Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A cigar, a chair and peace of mind

After a week in Eugene, Oregon for an exhibition I was grateful to be heading homewards and finally getting some photography done.  Normally when I’m shooting I’m pretty single-minded, I think about the photography and that’s about it.  This time I was distracted and my mind was occupied with other things.  The exhibition had gone well enough; they always seem to, with positive reviews and all that.  But this trip was expensive and I needed to sell at least three pieces to break-even.  Just three, not much, but I feared the gallery wouldn’t be up to the task.  That’s the trouble with non-profit spaces, their bills are paid by grant-funding and they don’t have the motivation to sell like commercial galleries do.  Not that the commercial galleries are that much better, really. 

Just before I’d left for Oregon I updated my computer workstation.  It was a major hardware and software upgrade.  I’d skipped six Photoshop upgrades and going from version 6.0 to CS5 (version 12) was a leap.  I’d also skipped two PC operating system upgrades and the change from Windows 2000 to Windows 7 was another big change.  I’d timed all this to be done before I left town, so when I returned I could get to work, but thanks to an aggressively unprofessional Computer Geek, there were still many things undone when I left town.  He was supposed to have it finished before I got home.

So with a pain-in-the-ass computer upgrade on my mind and the expense of my Oregon exhibition weighing heavily, I tried to get in the mindset for some photography.  The previous day had gone well enough.  I’d been photographing in the Prairie Creek Redwoods near Klamath, California and despite a light rain, was getting some good photos.  Now I was driving the Avenue of the Giants, in Humbolt County, trying to avoid the tourons and getting more forest imagery in the alternating rain and sun.

Since it was mid-April the local campground wasn’t too crowded, in fact it was nearly empty.  I got a shock at the self-service pay-station when the sign read: Campsites $35.00 per night.  Damn Man, thirty five bucks to sleep on the ground!  The ranger at the Visitor’s Center verified I’d not seen a typo; campsites were in fact, thirty-five bucks a night.  He looked like he expected me to yell at him because of the high fees, but I didn’t, it wasn’t his fault, he’s just an employee.  I do understand how things work here in America, the rich folk get tax cuts and the budget deficits are made up by cutting teachers’ pay, cutting forest rangers’ pay, and charging campers thirty-five bucks a night to sleep on the ground.  I understand all of us really do need to pitch in and help the rich.  I dutifully placed a twenty, ten and five dollar bill in the little yellow envelope and claimed campsite number 52 (one of only three occupied that night).  I left ‘evidence of occupation’ at my campsite in the form of my camp-chair.  Then I headed up the road to buy a sandwich and a Coke for lunch.  The second half of the sandwich would be my dinner which I planned to ‘enjoy’ later that evening in my camp chair while I smoked my last cigar.  That was the plan.

I spent the afternoon photographing and got some good material.   The rains stopped and the sun came out and the light was beautiful.  By day’s end I had gigabytes of new photos, was tired and ready for that half-sandwich, a telephone call home and then a relaxing evening sitting and smoking my last cigar and, if there was some rum left in the flask, a cocktail at the campsite. 

Cruising into the campground something was amiss.  My chair was gone.  Yes, in a campground with only three campsites occupied, some bastard had stolen my chair.  Shit!  My $35.00 a night fee to sleep on the ground had just become $50.00 with the loss of my chair.  Dammit!  I could have gotten a hotel room (with a chair in it) for just a few bucks more.  Now, the loss of a cheap $15.00 camp-chair isn’t really a big deal, after all I figured someday I’d return to a campsite to find it missing.  But I’d also held the thought, way back in my mind, that perhaps my chair would never be stolen.  Ah, but my lack of faith in humanity was reconfirmed, some son-of-a-bitch had swiped my chair.  Give people a chance and they will let you down.

So after a pissed-off rant about my stolen chair, I called home and got more bad news; the Computer Geek had finally showed up, a week late for the second time, and ‘fixed’ nothing.  He offered no excuses or explanation for his tardiness, was unable to fix the things he promised and didn’t install the other equipment.  What I thought I’d have done two weeks before I left town was now delayed until two weeks after I get home.  Let down again!

So in the span of an afternoon I had no dry place to sit and my computer back home was still in ‘paperweight’ mode.  Fan-fuckin’-tastic!  So much for ‘peace of mind’ knowing I could get to work when I got home.

Carefully placing my ass on the damp picnic table seat I prepared to ‘enjoy’ my half sandwich, which, at this point was merely ‘fuel for the body’ and not really a meal at all.  After that a cocktail with the sorry remnants of the little bit of rum left in the flask and one last cigar.

What a shitty end to an otherwise good day.  The unwanted confirmation of humanity’s failings weighed on my mind; a stolen chair, a ‘new’ computer at home that doesn’t work; more in-my-face proof that if you trust in humanity, humanity will let you down.  Computer Geeks always overstate their abilities and don’t give a damn if you’ve got deadlines or not.  And if you give someone a chance to steal, they will.

I didn’t enjoy my last cigar while drinking a weak rum and Coke and sitting on a damp picnic bench.  I didn’t get the peace of mind I’d hoped for when I made that call home.  All is normal on Planet Earth. 

The majority of human beings are nothing but monkeys with iPods and nuclear bombs.  No wonder they don’t ‘get’ my imagery.  Realism is just too much for most folks, surrealism is way too much.

April 19, 2011
Who freakin’ cares?  Nobody reads this stuff until I put it in a book and charge for it.