The San Francisco waterfront was still gray from the early-morning summer fog. For the second time in two weeks I’d visited this very spot with my camera. The waterfront seemed different on this day. As I looked deep into the bay, the reflections danced with a darkness that I found compelling. Mostly amorphous, they changed as we came up adjacent to the San Francisco Bay Bridge. These long, linear reflections made me stop in my tracks. The bridge has become familiar after ten thousand visits to this waterfront, seaming nothing like it did the first time I laid eyes on it some thirty years ago. Back then the sight of the bridge made me gasp, now it brought a faint smile and a deep breath of gratitude.
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The well-worn path is like a college dorm room. Old wall posters become invisible after a couple of years, even the ugliest of them. So too do the homely sights along my daily walks. Telephone poles, street signs—even abandoned tires in the local flood canal—they all melt away with repeated sightings. Mostly this is a good thing. When I was in college, there were some truly butt-ugly posters around. Grateful Dead fans, you know what I mean. And along with that omnipresent Deadhead skull of my youth, my selective vision has made a few power transformers simply disappear from sight. The human mind is a wondrous thing.
The city, San Francisco or most any city, is full of small, fleeting treasures. Riches are everywhere—little vignettes of joy, intrigue, and ephemeral pleasure that compel me to click the shutter of my camera. Many are haphazard collections of life’s serendipity. Most affirm my belief that the cosmic powers that run this universe of ours have a very good sense of humor.
I love photography but walking around with a camera is hardly a comfortable thing. It's starting to cause a tingling feeling in my upper shoulder. The damned shoulder strap, made of some puny, little, sponge pad digs into the nook that forms the junction between neck and shoulder. I think its starting to create a permanent ridge.
"I wonder who he is," I said to myself as I walked along the flood canals. A worker with a bright-orange vest stood atop the large apparatus that keeps the bay out of our neighborhood. Brief encounters mystify me. So many people come and go throughout a brief life. We never get to know ourselves let alone the myriad passers-by that cross our path. "I wonder who he is," I said again. This time I reminded myself not to talk aloud in public, a bad habit that has gotten worse as of late.
I often find myself out on a limb—way off on a tangent. It's a borderline condition, not enough OCD for medication, but I do obsess a bit much on my art projects. Then—poof—they burn out like a pop of flash powder. So is it with my window-reflections series.
It's a brisk day in Northern California. I pull my coat collar tight up to my neck. This stops the downward draft that goes all the way to my waist. The overall visual effect makes me look like one of those little spies in Spy vs. Spy (Mad Magazine, circa 1968). On this day, I feel like the black spy waiting for the white spy's engagement. I prowl the sidewalks on the balls of my feet—the way cats do.
Outside looking in. Fourth Street is dead on the Monday of a three-day weekend. There is a sterile scent of nothingness in the air. I escaped from the studio to see the world and the world stayed home. I'm just slightly out-of-sync on the tail end of a twilight-zone holiday.
The camera makes me feel like a skulking voyeur. Pointing the damned thing at people makes them nervous. Therefore, I often walk around with my camera as if I were a cat tiptoeing on a sheet of aluminum foil. Cat owners who have actually seen their feline doing this will appreciate what I mean. More times than not, I want to be invisible.
Suburbia. It feels like a dream in which a towering mountain of wet wool buries my sorry soul deep within it. In that dream I poke my head out of the suffocating mass of animal fur. I am nearly decapitated by a black SUV as it rushes past me. Some crazed woman is taking her child to piano lessons...and she's running late. Welcome to my suburban postcard from hell.