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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 …

continental rifts, graffiti and planes

There is absolutely nothing special about the continental rift between a father and a daughter when she becomes a teenager. One day she is your willing partner in crime, if it is a trip to the market or just lounging in a kitchen chair while you whip up some french toast. The next, her bedroom door is closed. She says "I'll stay home" when you go out. I talk to my friends about this, and they have all run into the same transformation. It is a story as old as the hills, but it is a bitter pill nonetheless. 

There are so many secrets now. Faceless, nameless friends she chats with, smirking to herself at some private joke. When you ask what is so funny she dismisses you. "You would not understand." She says. The guitar gathers dust in the corner of her room. The special pens and pencils are forgotten in the bottom of a drawer. The idea of singing together, a makeshift duet for Valentine's Day - it is unspeakable now. Sometimes I make a serious effort to bridge the gap, sometimes I just surrender to it. The process is completely exhausting. There are odd glimpses  - a book I gave her that she actually read, a dramatic tv show she finally watched. But the film camera I bought her a year ago sits on a desk, unused. When I ask her what she wants for her birthday next month, she says nothing. No party. No cake. Nothing.

I spy a scribble on the wall, waiting for the elevator to come. It says "Eva North is cool" in Russian. I wonder if she wrote it, or if some friend did. I want to say the handwriting is hers. What sparked this act? If she is so cool, doesn't everyone already know that? My head shakes, there is no way to avoid it. And then I see myself, the fuming father, the self-righteous judge and jury. Who cares if she wrote this or not, at least everything is spelled correctly.




Later, at home there is a news report. A plane leaving Moscow has crashed, killing all 71 people on board. The questions fly - was it terrorism? Was it some old plane that should never have been in the sky? The last time this happened here, it was Egyptian terrorists.

Snow is starting to fall again, a fresh light powder over the great grey drifts outside. I have a chicken roasting in the oven, and the house smells of spattering fat and lemon and salt. E is in her room, knee deep in mysterious conversations. I lean on the door, tapping lightly. She does not even notice me. I just look at her. I will tell her about the plane later. Right now, I just see her perched on the bed, her new backpack like a giant mouth opened next to her, a cold cup of forgotten tea, a pack of mint gum. Right now, I just see her.




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