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November 21, 2009

Full Of Something
Saturday. So the blood test yesterday was fine, the weather cleared in the afternoon and I was able to get in a walk (and add some pictures to the day's posting). And yes, I drank some of the sake, but a modest amount (if I do say so) and the day ended well. Swell.

Later. Having written that yesterday in the very late afternoon I got a call from Mr. E on his way back from a job interview suggesting we get together at Roy's for a beverage (or two) and so, having already had my evening sake when he called, I set out and added Guinness to the caper. Well, the best laid plans. A good evening. I remembered (at last) to bring the print I'd done of Roy's significant other some time back, taken as I was stumbling out the door (which, from the way he showed it around, he liked) and a good time was thereby had by all. What I remember of it. Well, no. I do remember it. All of it. It was crowded. I took pictures.

Up a bit later than usual (I wonder why), a walk to breakfast at eight, the air quite cold, eating a larger breakfast over the papers (there are wars about and people are unemployed), a walk back passing the farmer's market as people were starting to arrive. Early yet, for the market, the band setting up, but the food stalls in place and people were shopping and eating and such at nine on a cold (for a coastal California) morning.

Cold, shmold. The sun was out and most people would kill for such a moderate November temperature.

Only if you were standing in the sun. Let me tell you, my camera hand was quite uncomfortable walking along the shady side of Grand looking wistfully at the sunny side. Many don't understand how we struggle here in California. After an excellent breakfast, for example: scooting home, the sun not quite up yet over the line of blue silhouetted buildings, the temperature pecking at you like parakeets!

How many street people did you pass? Two? How did they spend their night? What did they have for breakfast?

Reality has no seat in this discussion. This is America in less than one hundred and forty characters! What can you say to someone who'd try floating something like “pecking parakeets”?

Later still. A walk down to the bus stop thinking, well, downtown or back to the farmer's market? I could use something to eat, but what? The bus was late so I walked to the market, through the market and then on down to browse through Walden Pond books to see what they might have that was new in their photography section. The chances of my buying one are slim, I have more than enough now and rarely look through them as it is, but you never know and sometimes, well, sometimes. A walk then farther on, passing the gas station I track for gas prices from the opposite direction taking a picture of their sign, just, I don't know, to see how it looked. A bus then to a market where I bought a tuna fish sandwich and an ice cream cone, one each from two of nature's perfect food groups, walked home and loaded what little I'd shot into the computer, looking finally at that gas sign picture.

What was that at the bottom of the sign? In the original picture is was a black shadow, no detail, just something I couldn't make out. An adjustment in PhotoShop showed a woman sitting hunched over in what looks to be grief. I hadn't even noticed her when I passed. There are a number of street people, almost all of them men, in my area who will sometimes ask for money and I more often than many give them a few dollars. I don't know about their lives, but assume life on the street is not quite like camping out while on vacation. Putting a few bucks in their hand will not bring my world to an end, someone who's been nothing but lucky for all his existence.

Then again there's a hierarchy. One particular guy stands at the same place most every day on Grand with a stack of the homeless newspaper Street Spirit in hand saying hello to people as they pass and asking for money. He's good. He's really good at reading people, at knowing when to ask and when not to ask. He's quite good at reading me. My guess is he'd be a really good salesman in any of a hundred different sales operations, hindered maybe, made impossible maybe by things less visible he doesn't show, but he dresses reasonably well and knows how to sell. I admire his abilities and his particular talent has resulted in giving him more than I've given to less fortunate others.

And there are others: old and not so old, inarticulate, picking cigarettes out of trash bins, clothes caked, torn, dirty; who don't have the skill or the mental facilities to successfully panhandle; who get as hungry as my man with his Street Spirit in hand, some of whom will ask, some of whom won't, all of whom I will try to take care of when I can with a couple of dollars. I'm not a money machine, I say no more often than not, I don't do any more than many others, there are no gold stars next to my name in some celestial counter, but now and again I run into somebody who's very being screams out need and those I'm happy to assuage my own feelings with a few dollars. This woman in the picture looks to be in pain, looks like she could use help (that money on the street won't hope to solve) and I evidently passed her without seeing.

I actually thought of driving back to the gas station to see if she was still there after what had been more than an hour. What I realized was bugging me was the thought I'd passed her without noticing. A dark shape at the bottom of a gasoline sign that turned out to be a woman. I joke about reality, about carping, about many things and that's all fine, but not even noticing, even when I'm carrying a camera twitting on about picture seeking mode? “Picture seeking mode.” He's in “picture seeking mode!” How artful! How full of art. How full of something.

The photograph was taken at the Fruitvale 2009 El Día de los Muertos celebration with a Nikon D3 mounted with a 105mm f 2.8 Nikkor VR lens at f 2.8 at 1/1600th second, ISO 200.