Posts By Dan Ryan

Sidewalk soul food buffet

About once a week, usually in the late morning, I drive into San Francisco to do my money errands at a Bank of America at the corner of Leland Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard. Sometimes when I’m standing in line at the ATM, there’s a guy across the way setting up a large buffet.

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I’ve heard he runs a soul food kitchen in Hunters Point, and on slow days he drives a couple of miles south to this San Francisco neighborhood to make a few bucks selling jambalaya, fried catfish, greens, mac and cheese, and other soul food comfort classics. He had a menu displayed that identified him as Chef Tasty, and the ‘tasty’ part surely described the odors from the food he was putting out.

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The day I shot these photographs I literally didn’t have the time to do much more. The chef himself was in a bit of a hurry setting up his buffet; in the moment we briefly chatted he didn’t seem like he had the time yet to wait on me anyway. So it all worked out.

But the next time I see him I’m getting me a full plate of whatever he’s selling that day.

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(Photographed in San Francisco, California in September, 2021. See my other work here and here.)

Her daddy died the day before

I was on Sunnydale Avenue in San Francisco recently at weekly food bank, working on a project of mine about people and community outreach during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. And this beautiful little girl caught my eye because of the bright pink braids she had flowing from her hair.

The girl was with a friend of mine, who is also the girl’s godmother, and she had no problems with me taking a few pictures of the girl and her striking hair.

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As I was lifting my camera to my face to begin snapping, my friend told the girl “Hold it up, let him see it.” What she meant was the laminate hanging from the girl’s neck, a family photo featuring the girl and her father right in the center of it. The girl’s father had his arms around her.

I looked a question at my friend, who said to me “Her daddy died yesterday. He got shot.”

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Ten minutes later I was carrying a box of food bank vegetables to the girl’s nearby apartment, and I asked my friend what happened. She told me the girl’s father was shot dead nearby when he was trying to score some weed from a man who had a gun and who was just too crazy to be dealing weed at that particular moment in time.

I looked at my friend and asked her “Who dies over weed anymore? It’s fucking weed, it’s legal.”

Neither one of us had an answer. Then she walked into the girl’s apartment, and I put the box of vegetables on the trunk of a car parked in front of it and left.

(Photographed in San Francisco, California in August, 2021. See my other work here and here.)

The first place I’ve gone in over a year and it was Hollister

During the first weekend of June, 2021, my wife and I took a trip together for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdowns began in California in March of 2020. After 15 months of basically being locked up together for 23 hours a day, she and I were looking forward to the short road trip.

A shop on San Bruno Street, part 1...
Hollister, California, June 2021

We were headed to Hollister, California, to stay with my niece and her family. Her daughter, my great niece, was graduating from San Benito High School.

Decorations for a high school graduation...
Hollister, California, June 2021

We got to my niece’s house on a Thursday afternoon, but after spending the night and waking up there Friday morning it was clear that the whole endeavor was a disaster for me.

Lawn care on Cienega Road...
Hollister, California, June 2021

My rheumatoid arthritis had decided to act up, and I was in a lot of pain. So I decided to drive back on Friday to my quiet house just south of San Francisco where I could get the rest and sleep I needed to get through the arthritis flare-up.

A front yard on California Street, part 2...
Hollister, California, June 2021

I left my wife in Hollister, to enjoy the company of our family and the graduation festivities. I drove back down to get her that first Sunday in June. I really wish I had been able to spend that whole weekend in Hollister, but at least while I was there I shot some pictures I liked.

See the entire album here.

(Photographed in Hollister, California in June, 2021. See my other work here and here.)

Roadside repairs

During the first week of May I was driving from San Francisco into Brisbane, California along Bayshore Boulevard, and I encountered this interesting scene…

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It turns out that the man with the beard was driving along Bayshore Boulevard too, but the upper control arm on the driver’s side of his big old car snapped and he had to immediately pull over and call an emergency mechanic.

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So while the mechanic worked away, I snapped a few photos and the young man and I talked for a few minutes. He showed me the groove out on the street that his damaged car had cut into the pavement as he pulled it out of traffic.

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He was a nice young fellow, very warm and open.

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The mechanic was a nice guy too, but very busy.

(Photographed in Brisbane, California on May 04, 2021. See my other work here and here.)

Gone, just gone, 10 years on…

The idea of the kids still haunts me ten years later.

Very infrequently I have nightmares about ghostly green, purple, and burnt orange faces of Japanese children floating above their anguished parents, who are still living bitter lives in tiny yatai-shaped temporary houses scattered throughout a cartoon nuclear meltdown hellscape version of Fukushima.

I know the reality isn’t quite that bad. But ten years on folks in Tōhoku still can’t go home, and in the deep ocean there are the bones of innocent kids from 3/11 that will never be discovered nor buried. For ten years the loss of those lives and their potential has bothered me, and probably always will.

I wrote this poem about the lost children in 2014 for the third anniversary of the disaster. It’s also an ode to the sorrow and horror felt by a man who merely edited other people’s stories from the disaster but didn’t actually experience it himself. So take that for what it’s worth as you read the poem, and I hope you enjoy it…

Gone, just gone

The bubblegum kids no one is ever going to know,

rotting out their lives in the cold of Mishima’s boiling sea.

There’s grace in the truncheons of justice they may have become.

There’s iron will in the blood they will never spill on land.

There’s a permanent school of candyfloss and diamond textbooks

waiting to teach them about the ghosts of great emperors.

It’s the time when they died that will never forgive, and will ever hate itself

for taking them walking to the undersea graves of lost civilizations.

There’s teeny shoes floating in the sea that had warm, happy feet in them.

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There’s a TV somewhere that always shows cartoons only Japanese children can understand.

There’s a tear we cry for strangers who will never grow up to be our friends.

Or invent new light.

Or cure the gangrene in our hateful bones.

There is soil that will never be disturbed, for there is no reason to displace it for graves.

It is fine soil, still, and we should honor it by planting flowers that taste like rice candy.

We should remember that sometimes the bubblegum kids see with both a living and a dead set of eyes.

And we should love them, and we should remember them,

And we should hold what we know of them with a warmth that radiates down into the deepest chasm at the bottom of the sea.

(—For the lost children of Japan after March 11th, 2011. Photograph taken in Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo in September 2013. See my other photo work here and here.)

“It’s In Their Eyes” is a present for you on my birthday

Well it’s my birthday, literally today is my birthday, and so I wanted to give you a present. I’m 57 years old today, in case you were wondering. Frankly, because of some mental-health and past booze-related reasons I’m amazed and very happy to still be here. But that’s a story for another place and time.

Right, on to your gift.

2020 was a shitty year for many reasons, mostly the COVID-19 pandemic. I mean, my daily movements and social interactions were restricted, your daily movements and social interactions were restricted, we had more free time, more booze, more Netflix, less money, less security, and less hope. It was a big fucking mess that will hopefully come under rapid and compassionate control due to the leadership of our new president.

Anyway, what I did most of last year during my short trips outside my house to the supermarket, the pharmacy, and a few other essential places was take photographs of people in masks doing the same ordinary, essential stuff I was doing in our vastly-altered national circumstances.

And now I’ve made a book of my favorites of those photographs.

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And, as with my last two books, I’m making it available to you for free. It’s full of both color and monochrome photos of folks in the same kinds of places doing the the same kinds of things you have been doing since this national disaster started in March, 2020.

  • So download “It’s In Their Eyes” here. It’s in PDF format and totals 36.6MB.
  • And donate (if you’re so inclined) to my “getting ‘It’s In Their Eyes’ printed” fund here.

I’d love to hear your comments or criticisms. You can unload on me about “It’s In Their Eyes” by leaving a comment on this post, or by contacting me via Facebook, or Twitter.

Thanks for having a look, and I hope you enjoy “It’s In Their Eyes”.

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(Brisbane, California, January 21, 2021. See my other work here.)

In darkness…

In darkness
we cannot
shine a light,
so we
undervalue
our own radiance.
We pick locks
we cannot see,
taste foods
we cannot smell,
and gossip about things
we do not know.
We enslave
ourselves
and blame
others for our capture.

Christmas Eve at the 380 offramp, part 1...
San Bruno California, December 2020

We stop loving
our lives
and blame
others for our cold empty.
In darkness
we dance
with the children
we used to be
and wonder why,
now we’ve grown,
we don’t dance
any better
than we used to.

(Photographed in San Bruno, California on Christmas Eve, 2020. See my other work here.)

This past Thanksgiving

In the time of coronavirus, my wife and I didn’t do much on Thanksgiving Day 2020 but stay home and cook for ourselves. We didn’t even watch the Macy’s parade. Cooking Thanksgiving feast for two people, which included an 11-pound turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and a persimmon pie, was a surprisingly time-consuming endeavor.

Still, I did get out briefly a couple of times during the day and shot this collection of photographs. Enjoy…

A suspension of color in my deceased father-in-law's living room...
Brisbane, California, Thanksgiving Day 2020

A suspension of color in my deceased father-in-law’s living room.

The calm of the world as the sun comes up...
Brisbane, California, Thanksgiving Day 2020

The calm of the world as the sun comes up.

A turkey at my neighbor's house...
Brisbane, California, Thanksgiving Day 2020

A turkey at my neighbor’s house.

The turkey goes into the oven...
Brisbane, California, Thanksgiving Day 2020

Our turkey goes into the oven.

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The flag and a family on the high street.

Last-minute grocery trip for daughter and father...
Brisbane, California, Thanksgiving Day 2020

Last-minute grocery trip for daughter and father.

My wife would like to show a happy world to everyone...
Brisbane, California, Thanksgiving Day 2020

My wife would like to show a happy world to everyone.

(Photographed in Brisbane, California on Thanksgiving Day, 2020. I hope yours was happy and safe. See my other work here.)

Saturday, at the edge of the world

My wife and I,
imprisoned with each other these past one million days,
decided on a Saturday morning
to hope in the car and go see the edge of the world.
(I meant ‘hop’ but the effect is the same.)

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When we got there
I looked out
at the crest of the ocean,
the horizon it made,
and I wondered if
there were people in Japan
looking from their edge of the world
who couldn’t see me either.

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It’s probable.
It’s likely.
My wife and I blew
the dreamers on Japanese coasts a kiss,
and laughed because we love
that the ocean is here
at the edge of the world
even though we rarely come to see it.

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And then I thought
in 31 years
of bad careers, drink, and madness in California,
she has been my sun.
My sun more than the actual fucking Sun.
And all the bad
was erased
standing on the edge of the world with her.

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Everything bad
in my life, in our lives,
was all worth enduring
to be able after 31 years
to stand at the edge of the world with her.

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And I told her that.
And she kissed me.
And I knew, once again,
we would be okay.

(Photographed at Thornton Beach, Daly City, California in November, 2020. See my other work here.)

The psilocybin skateboard

He said

he was bored

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and, the day being hot and slow,

I understood that.

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And he said

he was on mushrooms

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and, being a recovering alcoholic,

I smiled quietly at that.

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(Photographed in Brisbane, California in September, 2020. See my other work here.)

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