Monday, August 31, 2009

Self-portraits, 1972, 73 and 2008, 09

The series of eight months of daily self portraits, 2008-2009 is finished. Today. August 31st.

I've missed a few days, most of them recently, when it got so hot, so humid, so near the end of this project.

When I originally started this series in 1972, I was very interested in whether I remembered myself. I found it so easy to get lost, to forget my existence and I was curious about whether that would show up in the photographs. It did.

I wasn't so interested in that aspect of the project this time around but in what difference it made to be using a small, digital camera that took images in color. I could carry it everywhere, set it on a table, on a dresser or hold it out.

It seems strange to be finished with this project, though I've gotten worn out with it, lost interest in a strange way. Or maybe I've become so preoccupied with being on the backside of the track in the morning, recording all I learn, what I hear, a more interesting, compelling project -- words.

It was odd that I didn't take any nudes. I did explore skin, the effects of age on skin, with close-ups. Something I couldn't have done in the 1970's when I was using a Rolei on a tripod. 

I might be interested in the comparison of the two sets of images. The few people I've shown them to don't particularly like them, perhaps because there's no continuity, no direct comparison, a disparity in technique.  What I like is that lack of continuity, the disturbing sense of incompatibility.

We'll see. For the moment, this project is over. Others are lined up, begging me to finish them. I've been stalling, not something I can afford to do at seventy.

Self-Portraits, 1972, 73 and 2008, 09

It's August 31st, the last day of this eight month series of daily self-portraits, December 2008-August 2009. I missed three or four days, some of them recently. That's the test, will I remember that I'm in the middle of this project. 
I took no nudes this time. I'm not sure why, since I've done others in these last years. This camera made hand-held or put-it-on-the-table images so much easier.

Anyway, it's over. This series. 
Will I wait another five years?
I like the combination of the first set and this one, though the few people I've shown them to don't particularly like the combination. It seems too jarring, I've been told, no continuity. That's just what I like. No continuity. 
We'll see.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Today they hadn't started harrowing yet, so I got to take a good look at this harrow and to ask the guy who was driving just why they were using it. 

The middle section is a gaggle of wheels that are brushed off continually by wire brushes attached to a metal pole. He explained that longer and wider prongs break up the packed earth to different, greater depths. Today two of these particular harrows went out with the regular three that drag metal tines. 

I didn't stay to watch them. It's brutally hot.

Mary O'Malley Park, Chelsea

I have been hating my photographs recently, but I rather like this set. They sufficiently suggest what it's like to walk in the park, these incredibly hot late afternoons, Krissy, Chris, Bogie and Tulip who is like a small lunatic who dances with rage, circles continuously and barks when she sees another dog. Otherwise, she's quite a decent creature for having gotten her off the web from Georgia. But she does go nuts. It's sort of like those days in San Francisco, when I took Krissy on the bus. She was a little over two and generally she didn't have tantrums, but she did that day. She cried so long and so hard and there was nothing I could do but get off with her, wait for her to calm down and get on another. It wasn't as if I could afford paying another fare, but there wasn't any choice.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I try to sit for minimum amounts of time, but occasionally I actually stay in one place, looking at blogs I know and looking at blogs I find...I just saw Neil's drawing. He is only nineteen and had endless sketches that he must have done in high school and during this year afterwards. And I read the Dishwasher (can't remember the exact title, but I found him on Miriam Levine's blogspot) who writes in this semi-comic, deadly-serious, dire-heavy-romantic way about death and showers and his wife and father and step-mother (not wicked) with white print on black, leaving lots of space, and also includes recipes of the fantastic meals he makes and I argued with Mim about one of her posts and checked in to Rock/Scissors/Paper but there were no listings and looked at a hot yoga site that lists where he's going to give classes. I once found a fantastic site that must have been put on by a Bolivian man who photographs the most fantastic steer (not bulls, but larger, more curious) that must be shown at exhibitions around his country. I should have flagged it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Some Stories from the Backside

A couple of days ago, when Billy, who was born in Wyoming and followed his father's rodeo show all over when he was a kid, walked around the shedrow, leading a horse, I asked, "Have you ever been kicked?" He said, "Everything, bit, kicked, back bit, stepped on, even blind."

Next time he came around, I said, "You were blind?" and he said, "Yes, five or six years ago. My good eye. My left eye."

The third time he came around, he stopped a little bit longer, said, "Happened here. Two months, face down in a pillow, twenty-two hours a day. I was determined to regain my sight. The day the meet ended, I was allowed up and I asked a friend to come pick me up so I could see the last races."

When I asked Harry, who was riding bareback when he was a kid growing up on a farm in South Carolina and has worked at racetracks since the 60s, if he'd ever been hurt, he said, "Broke my ribs once and my collar bone," and told me how he was breaking a horse for Timmy, and Timmy was leading him and everything was going good then then all hell broke loose and the next thing he knew, he was in the house. That's when the ribs were broken. He didn't tell me about the collar bone.

When I was standing in the doorway near Shirley's stalls, a horse and rider came around and Terry, a very gentle fellow with impeccable manners who walks through the shedrows taking orders for feed delivery, told me to move back. I asked if he'd ever been hurt and he said, "Sure, many times. You can't not be when you're working around horses.

Today Jeff and his son were sitting outside his stalls, watching as I carried a scoop of breakfast over to Eddie, a chestnut horse who Elena says is the sweetest of all her horses put together. But I don't know Eddie at all except to look in at him. 

I'm comfortable going into Rad's stall when he's in it, just as far as the feed tub where I quickly dump his feed. It took Elena a number of times standing there, "Don't just hold the feed. You're teasing him. Say, 'Go back, over to your tub,' and 'Hurry up now, you can't just stand there.' until I learned how easy it is to feed him. It's gotten so that whenever I go into the feed room, across from his stall, he starts bobbing his head and whinnying, certain that I'll notice and bring him a scoop of pellets. 

Elena was washing Stormy, but she told me what to say, same stuff I say to Rad and Stormy, and again, assured me that Eddie, who she calls Peanut, is very gentle. But when I said, 'Back," and pushed on his big chest, he hardly moved. I tried again and he  moved enough to block the tub. I put the scoop on the ground outside and fastened the stall enclosure again when I noticed that Jeff was laughing. "Just go in there. Feed him," He said. He used to train  horses, then became a contractor, but is back with horses now that the economy was so bad. His kids help him hotwalk, wash and feed the horses.

Finally Jeff got up, took the scoop, started to walk into the stall and Eddie turned his head away. "See, when he turns his head, you just slip right on by. You'd know if a horse had any intention of hurting you. This horse is young. What is he, three years? He's not going to bother you, he doesn't know what the other horse knows so you gotta just wait until he turns his head, slip on by and dump the feed."

I got bitten once, four years ago, when I was videotaping Ronnie Prince as he got a leg up on a horse in Pam Angevine's section of the shedrow before going out to exercise ride early in the morning. I was so intent on getting the images that I hadn't realized that I had backed toward a horse leaning out of the stall who took a nip of my back. I'm quite sure that I managed to hold on steadily to the camera because that was my goal. I did get a bruise and a lot of comments about a black horse biting the white woman.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chocolate Pudding

Before I saw Joe in the hospital the first time, I had to have chocolate pudding. Afterwards, I planned to have chocolate cake, but I decided on a salad.

The second time I went to see him, I had a salad first and vanilla and chocolate pudding afterwards.

This time I ate my lunch at work, went to visit and had chocolate cream pie afterwards.

It's very hard to see  him there. 

Sunday, August 2, 2009


For me, happiness was the fact that Tulip pooped outside for two days in a row.

For Bogie, happiness was rolling in dog poop in the park.

For Tulip, happiness was meeting other dogs in the park and conquering her fear that cars are monsters designed to ruin small dogs.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Rad, the horse I like

I am afraid of horses and I don't like formal photographs like this at all. But I got an incredible opportunity to spend time with Rad, pulling my hand down over his blaze, straightening his topknot (if that's what it's called) and I had my camera in my pocket and could photograph his eye lashes.

Tulip Got Lost

Last summer I didn't work in the garden at all. I spent the summer having physical therapy for a sciatic nerve. I could barely drive or walk and certainly couldn't bend down to weed. I couldn't care.

This summer, I've been at the track every morning and then writing about being at the track in the afternoons if I'm not teaching.

So, this is the yard where Tulip  got lost for 45 minutes when I let go of her leash. Someone that my friend, Lorna, knows is coming to help me this week, on Tuesday. I'll see what she can do for $100, but I imagine it won't be enough.

I loved my garden, once. But I don't have the energy to bother caring any more.

The John Deere Tractor

I told a friend (well, not entirely a friend, but a pleasant acquaintance who lives in Las Vegas) that I want to drive a John Deere tractor. He's driven trucks in the army and passed off my comment rather quickly. I don't think I'll get to drive one in this lifetime, but I find watching a group of three John Deeres slowly being driven down the track fascinating.

He had come along with me to watch the races last Saturday and I benefited from his particular observations. He quickly noticed that the heads of the horses moving around the oval bobbed up and down while the jockeys held steady.

And we talked about a sport in which a vet and an ambulance for humans drive so closely behind the race. That afternoon one horse broke down and had to be taken away in an equine ambulance. If it had been badly hurt, broken a leg for instance, it would have been put down behind a screen held up by track workers. I knew the woman who trained that horse, watched as she ran along the inside rail, hurrying to get there as the vet examined the injury. The jockey, who must have been thrown, walked past her on his way to the paddock, unhurt.

It was interesting to see how folks I know responded to a man. Obviously a woman who knows nothing about racing, who doesn't own a horse, and is just a familiar face because she's hung around for five years, learns facts slowly. In just ten minutes he'd been told that a horse has to earn $20,000 a year (at least I think it was a year, it may just have been a meet lasting from the beginning of May until the end of October) to break even given the cost of everything that goes into upkeep.

I've had the remarkable opportunity to help out in a barn in the mornings, scrubbing water buckets and setting out feed. Often I leave just at the break in morning exercise. That's when the tractors roll along, pulling the harrows. I'm sure they're so familiar with the surface that they put on the correct depth of prong according to the track surface and the weather conditions without thinking too much about it.