Textbook dog

Here, take a minute to look at these photographs of a textbook case of dog. Her name is Allie Anne and she belongs to a friend of mine here in Brisbane, California.

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There, isn’t that better? This is cheering you up a bit, isn’t it?

I thought so.

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Seriously, looking at these photos has got to be better than whatever dismal and infuriating news reports you were reading about the fucking moron in the White House who is systematically tearing our country down and apart with his stupidity, ignorance, and racism.

Yeah, I know. It’s continually depressing and hard to summon either courage or hope.

Hey, I know, I’ll look at the dog with you. Let’s be calm for a few minutes and just sit here together and look at the happy dog.

(Brisbane, California, January 2018. See my other work here and here.)

Glow shop

Before my face scraped the road,
I saw a shop that glowed.
I couldn’t get inside,
So the tender ghost without me died.
This freed me to further travel,
And continue to unravel
Secrets that I sought.
Truths that can’t be bought
In illuminated shops,

A shop of glow in the night, Brisbane, California 2018

Found at bus stops,
Or drunk in bars of great divinity.
My secrets aren’t within onyx superstructures of great art,
Or in the meat sack we call the human heart.
So resting overnight I watched the shop glow.
By morning the sun rose so fast
It seemed retrograde slow.
There were places I had to go,
People I had to be.
More ghosts I had to fetch,
And a love I longed to catch.

For decades this place was a bodega (the Coca Cola sign), then a retail shop (the India Rose sign), now apparently it’s a private residence.

(Brisbane, California, January 2018. See my other work here and here.)

The menacing glow

The hope at the end of the year

I wish I could say
the end of the year
will erase all your pain,
make disgraces and crimes disappear,
kill the hatred on sale two-for-one at Safeway,

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flood the streets with winning lotto tickets,
give us the heart to be ourselves,
let us forego religion in favor of reason,
and install a second faucet
on everyone’s kitchen sink

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from which flows on demand
the finest Belgian chocolate sauce.
But that’s not going to happen.
America won’t get fixed,
won’t be America,

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won’t be great or even passable,
until people like these,
good people,
sweet people,
American people,

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are no longer sleeping on
concrete pillows on the streets,
seeing bullets and unicorns in their soup,
and eating manic-depressive tacos
from the labyrinths inside flaming dumpsters.

(Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California, December 2017. See my other work here and here.)

These crazy fucking cats

Lacking both the energy and ambition on Christmas Eve to present to you photographs and text covering my usual range of topics, I’ve decided to just show you some pictures of my cats. My insane, hyper-kinetic, fuzzy-beautiful fucking cats. I figure no matter where you are as a Scholars and Rogues reader on the American political spectrum, my 10-month-old cats will cause no offense and might even make you smile.

See, 2017 has been a rather shitty year for me. Two big reasons why are my wife was hospitalized in January, then we lost our beloved cat Indy on Valentine’s Day. Being the life-long cat ladies that we are, my wife and I intensely felt how empty both our lives and our house were after Indy. So even though we both felt emotionally that it was too soon after his death and the deep grief it caused to have new cats, we adopted two eight-week-old kittens on April 1st from some very nice folks up near Sacramento.

And these are they, Kuro and Mika, brothers from the same litter, furry brigands who chew on everything, routinely beat the shit out of each other, and haven’t a mean bone in their bodies even though the are ruthlessly lethal to the toy mice (with the rattling bits inside) that I keep finding under every goddamned piece of heavy furniture in our house. So it goes living with with the aggravating grace of the feline species…

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Mika, on the left, has white feet and a distinctive crescent moon patch on his neck. Kuro, on the right, is entirely jet black. They’re thrilled to meet you, as you can see.

Mika-chan (三日月ちゃん) in flight, Brisbane, California 2017

Mika also has white areas on his chest and belly. And he likes to leap over our bathroom door.

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They both like boxes, but Kuro is particularly fond of them.

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Kuro also likes to chew on shit, in this case my cigarette lighter.

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Mika loves toys, but wasn’t fast enough to eviscerate this pink one when I dropped it for him.

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This will be their first Christmas with us, or with anyone. They’re not entirely clear on that concept.

Merry holidays, kids. I hope you enjoyed this. See more of Kuro and Mika here. Photographed in Brisbane, California during November and December 2017. See my other work here and here. And stay fuzzy.

The decent thing on Ocean Avenue

A few weeks ago in San Francisco, I had just left my favorite comics shop and was in my car about to turn south onto Ocean Avenue when I saw an old lady had fallen to the concrete on the public transport platform in the middle of the street. Before I could pull my car over and jump out to help, a young man had already reached her. As I watched I knew I was witnessing newsworthy decency, and felt like I was seeing San Francisco write a song lyric about itself and the kindness built into the way this city moves.

And so from my car I saw the young man render aid to the fallen woman. He was gentle with her and handled her firmly but without aggravating her obviously fragile state…

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Then he helped the lady get her legs back under her, and reclaim the clearly-necessary cane that had somehow failed her in the first place. While this happened drivers passed by oblivious, not necessarily out of callousness but because San Francisco is a body and it’s sometimes hard or risky to step outside one’s place in its street-artery flow…

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When she got to her feet, the old lady checked her hands for injuries while the young man stood by to ensure her well-being. After a few moments the woman stopped trembling and stood firm but relaxed, which in turn caused the young man to relax. When I realized everything would be okay I started my car and finally turned south onto Ocean Avenue to continue my way home…

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All of this happened literally within the space of 15 seconds. I checked the time stamps on my photographs to be sure. It was a hell of a thing seeing the kind of small but powerful human episode I’ve only read about in the news or seen dramatized on TV. But this is the way we orbit each other, and sometimes need’s gravity pulls us closer together than we would ordinarily prefer because there’s a life to be saved or changed for the better.

It’s how we’re built, thankfully, and I’ll remember that and celebrate it even if this kind of decency never unfolds before my eyes again.

(On Ocean Avenue @ San Leandro Way, San Francisco, California, November 2017. See my other work here and here.)

Encounter at a taqueria

Goodbye, Rachel

A short, very unofficial sequel to “Blade Runner”…

“The river of the world is wide, but its waters are boiling away” kept going through my mind as I sat next to her bed in the hospice, holding her hand and waiting for her to end. The quote was from a movie I took her to see a year ago in San Francisco. It was about the Off-world colonies and the death of Earth. One of Eldon Tyrell’s numerous subsidiary companies produced the film, and another subsidiary had done the special visual effects.

When I was still a cop I used to know things like this, that a wealthy, powerful man like Tyrell had a vast cultural reach he kept hidden from little people.

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And he had, somehow, used his wealth and influence to spare Rachel’s life from other blade runners and let me take her out of L.A. Since then she and I had had two years together, up north in San Francisco and a few remaining small cities beyond. This meant she was six, and for all I knew the oldest replicant who ever lived.

But she wouldn’t live to be seven. A cancer seventy percent of humans ordinarily survive was eating her bones like carnival midway candy. Unnaturally aggressive. The unlicensed oncologist said maybe it was a flaw in her genetic design. Who knows? Tyrell never said anything about human diseases. Until the cancer started killing her a month ago she’d never even had a sniffle or a runny nose.

For two years I had loved her. Her laughter, when she eventually found it, had helped kill some of my pain and taken Roy Batty out of my nightmares. Now she was minutes away from gone, and once again all I could do was just watch someone die.

At least a bullet in the back wouldn’t take her life. She would die in my arms and part of me would die with her.

After she retires, I think I might go back to L.A.

Goodbye, Rachel.

The laundromat is a lovely-shiny-golden human place.

My wife and I live in an 88-year-old house which has never been adequately retrofitted to accommodate the installation of a washer and dryer for laundry. We’re slowly setting aside the cash to one day solve that problem, but in the meantime once or twice a month we schlep our dirty duds to a local laundromat. Now, you’ll get no argument from me that the process of driving (or walking) five or six pillow cases full of laundry to the laundromat then spending two or more hours washing, drying, and folding your wardrobe is basically a pain in the ass.

It is, particularly if the laundromat is crowded and you have to wait for dryers. So, yes, laundromats are as mundane as a library card. But they’re also rich, warm places in which to be in the thick of humanity’s ebb and flow. At least the one I use is. And yesterday, the last Monday in September, was a very rewarding day for me as a photographer washing socks and capturing human moments at the laundromat…

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Tiny twin girls, who were as adorable as their big, burly father was good-natured and easy with a laugh. I learned what a easy-going fellow he was when I asked his permission to take this photograph.

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Miles the laid-back Chihuahua, in the arms of his primary human and receiving loads of adoration from his fan club on the left.

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Edgar the relaxed Malamute, with a nice lady who coincidentally is the mother-in-law of a friend of mine. The lady rescued Edgar from a Malamute breeder who beat him the first two years of his life and kept him in a small cage with ten other dogs.

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This is Brenda. She’s 72 and undergoing cancer chemotherapy for the first time in her life. She just started the chemo, that very morning in fact, but won’t know if it takes until some time this November. She’s happy to be getting treatment, because the cancer was making her very sick. She’s originally from North Carolina, but she and her man are moving to San Diego to settle while Brenda undergoes further cancer treatments. Her pink ribbon hat caught my eye, but her candor and aura of optimism and hope held my attention.

At the laundromat, there’s always more life and hope and joy and pain than you think.

(Super Coin Laundry, Brisbane, California, September 2017)

Reflection in a Japanese restaurant

I often look into mirrors

to view worlds we don’t normally see.

This woman in my world, for example,

at the next table over in a Japantown restaurant,

she was pretty and she was beside herself.

Relections in a Japanese restaurant, Japantown, San Francisco 2017

“That’s a great literal use of that phrase,” I thought

as I went back to eating my katsu curry.

And as I did I hoped

the woman in the mirror world

didn’t reach out and touch

the woman in my world,

as this would surely throw both worlds

into dangerous chaos and flux.

(Izumiya Restaurant, Japantown, San Francisco, September 2017)

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