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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 …

postcards from San Bernadino


I forgot how cold it gets at night in the desert. My hands are in my pockets, elbows out to the traffic thrashing past me on some sidewalk underpass in San Bernadino. Maybe Fante was here one drunken night.

La Costa smells solid. Through the front window I see families clustered around tables, slapping shoulders, ordering another beer.

I go in and am greeted all smiles.
The waitress calls me amigo three times before I decide what to eat.

I order a giant bowl of molcajete. Crabs and cactus, shrimp and squid, black beans and a beer with lime wedged on the rim. I squeeze it between my dirty fingers and wonder what N would say, eyes rolling but she is sleeping now in that makeshift bed in her mother's kitchen. I want to call, to wake her up and tell her how sweet and briney the crabs are, how this black stone bowl is really for two and they are actually out of cactus.


There are two shots left on the roll and they go quickly after I see some men working on a roof. Squatting on the curb with the sun behind me I reload the Leica.

The neighborhood is marked by dirt lawns and faded American flags that drift around in the early morning light. I see a man on crutches standing beside the Salvation Army. There are low buildings, just paint and cinder blocks. There are car dealerships with more flags, but no one looking. On one corner a man in a silver costume waves a sign around, promising fast and easy loans. He dances, feet planted on the sidewalk, hips swiveling, arms poking out.

I wander into a 99 cent store, searching the shelves for souvenirs. I buy E some purple hair clips, a wild cherry air freshener for N's car, and a red baseball cap that reads California Republic above an embroidered brown bear.

There is a white house with a wheelchair and at least six cats on the front porch. They stare at me, walking around each other, moving in strange patterns. A man leans deep into a car, vacuuming the back seats. Someone sleeps on the green meridian strip of grass as traffic sputters past them.

A kid wheels around the street on a bike, swooping past me in giant curves his hands limp at the handlebars. I think of E's pink bike on our balcony, stiff and unused, with the training wheels still on it. I think it will be four years old soon. I remember buying it for her birthday and how she made me take her out in the snow and ice to wheel around the courtyard until she got cold.



Comments

liv said…
What a good little snip of America that was. At least the food sounded good, but then, it was Mexican so it would be.

Hope E liked her gifts. That's such a standard of a trip away isn't it? The little treats brought back to confirm things. But the cherry air freshener...I don't know about that one!
Anonymous said…
I have a new way to approach your posts.. sometimes I miss them, so then I read all new ones one after another.

And I noticed one thing... The way you write is kind of ... like music to me. Your style have a specific rythm, and it is always the same. It cannot be mistaken with any other text. Only yours have that rythm.

Sasha (trying out my new blog openID)

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