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…
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.
Miles the laid-back Chihuahua, in the arms of his primary human and receiving loads of adoration from his fan club on the left.
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.
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)
Extremes enrich an abundant life…
In my chosen profession there are extremes which exist outside of me and are mine (or yours) to take or leave. The world is ugly, and the world is beautiful, and I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself a photojournalist if I wasn’t willing to embrace how wonderful and horrible the world can be. You got to love the hate and hate the love, so to speak.
Scholars & Rogues has given me a forum to show you, our faithful readers, the weird bits of pathos, promise, and pain that I encounter as I wander in and around San Francisco, California and its suburbs. I do this to show you that we are not just a collective of progressive thinkers, critics, and college professors. We are also no strangers to the street. We have been in, and sometimes slept in, the gutters and found within ourselves the strength to take a realistic but also an humane and compassionate view of American life and how our country fits into the world.
So on the tenth anniversary of Scholars & Rogues, I want to make you feel good. And I want to make you feel bad. And I want to give you hope. Because that’s what life does to all of us on a regular basis. And to start here’s my kitten Kuro-chan grooming himself at my house in Brisbane, California…
Then we have a junkie fumbling with a meth needle on 16th Street and Potrero in San Francisco…
And here’s a dog from my neighborhood named Babaloo showing a bit of pink steel…
Finally, here’s Steven, a manic street kid who treated me with grace and humor while we hung out behind a gas station on Patterson Street in San Francisco…
This is our lives, all of us. We all have to understand that we live in an uncomfortable zone encompassing the kitten, the junkie, the dog, and Steven. It’s a place stuck in between soft kitty fur and the used needle on the sidewalk. You don’t get to choose whether you’re in this paradigm or not. You’re in it.
All we at Scholars & Rogues can do is try to draw you in and make you a willing part of it all. We owe you that. As human beings and journalists, we owe you nothing less.
This is our country now, this is our lives.
I saw a flag on a house
that does not usually fly one.
An elected official lives there.
I voted for her, hell yes.
I’ve voted a shitload in my life.
I voted the last time,
the bad time
when the change we wanted
is the worst we could’ve imagined.
And I’m standing there
looking at this flag,
and the dog’s looking at me.
And I’m pretty sure
the dog’s asking “What in the FUCK did you people do?!!”
And, you know,
I love that dog,
I’ve known him for years,
but I hate the question.
Because I don’t have an answer,
and I’m not gonna like
the answer that comes.
(This is a real photograph, not staged, proudly taken in Brisbane, California on November 12th, 2016)
Brisbane’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles had its annual Halloween party this evening. I’m not a member, and I’ve been sick with the flu all week, but I made the effort to go for a short while to pay my respects to the friend who invited me. That’s her on the left in the first photograph below. The rest of the photos are selected scenes from the party, and a look at a part of American small-town life which may not be familiar to you…
(F.O.E. Aerie #3255, Brisbane, California 2016)
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.
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…
(Brisbane, California 2016)
Snack time for an energetic dog in the parking lot at Brisbane’s grocery store…
(Brisbane, California 2016)
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)
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.
(↑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.
(↑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.
(↑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.
(↑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.
(↑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…
(↑Brisbane, California 2016)
(Also published on Scholars and Rogues.)