

Combined Daily Self-Portraits

I finally got to hear Karl Baden's comments about these combined self-portraits -- that only one of the sets worked for him because it had some visual continuity between the images. I understand his reservation, but I'm not sure I want to do anything about it. 

For me, the issue of having images from such different eras in my photographic life, 1972,73 and now, 2008,09, make the work inherently more interesting. Times have changed radically. So have I. And so have the technical aspects. I like the disparity, though I understand why he thinks that the current images look like 'snapshots' and don't compliment the early work.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dogs at the Children's Museum, Boston

     Today was the day for a new type of volunteering. Bogie and I went to the Children's Museum feeling a bit confused about what we were to do, though game for anything. There were about a million children and parents on this particular Saturday and I found the noise quite dismaying. However, we headed up in the elevator and headed to the end of the hall for our station which was marked by a sign saying that the dogs were there to be petted and that this event was sponsored by Dog B.O.N.E.S. 
     I don't think the sign said much about what therapy dogs do --- visit hospitals, or go to schools where children read to them, or have old folks in nursing homes enjoy them. But it did invite the children to interact with the dogs in the way that they interact with so much in that museum.
     I mistakenly thought that one dog and owner at a time sat in the assigned place so I told the owners of the Australian Shepherd that we were relieving them. The woman didn't believe me. The man got up like a shot and urged her to leave, leaving Bogie and I sitting off to the side on a bench near a relatively popular room.
     We were taken care of by Jonathan, a young guy who is just going into eleventh grade. He explained that each of these special youth ambassadors (who are paid for part-time work by a fund that helps kids from what I assume are economically difficult backgrounds get work experience and also offers a small number of college scholarships) speak at least two languages. He speaks Japanese and Haitian-Creole. 
     Jonathan would ask passersby whether they wanted to pet the dog, but we had a few customers. That might have been for the best since Jonathan, who had been afraid of dogs. spent most of his time petting Bogie. 
    Around 1:00, a most remarkable gray dog named Mia came along, maybe a cockapoo, with a fabulous face And having two dogs seemed to encourage more children come over and pet them. 
    About an hour later, a woman with a yellow mat and The Dude joined us. She said that dogs see yellow and blue which is why she'd made the bright mat to take to reading sessions with him. I thought they also see red, but I'm probably wrong. The Dude stirred up quite a bit of business because he's an extrovert and dances in a circle for a treat.
     The owner of the Papilon knew The Dude's owner so they chatted about various 'add-ons' they've taken from Dog B.O.N.E.S., the therapy association that certifies and insures all of our dogs. Their dogs had rather official outfits while the amusing gray dog and Bogie have regulation scarves. 
     I imagine Bogie would have stayed indefinitely, but I ran out of steam after about two hours. We left when the woman with the Papilon was reading to several kids.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bogie, Therapy Dog

Every four to five months, I take Bogie to Sarah, the groomer. It's a long drive and I drift into negative thoughts along the way since I'm driving through territory that represents loss. But he really likes Sarah. 

Afterwards we go to the Arboretum where he gets dirty in ten minutes rolling in the grass, walking in mud and drinking out of puddles. This time, he'd only done two thrashing arounds, and skipped the puddle, when we met a woman with a Cavalier King Charles puppy. She told me about the Pekinese that she'd had for thirteen years, said that Bogie felt just like her dog had after he'd been groomed and smelled just like he did. "Where do you get him groomed?" "The Continental," I said. Of course, she'd taken her dog to the same place and same young woman. Then a Shih Tzu came along. I like the photographs even though they aren't particularly in focus.

Bogie's dolled up because he's going to volunteer at the Children Museum next Saturday. He's a registered therapy dog -- well trained with a Canine Good Citizen Certificate and insured by Dog Bones. For a couple of years, we spent every Wednesday night with a some pleasant women whose qualification to live in that particular group home was having been, however briefly, in a mental hospital. Bogie always raced in, ran around looking for his toys and then settled on someone's lap. I got to the point where I lent him to them on Saturday afternoons. My groomer advised against that, but I was too involved with their needs (and his pleasure.) She was right. The ladies followed his lead unless they were too tired to obey when he headed toward Jamaica Pond My feeling of comfort within that environment lead me to take a part-time job there when it came open. I lasted about two months.

There are always the issues of boundaries and co-dependence in  relationships. And I suppose that I'm not ready to take on another long term, once-a-week placement since I don't have a spectacular ability managing them. I know Bogie would be happy. He loves going anywhere -- to visit Lorna and Warren (dog treats and scraps,) for any ride in the car (and the inevitable walk,) to the bank (the free dog bones aren't to his liking,) to Feet of Clay (cheese, Christine and Holly, not necessarily in that order, though cheese is always first.) 

"What Are Intellectuals Good For?" by George Scialabba

I have as little business reading George Scialabba's "What Are Intellectuals Good For?" as I did reading the two books by Edmund Wilson and Bertrand Russell that my father gave me for my high school graduation in 1957. This new book, pushed through the mail slot onto the downstairs hall floor, came by way of my subscription to Pressed Wafer, a small, independent press here in Boston that is master-minded by Bill Corbett.

Though I don't have the background to follow much of Scialabba's reasoning, his writing is the style that my father had hoped I would absorb from the books he chose -- lucid and laced with a bit of wry humor. (My father would have added spare as a requirement and I think that, given his subject matter, Scialabba manages that pretty well.)

'The Lady and the Luftmensch,' a chapter about Diana Trilling's autobiography, "The Beginning of the Journey.." and the biography of Dwight Macdonald by Michael Wrezsin, starts with --

"Why do we still care about the New York intellectuals? Partly, perhaps, because they embodied, conceivably for the last time in American history, a venerable modern ideal, practiced also by the 'philosophies' and praised by Goethe and Marx: vielseitigkeit or many-sidedness. Their versatility was astonishing; their apparent mastery in pronouncing on both culture and politics, and in relating one set of judgments to the other, now seems as attractive as it does unattainable. In this Age of Information, mastery even of a single field is an implausible aspiration, and casual authority over a whole range of them an anachronistic one."

I will most probably order Diana Trilling's book and a book he preferred as an introduction to Macdonald from the Pleasant Street Library since Scialabba made such a good case for Trilling's writing and Macdonald's thinking, and then pass along my copy of "What Are Intellectuals Good For?" to someone more deserving of it than I am.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I like storms, thunder, lightening, rain, gray days. But I've never been all that fond of sunshine and have always assumed that's because I had to go out and play when I was a kid. We picked violets and lillies of the valley in a small lot in the middle of three streets down on Richards Road. And I went swimming in the bay and still like swimming well enough, though i don't really go out of my way to do it.

I grew up in the suburbs, with the sense that there was no way of knowing what was going on inside the houses. The hedges were well tended, the grass was always mowed. Everything was neat and orderly. But where were the people? We roller skated on the sidewalks and rode bikes in the street. The smell of burning leaves was very much part of fall. Cinnie Baldwin's father didn't mind that we rolled around in the pile he'd just raked. Foreget-me-nots, bleeding hearts and forsythia were springtime. But nothing from my childhood has given me any appreciation for being outside. I used to like gardening, but always as a chore, as something that ought to be done because my grandfather had gardened.

i don't really like walking in the woods or appreciate scenery when I'm looking out of a train window. I recently found a park, near the store where I buy digital photo paper and film, that seems to be an illustrated example of rock outcroppings, basins and a muddy pond. I notice the scenery there, though it still doesn't seem very important. Fortunately, Bogie likes walking there, though the pond has proved to be a serious problem that leaves him a sorry mess.

However, when I go to the backside of Suffolk Downs, I stand looking at a newly harrowed track and feel happy in a way that nothing else about being outdoors allows me to feel. I'm just happy when I'm there, watching the John Deere tractors pull the harrows during the break between 6-8 and 8:20-10 when training sessions ends.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Preakness

The Preakness ran when I was in New York. Susan and I were on our way to Brooklyn, desperate to find a bar where we could watch the race. She phoned her son who suggested one, a place crammed with twenty year olds. It would have been really easy to leave, but somehow I braved asking the barmaid if she could turn the race on. Luckily a guy at the bar knew the right channel. Susan ordered cranberry and seltzer for us. And by the time we watched Calvin Borel win on the filly, Rachel Alexandra, the crowd was five deep behind us.

For some reason, I thought she would win, maybe because Borel had given up the ride on Mine That Bird, the horse he'd ridden to the win in the Derby. He came in second and, frankly, I imagine that that horse would have won had Borel been riding him.

I wish I could have watched the Belmont with Susan, but I watched it with Smith who doesn't know much about racing, but is a quick learn and laughs a lot. I didn't think that Mine That Bird would win. I don't know why. I would have bet on Charitable Man or Dunkirk, judging by what I read in the New York Times, but I had already been to the track and left long before the Belmont Stakes race. I hadn't noticed that Desormeaux was riding Summer Bird. He's a good jockey who won the Derby (last year?) with all the hoopla about the fact that his son will be blind by the time he's twenty and how important it was for the boy to see his father win this big race.

I like what little I know about Desormeaux, though Borel has a good back-story, also. (Back stories are crucial and none could be better than that of Mine That Bird!) I was sorry Borel and that horse lost. Borel's such a good winner, crying while he's riding to the winner's circle.

It was interesting that Desormeaux said that Borel was naive not to ride an earlier race at Belmont that day since he wasn't familiar with the track. Jockey's usually race a number of times in one day, as Desormeaux had. Anyway, two horses out of the sire, Birdstone, raced and Summer Bird won. Tim Ice has only been training for a year, another great story. And the owners, the Jayaramans, who have been breeding horses for thirty-one years are both doctors. And Desormeaux finally got a win at Belmont, another star in his crown when he gets into the Jockey Hall of Fame and helped with the conflict (which I don't even remember) over the fact that he lost on Big Brown last year.

I like watching the Triple Crown. It's interesting even if I forget all the information I've gathered in a day or two.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Blobs

I've been working with clay for the past five or so years and have finished four installations that work rather well, though god knows if I'll ever find a place to show them. This is the fifth and it is, perhaps, not finished.

I actually like these blobs a lot and have gone on to make quite a few more. I have not yet photographed the whole unit and can't imagine doing that right now, but you live in hope.

It doesn't particularly bother me to have made all these space-occupying "things" that have to be packed away once I get some good photographs of them. I've taken different images, some with a real camera, the Leica, in which the blobs are arranged with more space between the various tonal sections.

I've always liked process rather than product, but this is rather a bulky product and I'm getting to a point where I think that working with clay is becoming counter productive unless I can begin to show them.

To my surprise, I've had three chapbooks of poetry accepted within this same period of time, work done over many years. Maybe I just have to wait.

Eight months of daily self-portraits

Each month I sort of decide how I might take photographs. The aim is to to be casual, intuitive and not match my first series of self-portraits taken in 1972-1973. Though I'd like to combine photographs from the two series, it's important not to think about what makes the most relevant combinations. What would 'look best' together.
     In May Krissy allowed to me take self-portraits with her as my birthday present. I'd actually finished my first series by taking photographs with her when she was a small girl and then by handing it over to her so that she was posing alone. That was a conscious decision, like passing a baton. I'd planned to take photographs for a year, but some of those photographs were being published with the "Krissy Photographs" in a portfolio in Camera 35 Annual. That fact made me very self-conscious. And I stopped the series.
     This June I thought that I would take close-ups and had taken the first day of images of my skin. I'm very curious about being inside a body that seemed like mine for all these years only to find that it's become quite different. The changes in skin are fascinating, if a bit frightening. Whose exterior do I inhabit? Though I find these images a bit repellant, they are interesting and very different from a group of body images that I took five years ago. Those were black-and-white and more refined. 
     However, Krissy said, "Why don't the three of us take pictures this month?" Her ex had arrived that afternoon. They are really close friends who laugh a lot and talk on the phone all the time. I find him very endearing. Why not jump for her idea? 
     But she is leaving, moving to New York on the 15th. Now I am in the middle of this unexpected direction (why not, since I didn't want to be burdened by conscious choice?) that is far more fun than the skin meditations would be. Will I use my beloved dog for the second half of the month?