Black & White Street Photography

Flaneur vs. Street View: Virtual Reality Can Never Replace the Real Thing.

Seattle

A friend of mine once expressed to me his admiration of Google’s Street View feature and how amazing it was to be able to explore any city at the touch of a button. He’s right, that is amazing, but nothing beats walking the beat yourself. Smelling the baconey-smelling breeze as you walk on Alki beach on a Monday morning. Or that disgusting but familiar scent of urine in the alleyway as you hunt for new street art. If you’re doing it virtually, you miss out on those things.
Virtual reality can never replicate the five senses. You can’t touch anything. You can’t smell anything. You can’t feel anything. The burning in your legs as you climb a steep incline, the feeling of someone bumping into you on a bustling street. The man behind the computer screen, his legs don’t feel anything. They may even be asleep from lack of blood flow.
You miss the sounds of the street, happening in real time, not in pre-recorded Dolby surround sound, we’re talking the real deal here. The whining engine of the garbage truck, the screeching sound of brakes, the bongos off in the distance, the chatter of people talking, birds singing, waves crashing, planes flying overhead, people singing to themselves, sidewalk preachers shouting about eternal damnation, you miss it all.
The man in the bandanna with no shirt and cut off jean shorts that conjure up memories of Daisy Duke if she were a homeless Native American guy selling newspapers on the corner. He has a football in his hand. He’s trying to coax the businessmen and women into playing a game of catch with him, he makes a throwing gesture with his eyebrows raised in an inquisitive fashion to one of the suits, who instantly breaks into a passing pattern and catches a perfectly thrown pass over the shoulder. The suit throws it back, and another suit joins in the fun and wraps our homeless QB in Daisy Duke’s up for a tackle, it surprises him. All three of them are smiling and laughing. You don’t get that in virtual reality, no matter how hard you try.
Another suit walks up to him and says something I can’t make out. The QB shouts at the smiling man as he walks away, “YEAH, YOU JUST LIKE TO HEAR YOURSELF TALK, THAT’S WHAT YOUR PROBLEM IS!” and he starts his routine again, trying to get the movers and the shakers to take a break from the day to day routine and engage with him in a game of toss.
He’s a homeless guy, conducting a sociological experiment. I guess in a way, all homeless have the potential to conduct sociological research on the human condition. They have a worms-eye view of the human race living life, its beauty, its flaws, its serendipitous twists and turns. Google Street View doesn’t make you feel anything close to this. It’s a tool and nothing more. It isn’t a replacement for the real thing, the experience. It’s just pixels.

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Black & White Street Photography

Minneapolis

a real head scratcher

watching voyeuristically

Minneapolis

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Uncategorized

No Apologies

Denver

We are not rebelling against society, in fact it is exactly the opposite, we are trying to embrace it. I can tell you that I chased my daughter around every day of her life, carefully nudging her away from danger at every turn. I spent her entire infancy holding her hand on staircases, shooing her away from electrical outlets and discouraging her from climbing up tall bookcases or touching hot stoves. Ask anyone who actually knows me, and they would tell you that I am overly cautious with my daughter to a fault.

I have three kids. Penny is the first to have her pinky toe amputated, but not the first to suffer a painful accident. Accidents happen, that’s just life. It won’t discourage us from embarking on this road trip. The accident that occurred will only serve to make me more vigilant than I was before. I won’t shelter her to the point that she never gets to have any fun or take any calculated risks, we’ll just have a safety brief before we do things like this again.

Things like rollercoasters, skateboards, bumper cars, bicycles, petting dogs, catching spiders, climbing trees, climbing hills, crossing the street and all other inherently dangerous activities of which there are too many to list here. When this incident occurred, I was mortified. I was worried and scared for my daughter. All of the adults that were present and supervising her that day were. We all stayed cool under pressure, acted fast, removed her from any further danger and had emergency services there within minutes of it happening.

All of us shed tears, and spent the entire week trying to figure out how to deal with the aftermath. None of us enjoyed it. We just picked each other up and gave each other support and love. We grew closer as a family. This accident has nothing to do with our decision to travel. Anyone that takes the time to get to know us would know that we love our daughter and have provided her with a wonderful life filled with people who love and care for her. Our decision to take her out on the road wasn’t made lightly, it was carefully planned down to the last detail. That’s Maizy’s doing, she is an analytical Virgo accountant. She has a three-ring binder bursting at the seams, filled with itineraries, budgets, curriculum plans and much more.

We’re not stupid, we know what we were getting into when we started this, and we spent years getting ready. We started our life together in an upscale loft right behind Coors Field in downtown Denver, moved to a hundred year old craftsman home in the Highlands neighborhood and eventually ended up in a custom-built home on top of a mountain in Evergreen. We decided that we wanted to try a simpler lifestyle when we realized just how much money we were spending to live that life. When the public service bill was pushing $400, we decided we could do better. We made a conscious decision to downsize, moved back to the city  in a small apartment just a couple of miles from her work, and started saving all that money we were spending. We sold our gas guzzling SUV and started the arduous task of downsizing. It took us two years to get rid of almost all of our trivial belongings.

As far as Penny’s education goes, it’s kindergarten. We can handle it. We may or may not home school her after the trip and she will have the final say. If she chooses to go to school we will enroll her in one. We aren’t planning on traveling forever, just as long as it takes us to get to every state. We want to make a truly educated decision on where we decide to set down roots. The assholes who pretend to know what we are doing don’t know that, because they never bothered to ask. Penny is one of the most social kids you will meet. She makes friends with everyone, and is constantly lamenting my shy demeanor. It makes her crazy when I tell her to give people their space. She gets upset and frustrated with me. Rolling her eyes and sighing heavily she says “Dad, it’s okay to talk to new people.”

While this accident was heartbreaking and hard to deal with, there is also a silver lining. She made friends with kids who are literally dying. A young girl with a lung disease just fell in love with her. That girl has been admitted to the hospital 47 times in her life, she is maybe twelve years old at the most, but she has one of the most genuine smiles you will ever see and it makes me feel guilty for ever thinking that my life sucks. Penny is already better off just for having known her. That is just one example. My daughter is going to learn more than she ever would spending a year commuting back and forth to a half a day of kindergarten five days a week. And I’m not knocking kindergarten or traditional schooling or people who live your basic normal everyday life.

Our family just understands how precious and fleeting life can be, and we want to enjoy it to the fullest, and show our daughter the possibilities. It isn’t for the rest of her life, and while it might not be for everybody, we are giving it a try. Anybody who doesn’t like that can just fuck off as far as I’m concerned. I’m tired of explaining my decision and trying to justify it. I’m tired of feeling bad for being different. From this point on, we don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about us. We are living life with no apologies from now on.

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Black & White Street Photography, USA

Sitting on a Bench

Sitting on the bench in Walmart. Listening to people talking, coughing, shuffling by. Michael Jackson is belting out “Oh baby give me one more chance,” and I’m posted up on the end of lane 13. People in colorful outfits, pink and yellow shorts with matching socks and hat, a white jogging suit. Clusters of humans pushing carts. Basking in the glow of a thousand fluorescent lights, and getting the feeling Walmart is reading this over my shoulder as I type. There are an overwhelming amount of cameras. I just realized that you never see the smiley face anymore, it’s like a Walmart sun logo or something, a circular pattern; six yellow lines arranged like the sun. Keys jingle from someone’s belt hook as they pass, managers letting cashiers off their shift. The guy that just walked by said he lost a friend because he refuses to play Black Ops 3. The main cashier rings up bananas in the robot line.

The beeping sound of profit, each beep seems to have a slightly different tone, a concert of dollars, a symphony of profit. The rolling wheels in carts, squeaking by in their own rhythm, the rustling of plastic bags being filled with goods. It feels like I’ve been sitting here forever. I’m sure the girls will come out of the bathroom soon. How long have I been here anyway? Ominous sounding wheels approach, getting louder and louder, and then they were gone, and I’m still not sure what it was. Defective cart maybe. I try to close my ears to the onslaught, but it’s hard to tune out. Phones ringing, conversations going on, the salon just closed, and some perfume just invaded my nostrils as a heavily scented woman walked by, it wasn’t horrible, but it did take me aback for a moment. “Always something there to remind me” floats down from the ceiling and the doors whoosh open as I run to catch up with the girls.

The night is odd. It’s beautiful, a crescent moon hangs above us in a dark purple sky, the fringe of light on the horizon is orange with shades of pink. Low flying helicopters are circling directly overhead. It feels like I’m that guy in Good Fellas suddenly noticing the helicopter following him everywhere. They shake the ground as they fly by, exhibiting strength. They’ve flown over at least five times in the past five minutes.

My water boils, tea waits. I need to relax. My daughter is fighting sleep even though she’s exhausted which is exhausting in and of itself.

We lay down to sleep. The helicopters continue their relentless circle, directly above our heads. I can see them through the back window as I lay here. Blinking lights, a dark shadowy helicopter shape. No where to hide.

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America, Life, Photography

Remembering East Colfax

I met a girl who lived in the Blue Spruce Hotel when I was still in elementary school. She was Asian and I had a crush on her. I grew up in Aurora and I lived two blocks from East Colfax. I didn’t find out that the Mon Chalet was a nude orgy hotel until I met the girl I was dating in the early 2000’s. I used to walk these streets as a young boy, oblivious to the seediness that was going on around me. I walked to the Gas-Rite with my sisters, and we bought candy cigarettes and slushies and just hung out doing nothing but eating candy and goofing off.

I used to walk this street in my teens in the wee hours of the morning after I finished my closing shift at Taco Bell. It’s a miracle I never got jumped, with my Sony Walkman with the digital readout, playing Digital Underground or the Beastie Boys or Iron Maiden, I never would have seen them coming. Maybe that’s why they didn’t bother. I just blended in I guess. I would walk that mile or so to my house at like 2:30 in the morning, let myself in the house, still smelling like I took a bath in tacos and burritos and I would fall asleep to nightmares of that night’s shift. My mom would tell me that I was talking Taco Bell lingo in my sleep. I made $2.85 an hour.

I worked at a car dealership as a customer relations guy for a few years, back when I wasn’t completely socially inept. Something happened between the late 90’s and now that soured me on social interaction and I’m still recovering. Being on the road is going to change that. I’ve already been befriended by a woman named Han. She made my daughter sandwiches and seems to enjoy having conversations with me. So we’re making strides. Little by little. So it’s the late 90’s and East Colfax is the place I go every day for work. I learned that “coolo” means asshole in Spanish here, I learned how a prostitute and a John make a transaction here. I learned that car dealerships are a sleazy place to work.

East Colfax is home to me. My Grandmother, Joan, died on this street, on a hospital floor, at Fitzsimmons Hospital, from a stroke. They didn’t even give her a room to die in peace. She had a curtain for privacy in a row of three or four beds. I held my grandmother’s hand on her deathbed, listening to strangers conversations on either side of us. I visited her every night until she passed, and lamented her lack of privacy. It really bothered me. The family has never been the same since she left.

I watched Unwritten Law play the Bluebird, and walked up and down these streets time and again, something about this street just pulls me in. So much of my life has been spent exploring its alleys and bars and hotels and places of employment. Many people would tell you to avoid these streets, and probably with good reason, but Colfax is a part of me and if I died there it would be appropriate. To my mind, Colfax is Denver. And even though I’m leaving, this city will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart, and if you asked me where I’m from I’ll always say Denver, and I’ll say it with pride. There is no other place like it.

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