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there is always something (why I shoot film)

There are maybe ten shots left on the roll. Outside the metro, a collection of pigeons sit on minuscule ledges above two old men. They talk as all old men do, with operatic waves of their hands, sour expressions, belly laughs, eventually scratching their chins as they stare off at nothing in particular. I am pretending to take pictures of something near them, then swing across when they are not looking to shoot a few frames. At one point I surrender to the afternoon and move on.

And now, the courtyard that leads to the film lab. A great old building rests here, a school of architecture where students mill around dressed in black sucking on cigarettes with giant portfolios tucked under their arms. A young man approaches me. I am ready to tell him I have no idea what he is saying, but he wants to know where the film lab is. I jut my chin, telling him the door is just beyond a few bushes. He nods his thanks.

There are screens set up in a jagged line, sheathed in filthy white plastic to …

the imaginary numbers



There was a farmer down the road when I was a boy. He was Polish and raised goats, milking cows. He made his own maple syrup like everyone else. Every day or two I would climb into the filthy white Ford pickup and sit next to my father. I would hold the milk pail, drumming against it as we drove. We would arrive, maybe Mr. Kluzak was playing with his goats, even trying to get them to butt heads with him for a laugh. We filled the milk pail and I held it hot between my knees on the way back home. Milk is warm I would tell myself - not cold like in the giant refrigerators in the supermarket in plastic gallon jugs. This curious little truth nagged at me. 

Years later, I am haunted by handfuls of these sticky truths. They repeat in my ears, a humming whisper, a stale reminder of what I already know, or that I should know better. My cheeks run red as I step outside of myself hoping E does not notice. She catches everything these days. Being the parent of a ten year old has thrown me for a loop. Too many ideas have been set in motion to be unsaid, too many habits gone wild. I had no toys with batteries when I was her age. We were too poor and it was not such a strange idea back then. 

Price Chopper was the supermarket we went to, paying mostly with food stamps. I would go to the metal bin of broken electronic toys with my brother, jabbing at them, making frantic attempts at some crude football game or with real luck an Atari left unattended. The salesman would eventually find us, leaning in and saying something like "I'll give it to you cut and dry, you either buy something or you walk away boys." He really spoke like that, like a substitute science teacher. 

I found a game, four white squares across and four down. It had a working battery but the plastic that showed the instructions and the numbers for each square had been ripped off. It had to have had a price of one or two dollars on it, not more. Somehow I got my mother to buy it for me. I spent days, methodically pressing buttons, flipping the little switches imagining what mode I was in, listening to the little electronic songs it burped out. Sooner than later, I surrendered. It was junk, useless, nothing I could bring to school and flash in front of anyone to make them jealous. 



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