27 years

As of August 31st, 2016, I have been in California for 27 years. I moved here with my best friend Brian, who had accepted a job offer in San Francisco a few months after graduating from Lehigh University. Knowing that I didn’t like my job in Maryland just outside the D.C. Beltway, and that I was losing my free room and board because my parents were moving back to Dallas, Brian suggested I move to San Francisco with him.

I thought about it for five minutes, said “What the hell, I’m in”, and by the second week of August, 1989 we were heading west from the Jersey shore in a Ford Aerostar minivan loaded with clothing, minimal furniture, and Coors Extra Gold. We drove the southern route and saw a lot of weird shit in Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. This old scanned photograph from a campground near the Grand Canyon is just one example…

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By now I have lived in California longer than any other place in my 52 years. If I could I would trade some of the shitty times during my 27 years here (like being a poor student in Santa Barbara in 1991) for an extra year or so in Singapore when I was a teenager and in Tokyo when I was in my twenties.

But I met my wife here, and I wouldn’t trade her for anything. And I finally found a rich creative life here, after several crummy careers that didn’t suit me or that I didn’t suit. Yep, I have my wife and her love, and my view of the world through a camera held by the man that California has helped me become. And barring a couple of chronic physical ailments and psychological quirks, I am often at peace with who I am and who I still want to be.

So for me it’s California. It’s good here.

(Picture taken at Flintstones Bedrock City, Williams, Arizona, August 1989)

A day of crazed mousery

Indy caught a mouse today, which as far as my wife and I can recall is not something he has ever done before. The upside to this is he’s over 16 years old and still spry enough, with the help of regular medications for his aging joints, to be the predator he was built to be. The downside is Indy didn’t kill the mouse outright.

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So to keep him from eating it, I had to grab the poor mouse out of Indy’s mouth by its tail and throw it into my back yard while it was still barely alive. I really hated throwing away a little life like that. It will probably give me nightmares…

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(Brisbane, California 2016)

Gravity bites

Tokyo laundromatters

When I travel to Tokyo I stay in an apartment building in Nakano 5-chome. There’s a small laundromat a five minute walk away that’s not only convenient for quickly doing several loads of wash, but is also on occasion a great place to photograph people…

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(Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015)

Agitated schoolboy

It was a dark morning in Tokyo and had been raining for most of the night. On my way to a Ministop convenience store to buy some natto maki and an egg salad sandwich for breakfast, I spotted this kid who was dragging a huge cooler through the rainy streets.

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We were headed the same way so I ended up following him for several hundred yards. Pulling the cooler while juggling the umbrella and huge shoulder bag made the kid stop a few times to redistribute and manage his burdens. Finally while passing a small park he stopped long enough for me to take his picture. I was also going to offer to help him schlep the cooler to wherever he was going.

But when he saw me as I snapped this photograph he barked a string of Japanese words which included “no way” and “foreigner”, and I knew immediately that there was no point in trying to offer my help.

Hydrangea Park (あじさい公園), Nakano, Tokyo 2015

(Hydrangea Park, Nakano, Tokyo 2015)

One need not catch them all

I’m not a fan of the Pokémon franchise, I don’t play the mobile game, and don’t intend to start doing so. Still, without even trying at all I encountered a lively, free-range Pokémon whilst he was buying afterschool snacks at my local grocery store…

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(Midtown Market, Brisbane, California 2016. Also published on Scholars & Rogues.)

Rooster hawkers

Here’s to Henry

How do I pay tribute to a man who both enriched and destroyed my life? If I had never read his work I’d be less of a boozer than I am, but also less of a human being. Charles Bukowski would have been 96 years old today, and I have praised and cursed his very existence with every gulp of cheap beer or sip of fine rum that I have ever taken.

Kiyokawa, Tokyo 2012

(↑Kiyokawa, Tokyo 2012)

So what do I do here, Hank? Praise the fucking gods that I finally decided to get sober, or laugh at my own stupidity for leaving behind your horrible, desperate, inspiring, and beautiful world? I don’t really know. This is the kind of thing I used to have to consider over a cold beer.

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(↑Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo 2012)

I would have liked to have had a drink with you just once, to probe with some sort of scientific accuracy the reasons why demons chew on my testicles and nap on my liver and never pay one fucking penny’s worth of rent for the spaces they take up in my soul.

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(↑Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo 2013)

It would have been nice to talk with you about that. But you’re not here, and some days I’m not either, and who gives a shit anyway? It was your nihilism, probably more than anything else, that I admired most about you.

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(↑Seoul Izakaya, Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo 2013)

The Art of Not Giving a Fuck, you were a master of it. You were a horse’s ass in a pasture full of donkeys, and therefore owned the patent on a certain type of irony.

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(↑Freedom, Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015)

And I love you, and I hate you, and to honor you I offer up these photographs of people whose beauty and tragedy not only rivals but exceeds your best writings about how our human condition is both wretched and worth living in defiance of sorrow and hope.

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(↑San Bruno, California 2015)

I’m a better man because of you, Mr. Bukowski, but I am a worse person. I love human beings more because of you, but I also feel better when they’re not around…

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(↑Brisbane, California 2016)

(Also published on Scholars and Rogues.)

She wasn’t happy…

…about having to walk by a parked delivery truck on a frequently-used residential street in Nakano 5-chome. But the driver couldn’t move because his delivery was where he had parked, and she was kind of a fussy old bitch about it, so my sympathies aligned with the working man.

Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015

(Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015)

Pokémon à Go-go

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