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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 …

no disguise


It wasn't something I had planned on, it just began one Saturday afternoon. Maybe keeping a 100 year old guitar within reach is all it takes, and there is nothing so remarkable or surprising after that happens. There is a sound that comes from it, not just the jangle and the clang of wild strumming - but of lost history, of stories that smell like old books in an attic. There is ancient dust in the cracks of this guitar and I get lost in it. As if birds are flying into the windows, the songs splash out one at a time, each one sadder and lonelier and more full of regret than the next. They are confessions, apologies, conversations with lost souls. I cannot say I write them as much as witness them. 

                       Don't know if I'm good or bad, 
                     just what you tell me.
                     She had a gift for taking things away
                     so please tell me, some precious things.
                     Like when I was a boy, 
                     when I was the new kid.


I am calling this almost-album "a box of letters" right now, but I am sure there is a better name that will replace that. I have demos of nine songs, all recorded within minutes of writing them. I stop sometimes, editing the words, starting again. I put the songs in different sequences to listen to while riding the trolley bus in the afternoon to go to the big market where there is fish and secret imported cheese, wild honey and chopsticks. There is something so foreign about my voice in the headphones, and I barely recognize it. The guitar, that is another story. It can never disguise itself.

Some songs go, and new ones replace them. I toy with some spoken word sections, literally reading letters to old girlfriends written by imaginary men, but then I put those aside. They sound more like a radio play to me now, even with murky instruments bubbling behind them like brain soup. 

The last song in the lineup plays, and then there is silence. I stare at the old people on the bus, a woman with her head wrapped in a scarf stepping into the bright afternoon. It all feels so incredibly overwhelming, and I did not see that coming.

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