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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

wandering nameless streets (Tony Come Back August)


Every once in a while you have a big idea. I wanted to make a little book, something for people to to slide into a pocket and read on an airplane, a slim bit of life to savor. The idea was to call it a Duo, somewhere between a jazz duo and a rock and roll act. Two stories intertwined, banging against each other, the rough and raw against the sublime, the hard fought victory, the miniature triumph, the gut punch, the aftermath.

I decided to work with Tony, who had a brutal story to tell about fatherly love for an ex-girlfreind's son, an autistic boy growing into an autistic teenager a few states away. He had a whole book in the works, but I tend to more juiced up about excerpts, about parts standing for the whole so we took a few handfuls of the poems and I began sequencing them. The second story must be visual, this I knew. I casted about, began to summon the tedious courage it takes to ask people to use their work and Tony said "why don't we just use your pictures?" I am not one to nominate myself, it just isn't my way.

The pages began to work, but it took time. There were long breaks as life and work threw a shadow over our little book. There were delays and delays. I had decided that the images would only come from Tbilisi. There is something perfectly decrepit and beautiful and hopeful in this place. I ended up going there twice before the sequence of pages felt right. There were teenage boys in the street lighting cigarettes. An old woman with a black purse tucked behind her, swinging in her hands. A man with no shirt on, his giant shoulders glowing in a dark courtyard. A woman on her wedding day, her face twisted and sour.

Once I felt things worked, I sent it to Tony and he felt good about it too. It still took me months to get things printed right, to get the grey, sooty pictures to tell their story. The clean pages of text were no trouble, his naked desire, his heartbreak as clear as a big blue sky.

And then the ugly, humiliating work, the sending of carefully written letters and advance copies to reviewers and small bookstores, all taken care of by my new friend Alexandra, who put some good luck whammy on each and every envelope.

The book went on sale on friday.



I found myself staring at this foreign object, the cover a bit scratched from kicking around my desk, the pictures staring back at me, the pages thick and smooth. It is just like knowing I am going somewhere but it doesn't dawn on me until I reach the gate in the airport, that I am going on a trip. My hard-won pictures would now be on shelves in various rooms in the world. The trusty Leica, those rolls of film, they had added up to something. The wandering in nameless streets had been for good reason.





You can preview the first twenty pages of the book here (click on "look inside") and you can buy it here: http://www.bittersweeteditions.com/store/tony-come-back-august








Comments

liv said…
Ha! I was one click away from checking in to see if you were ok - when this post popped up... life.

As always, the work is stunning.
Any idea how long before the "expat" book of photos?

PS: I'm needing a hit of E...how is she doing? My little star xo

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