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.
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, Nakano, Tokyo 2015)
Just a couple of guys peddling traditional wares to passersby at the Tori no Ichi (rooster) fair in Asakusa’s Senzoku district…
(Asakusa 4-chome, Tokyo 2015)
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.)
…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)
And they came into and through the crisp sea air, looking for pocket monsters…
(Brisbane Marina, California 2016)
(Ueno, Tokyo 2015)
My father-in-law Jesse passed away three years ago today. The photograph just below is of him and my mother-in-law on August 1st, 2014, a week before he died.
I miss him, more than I often admit. A year after his death my wife and I weren’t dealing with it very well. Three years on and the sting and sorrow are easier for us to bear. But during the past few years months my mother-in-law has been remarkable, a steady, consistent rock who as endured rather than fall apart. Having her around gives my life needed perspective since I’m 53 and starting to wonder more often when the ride’s going to end.
Several days before Jess died, I got to really see what champions my family are. I wasn’t born into a particularly close family. But my wife, the woman below on the right, had better luck. That’s her sister on the left. My brother-in-law is in the next photograph, holding his father’s hand four days before the end.
You only think about the dying when death is near, not the people you look to after someone’s gone and say out loud “Shit, I guess we should have a drink.” My wife, her sister and brother, and my mother-in-law showed me how to face the fading and passing of a human life. At the time I didn’t cope with it well and hid behind my camera. Thankfully I had superior family examples from which to draw strength.
On the day Jess died, August 8th, 2014, my wife was a genius of calm. She was collected and circumspect. The old man passed about five hours before I shot the picture immediately above. I had never before been in a room with a deceased person who wasn’t shut tight in a coffin.
I was uncomfortable and squeamish about it. My wife’s behavior showed me how to man-up and deal with it. Women can be so superior in this department, probably for the same reasons that men make war while women clean up the emotional messes afterward.
My wife’s sister, above on the right, and my wife’s step-sister, on the left, also showed me how to confront the death in the room, and how the love of siblings not born of the same parents can be a source of connection and strength.
About six hours after Jess died, two nice men came to his house, put him on a stretcher, covered him, and walked him down to their hearse.
After Jess was secured, I told the undertaker, pictured above, that I was squeamish about my father-in-law’s death. I asked him how he dealt with hauling corpses for a living. He looked at me with genuine sympathy and said “You get used to it.”
Yeah, I guess you do. Or maybe you don’t. I don’t fucking know if I could. I just had to take the man’s word for it.
(Photographs taken in Brisbane, California in August, 2014. Text updated on August 8th, 2017.)