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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 …

this must go


Every week, the city transforms. An old bus stop with thick cracked glass and a tiny metal garbage can that was always on fire is suddenly gone. A gleaming, modern structure is there now. A route map, laser cut brushed steel, a bench that is not lopsided. The old supermarkets are torn down, and shiny new ones replace them in less than a month. In the metro there are new cars that do not rattle, no torn vinyl seats giving up their ancient stuffing.

It is all sheen. A facade.

The chicken sold on styrofoam trays is still old, past its sell-date, sitting in those cases. The same milk, made from powder that claims it is fresh. The parmesan (spelled carefully that way) is palm oil and wood pulp. The bus stop is new, but the trolley bus is ancient  - two great limbs connecting it to the wires that run above everything here. The driver has to get out and reconnect them when they jump away, in the snow, in the rain, in the dark while everyone waits inside.

Shacks and one-car garages that slumped against walls and trees somehow standing for decades are disappearing. Every week, a bare spot of dirt where one stood. They were no danger, and no one complained about them. They were just old. But the city is in the middle of a campaign of bulldozers and papers that say "this must go".


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