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…
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 also has white areas on his chest and belly. And he likes to leap over our bathroom door.
They both like boxes, but Kuro is particularly fond of them.
Kuro also likes to chew on shit, in this case my cigarette lighter.
Mika loves toys, but wasn’t fast enough to eviscerate this pink one when I dropped it for him.
This will be their first Christmas with us, or with anyone. They’re not entirely clear on that concept.
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)