Sunday, May 22, 2011

As Close to Heaven

 Clemente is a rascal from Puerto Rico who rattles on in a high-pitched voice. I often don't understand him, but K. always gets what he's saying. He was a jockey for many years, riding at tracks all over the country, then an exercise rider when I first met him, and now a hot walker and a groom. He was badly hurt in a fall and didn't stay in the hospital long enough, so he's often in pain, sometimes complaining, endlessly joking. Often I've spent an afternoon at the races, following him from one place to another, as he wanders here and there, taking to this person, to that one, introducing me and laughing, laughing, laughing. For some inexplicable reason, I find his face just fascinating. He's one of the people I'd never tire looking at. And never tire photographing.

I met him through my friend Joe who used him as an exercise rider. Joe told me about one day when Clemente was riding by on a white horse, a very white horse, and he yelled to Joe, "Look at me, a black man on a white horse," and Joe said, "Yeah, just like a fly in a glass of milk." Clemente says he was once white, but he's drunk so much coffee that he's turned dark brown. And he says he has a twin brother, the one locked in the basement, or the one who was in a bad mood yesterday. His family has gold mines, he says, and air planes and he's going to take us on one, to Puerto Rico. And he says Puetro Ricans no lie, no cheat, no do drugs. He's always laughing.

 When we first moved up to this god forsaken place, Boston, I used to take K, who was only nine, out to Suffolk Downs. I found it as comforting as I found the Greyhouse bus station...both places that reminded me of the relentlessness of New York as I knew it. K missed NY as much as I did, but she found the track frightening. Too many drunk men. And I soon realized that I couldn't take her with me. I was never interested in the horses, but in the people, and since she wasn't interested in the horses, it was more torture than pleasure for her.
 At some point, I got used to my new life, more-or-less, and stopped going out there, though I did take a class from MIT once. A very quiet young woman took the most marvelous photographs by just turning around and photographing those old guys checking their programs, yelling at the races. Back then, the grandstands were crowded on race days and she had a Rolei, a camera that you look down into to focus, and they didn't notice what she was doing. I'd hadn't been able to photograph there since as far as I was concerned, the earth would open up to swallow me if I took pictures of strangers.
 K. is quite horrified by the amount of money Clemente bets, but he says he doesn't want to leave anything for anyone to fight over and besides, if he gave his money to someone to save, what would happen if that person died? His money would be gone anyway. For instance, if he gave his money to me, and I died, would I have told K. where I'd hidden it? Well, she says, she'd buy a lot of clothes with it and he laughs, laughs, See? Loose my mon-ee.
We went out to the opening day of the track and to watch the Preakness. Usually Suffolk Downs opens on Derby Day, but the legislature in this state won't allow increased gaming, refuses to let slot machines into the track, or a casino to be built there, watches as all the money goes to the big casinos in neighboring states, pretending that lottery tickets sold by the state aren't gambling, etc., etc., so Suffolk Downs is going to hell in a hand basket with losses and didn't open when it usually does. I don't like chronic gambling any more than I like alcoholism, but obsessive gamblers bet on which rain drop will fall down the window pane faster. And I do like the people who make their livings, such as they are, in horse racing. They work endlessly hard to earn very little, most of them, at least.
This is as close to heaven as I'm going to get. We bet two dollars on four horses to win, not on any of the favorites and not on the one that won the Derby who Clemente said won that race because the jockey is from Puerto Rico and would win this race. Even I knew that would never happen. So, we bet on the long shots and nothing came in even though Astrology, the horse K. chose, came in third. We bet to win. K. said we should have bet on Shackleford, but that's just because the young woman sitting in front of us was telling someone about a horse named after a Russian writer and I looked at the Preakness listing and only found Shackleford, an explorer, and mentioned that to K., but we didn't put two dollars on it.

We had a great time.

I am well behind in blogging and hope to catch up with some photos of the wonderful dinner with Claire Benyon...that was a remarkable treat, meeting a wonderful New Zealander. I learned that good bloggers read faithfully and even read all the comments on the blogs they follow and realized that when I'm capable of keeping up with the blog reading, I never read the comments because, to me, that's like reading other people's mail...   obviously I've carried over my scruples into the wrong place. And I learned that I should answer every comment on my own blog...  oh, dear, apologies all around...and thanks for reading this!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Earth Day in Chelsea and lots of other stuff

 Chelsea declared this Saturday as Earth Day and I went along to the parking lot in back of City Hall to get my green tee-shirt and decided to photograph various sites for the Chelsea Collaborative since I don't have the energy for serious, useful work. The most heroic attempt at cleaning and clearing was at this cove, near the Marina that's private... (This is in the fancy area of this small and extremely beleagured little city which is now predominantly Hispanic, Admiral's Hill, with townhouses and condos. There's a nice park where no one is allowed to lay soccer anymore. I used to scoff at anyone who lived here, but now I'm so tired of maintaining my two-family, all the snow, the garden, the roof, the oil tank, blah and blah, that I would, and maybe will, happily trade it for a condo there if I can possibly afford it which means if I can finally take the plastic off the windows because it's warm enough not to need heat and clear up enough to ask a realtor to look at it.)

These reeds were filled with endless debris, even syringes. The black bags are for garbage, nothing that might be salvaged. The white bags are for recycling. This distinction was quite heroic given the circumstances. Folks were actually stopping to try to unscrew and empty the bottles before putting them in the appropriate bag. One man, who is also part of the Community Garden, had been lobbying to get this as a clean-up site in the hope that wild life might be encouraged to re-inhabit it. It's going to take an enormous amount of work, but two hours of the heavy labor of twenty or thirty people did a bit.

One of the benefits of going around to different cleaning areas to photograph is that I got to see Mill Creek, a site that has taken twenty years and probably a lot of money,  to recover. A white heron, a gorgeous thing, was standing out in the flowing water. Two plastic bags floating on the reeds hardly disturbed the general restoration of this site. Now there's a small park for kids up the path and an area where hot dogs and non-dogs were served to all of us.

One of the things I told Elsa is that I'm tempted to outline sections in my garden and photograph the before and after. I bought clothes line at the Dollar Store and proceeded to weigh it down with bricks and take the before photographs. Then I dug out some weeds, etc., which truly showed me what an insane idea this is because I went to sleep afterwards. I don't seem to be able to do any gardening, even in small doses. My body does not like it.

The photographs of what I accomplished in the small amount of time I worked will look a lot better than these. I'll probably abandon this project.

Elsa said the idea reminded her of work done by various folks in some previous decade, I don't remember which one. But for me, it's attached to my plan to put string grids across my shelves and then write down where every object came from and what it means to me. I thought that would  make a really interesting bit of work -- photographs with extensive text. About twenty years ago.  Of course, I would never have shown it anywhere. And I didn't do it because I couldn't get the strings to look like a grid.

This project, passe as it probably is, and impossible as it will be to manage, given the size of my garden and the general mess, probably won't get done, either. But it was fun to think about.
This is the sushi lunch that Elsa art directed. I also have some nice photographs of the empty plates (we ate everything, everything ) and her paying the bill, but enough is enough.