The first night we watched Bombay Beach, a 2011 documentary directed by Alma Ha’rel about poor people living on the Salton Sea, soundtrack Bob Dylan. The second night we watched Melancholia, Lars von Trier’s 2011 film about two sisters and a huge planet that smashes Earth. The third night we tried to watch the unwatchable 2011 sex comedy, Friends with Benefits.
We talk about everything and nothing, devoting 15 minutes to a debate about what to call the odd shade of blue that an old house of ours was painted, 20 minutes to a discussion of the perfect martini. We talk over cards and over carbs, as soon as we wake up and until the moment we doze off, with the TV on and with the stereo playing. Talking is our default setting, and talking is our cardio.
-Frank Bruni, Silent Night? Not With Us
So tired of fire, so tired of smoke. So tired of fearing, so tired of dark. Send me an angel, save me. I want to have a good day today.
-David Lynch, second song, Crazy Clown Time
On the way to work i thought about my 10-10-10 marathon cta card and how i’d had it for over a year. Weird things happened on the solstice.. I had switched my on call for a day off. It was a Thursday on call for a Tuesday off, a good deal. The guy who asked me was willing to take that risk because Thursday he could get off with his wife, who also works with us. She works in the morning. She had switched her Wednesday morning on call for a Thursday morning on call. The Wednesday person enjoyed a day off; they were not called in. My friend’s wife, however, was called in to work this morning. A pregnant coworker called in sick. When called in my friend’s wife was feeling angry about missing the full day off with her husband. Probably the same time, say, 6am, i dreamed that the very same coworker was a killer on a homicidal rampage.
Later I saw another coworker cut a handmade tape bandage off her wrist. She cut right through the tightly wrapped tape, chopping a friendship bracelet in half as well. She had forgotten that she was wearing it; it had been hiding beneath. The expression on her face as it happened was determination to not be upset. She felt bad about it, but would not let it show. On the way home I had to put more dollars on my el card. I fed a fumbly five into the machine and was returned a new blue card. I caught the train and bus without waiting.
When I was 17, I played Quake 2 for 30 hours a week. The game demonstrated mechanics in a three dimensional space that only existed online back then. However, I find myself returning to those variables when I conceptualize photography here and now. Humans like me have a field of view that is 180 degrees to the horizon. In Quake 2, however, the default FOV is 90 degrees. This means that the player, in first person, is viewing more of the floor. The arms and gun are visible. That variable could be changed. Part of the learning curve was adjusting to a higher FOV. The more elite the player, the higher the FOV they used. Higher FOV meant farther range shots and a more panoramic awareness of others.
In photography, objects outside the FOV when the picture is taken are not recorded in the photograph.
We know it has been around an absolute minimum of 85 years. It was already Dreamland in 1927. We know it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Morrison, the man who built it, died, and his granddaughters inherited it. They never kept it for a business; they sold it. Then it was Lessum and Ferngamble, then they sold it to Betty Brennen. Her daughter took it over 19 years later and then owned it for 24 years, and we bought it from her. We have had it for 11 years, so, we’re the fourth family owners.
Deep fried turkey is a very unique item. I don’t believe you can get that anywhere else. That is so good. We buy the white breast, and we bake it, and cut it, so it is all made fresh. We deep fry it, in a batter, and serve it deep fried. We serve it with drawn butter. It is like poor man’s lobster, only tastier. My great grandmother is the one that made the french fried turkey batter. She gave that to my grandmother, when my grandmother bought the place. That has been a big seller.
-from the 2011 documentary, Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience, directed by Ray Faiola
I was looking into the multiverse of faces on Etta’s computer, and saw a photo of myself in Wisconsin walking the lakeshore in shorts and backpack and realized I had gained about twenty pounds since the summer. My shirts and pants are tighter. I am fat. My coworkers who happen to be Mexican-American have been saying it for a while. One of the bussers at Frontera grins each time we pass and says, “You like the tortas!” The extra pounds may as well be part of the uniform, though, as many of my work friends carry them. My cat is also fat.
The irony is that a photo of me in Wisconsin made me realize how much I have changed. That I was at my thinnest in the Midwest; Wisconsin in particular. Last week, after much anticipation over the Nytimes story on supper clubs, Etta and I ate at our first Wisconsin supper club. We ate at Toby’s, in Madison. It was my most intense dining experience of 2011, very emotional. The premise is totally opposite much of contemporary dining. You have drinks at the bar until you are ready to order your food, which you do with the bartender. You are brought to your table, preset with your soup, salad, rolls, relish plate, and dessert (which I mistakenly ate first, of course.) The main course comes, and you eat that. When you ready to settle up, you head back to the cash register at the bar.
If the American Dream was once a family, a home, a car, the whole white picket fence, now, in the wake of all these changes, the new American Dream is just to be thin. The folks in Wisconsin haven’t got the memo. Etta and I were the youngest, thinnest diners in the supper club. It was mysterious, in a way that all restaurants were back when you were a kid. I felt like I was in a place with my mom, Aunt Judy and Aunt Mo, and my grandmother and grandfather. The supper club brought me back in time. Not to when I was young and thin, but to when I was little and fat.
I was in bed watching a science program late at night. Etta was laying next to me, asleep. She sold stuff, put stuff into storage and moved stuff into my place, where she plans on staying for the winter. On this particular night, I was high, and contemplative, and she was tired. The science man was talking about how the present is an illusion and how time itself is an illusion. How the universe is an illusion, and that we are not unique. Exact copies and slightly different copies and very different versions of ourselves and everyone else and exist all at once in an infinite expanding multiverse. I got so scared that I wouldn’t get up to go to the bathroom. And so I had bad dreams.
This explains everything but of course cannot be proved. A similar thing happened when I was up late in Minneapolis, watching cable TV. The channel for men was showing a thousand ways to die. One of them was called sudden unexplained death syndrome. This is when you die in your sleep from nightmares. Most sufferers report the presence of another person on their chest, suffocating them. Indigenous peoples’ theory is that it’s an evil spirit. In 2000, Michael Tan wrote, “Bangungot is intriguing because of the insights it gives us into how humans interpret our physical experiences. Nightmares are universal and because they are so terrifying, many cultures have associated these with malignant spirits and danger. At the turn of the 20th century, an American anthropologist wrote about the Bontoc’s belief in the li-mum, described as a spiritual form of the human body which causes ‘fiendish nightmares by sitting on the sleeping individual’s breast and stomach.’ Similarly, the English word nightmare originally referred to a ‘mare’, a female spirit that was believed to suffocate sleeping victims.”
I only get nightmares when I fail to urinate before sleep. And unlike questionable multiverses and suds, my penis proves it.
[Newscaster, 1970] It was more than five months ago that a determined band of American Indians seized Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, to hold their own demonstration for a better life. Today, they’re still there. [John Trudell, 1970] This is a country where all men are created equal. It’s the land of the free, and the home of truth and justice and liberty for all. We want to know why that doesn’t apply to us.
[John Trudell, 2008] The main accomplishment is that it rekindled the spirit of the people. The spirit that is the people, it was diminishing. Because Indians were ashamed, because just the hostility of the non-native communities around native communities. And in its own way the hostility of the media through film. Because there are subtle hostilities if they’re not blatant hostilities. So something was diminishing the spirit, and I think this activist period of time rekindled the spirit.
-from the 2009 documentary, Reel Injun, directed by Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, and Jeremiah Hayes