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I believe in artichokes

Italy did ruin me. After that first trip I came back disgusted by bodega coffee, which now smelled of old socks. Before, it was just fine. I rolled my eyes at red sauce joints, detouring old standbys like a stranger. If eating can be seen as a religious or spiritual experience I had been to the mountain. In time I would return on pilgrimages, always holding the simple pleasures in my thoughts.  An artichoke, methodically fried in good olive oil, with some salt. Black truffles, good butter and fresh pasta twisting around the back of a fork. A very cold and tiny glass of porto bianco sipped in a Genoa bar, with my friend Federico. A man cleaning sardines on a block of wood in the street. A woman selling green figs that she wraps into a newspaper cone. I have thousands of these memories, these artifacts. But I live in Moscow, where there has been an embargo for years now, and there is no population that expects perfect mounds of fresh cheese. They ship powdered palm oil here, that gets …

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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