Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Oct 25 2016

Still in Spain

Up at four in the god-damn morning today, so we could check out and haul our asses to the train station, where we stored some of our luggage in lockers utilizing a clever Jenga-inspired approach to stuffing things in other things. Ewan had to piss, but he decided for some reason not to wait until we were on the train, electing instead to run back to the hotel to do the deed. But eventually we all got on the train, and soon enough we were heading seemingly backwards down south, eating some of the delicious Guatemalan biscuits Carlos had brought.

It was pitch black outside, rain streaking the windows all the way down. The sky didn’t make itself noticeable until after 8 a.m., and of course it was pouring as we pulled into the station at Cordoba. We shouldered our way through the downpour to get on a bus that took us out to the Roman bridge, which we crossed to go see the cathedral. “No hats,” said the the guard as we entered.

“Ok, ” I said. “Can I have something to keep my head warm? Like a slightly stiff piece of cloth or something?” Apparently I couldn’t. But the cathedral was impressive, even more so when I got an audio guide to tell me about all of its history, being passed back and forth between Christianity and Islamic forces.

Afterward we had some “tortillas” at a place just outside the compound, though the chunks of potato were the farthest from the word “tortilla” I could think of. The pigeons liked it though.

After walking down some alleys, we chanced upon what appeared to be Roman ruins, which turned out to be home for many stray cats. Down at the riverbank, I noticed a bleating/clanging sound, and I noted to Chenbl and the others that there was a large herd of sheep charging across the opposite bank. It took a bit of convincing the others that this was actually happening, but eventually I got through, and we rushed over the bridge to observe the phenomenon.

The weather was nice and hot by the time we again crossed the Roman bridge. Tourists were everywhere. But we got on a bus back to the train station and another one to Granada. The ride was amazing, gorgeous, winding through ever more mountainous terrain with rolling fields of meticulously space olive trees and white-walled towns crowned with ancient castles and cathedrals as the sun cast longer shadows. Occasionally we would stop in a town to let someone off, the big bus maneuvering through tiny alleys with surprising alacrity. The sky was barely light by the time we pulled into the old grey bus station in Granada. A local bus ride later we were at our hotel, next to giant old city gate. It took a while, but we here now.

posted by Poagao at 5:53 am  
Oct 24 2016

In Spain

Heavy rain greeted us in the morning in Shanghai at the Hotel With the Mysteriously Uneven Floors. Breakfast was a meager lineup of food in metal canisters, eaten to the Australian twang of the tourists at the next table. They were complaining that they had no choice of hotel, but please, if anyone had a choice they wouldn’t choose that one. Command economy FTW.

The bus back to the airport was nicer than the one from the airport, but the scene that greeted us as we forged our way into customs was utter chaos. Immigration was insanely crowded, but the security line was a huge crowd of people stuck in what passed for a line, with Chinese people cutting in line left and right, occasionally being shouted at by the officers. Chenbl’s luggage fell over and scared a small Chinese girl, who immediately went into hysterics mode. The whole thing was the most impressive display of incompetence I’ve seen at an airport, and that, sir, is saying something.

Thankfully we’d arrived at the airport three hours ahead of schedule, so we were on time when we took the escalator downstairs from the semi-civilized airport lounges into the cattle pen that held everyone not deemed good enough to board their planes directly from the gates. A bus took us out to the tarmac and dumped us into inches of water in the pouring rain, leaving us to fend for ourselves on the way to the stairs, which weren’t even covered, though several other covered stairways stood by a little ways away, unused.

The plane was nicer at least. I watched a long series of movies as we flew over Russia’s flyover country (in this case all of it), trying to stay awake so I could defeat jetlag in Madrid. Towards the end of the flight I was nodding off, though.

Customs and immigration in Madrid were quick and easy. We met Carlos at the airport and got on the subway into town, against Carlos’ better judgement because the station near our hotel was closed. This turned out to be a bad idea, as it was raining hard in Madrid as well. The whole world, it seems lately, is undergoing a deluge of biblical proportions. Taipei, Shanghai, Madrid…it doesn’t matter where we go, it’s always soaking, sopping wet.

I wanted to go right to bed, but Chenbl had other ideas, so we all went out and walked around the neighborhood. I was dragging my feet, nodding stupidly at any inquiries made in my direction, and there was no way I could have written a journal entry, so I just passed out instead.

That was yesterday. Today we awoke early in the morning to….more heavy rain. We headed out anyway, having breakfast at a 24-hour joint across the street where they have nice donuts and ham sandwiches. Then we stopped into an old church, and then visited a large flea market where the stall owners were kept busy trying to keep the rain from collapsing their tents. A marathon was being run nearby, the police keeping things in order; one pedestrian tried to cross illegally, and was escorted by an officer right back to where he’d been.

Then we took a bus to Segovia. A nice bus, and after going through a tunnel and over some mountains, actual sun came out. We spent some time on logistical bs before making our way downtown to see the big aqueduct, and then climbing up to see the big cathedral and the castle. It was quite impressive. When the tour guide mentioned Queen Isabella giving Christopher Columbus a bunch of money for his trip, I added, “…so he could begin hundreds of years of exploitation, slavery and genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.”

“The bitch,” Carlos added helpfully. The birds there have calls that sound like laser guns. Having skipped lunch, we feasted on ham and cheese with a whole damn pig before rushing back to get the bus back to Madrid. We were stuck in traffic for two hours, but I spent it asleep.

There are many more details about the day that I’ve forgotten because we’ve been rushing around and I didn’t have the chance to write them down. Just FYI, it’s that kind of vacation, so don’t expect too much from this account.

posted by Poagao at 6:01 am  
Oct 22 2016

On the way to Spain

Our flight wasn’t supposed to leave until 3pm, but Chenbl had us meet up at the Airport Bus Station (aka the “Yes We Can’t Believe the Airport MRT Isn’t Ready Yet Either Station) at 10am. This, he believed, would let us take it nice and slow. He had no idea.

We got to the airport by 11am, meeting up with Ewan, Iris (one of my photography students) and Iris’s friend Ms. Shao. So there’s five of us on this trip. We had lunch at Mosburger (Ewan had Burger King), and made our way towards our gate in a leisurely fashion. I ran into Zhao Chuan, and we chatted a bit. The last time I saw him was after our last gig at Sappho, when we were both rather drunk. I honestly don’t know what is up with us constantly running into aging rock stars at airports. I suppose the odds are just better there.

We waited at our gate for the plane to Shanghai. And waited. And waited. A Chinese man who had an app on his phone said the plane hadn’t even left Shanghai yet for some reason. So we waited some more. The room filled with mainland Chinese tourists, and the volume level rose in purportion.

The man with the app left suddenly, just before the announcement was made that our gate was being changed. Apparently his app told him. Everyone rushed to the gate next door, and there we waited some more. Eventually the plane arrived, and we got on, only to wait some more. And hour went by, and I entertained myself by broadcasting live on Facebook from the plane.  Another hour went by.

We didn’t take off until after 7pm, and any chance of tooling around Shanghai that day was dashed. It was raining when we arrived in any case, and by the time we had made our way through customs and immigration (we took the Chinese line as it was much shorter than the foreigner line), found the hotel agent and the (mandated by law) decrepit van to take us to the hotel, it was near 11. Nothing was open, so we ordered some dumplings from an app on Iris’ phone.

posted by Poagao at 12:03 am  
Sep 26 2016

Afternoon at Losheng

I took my photography students to Xinzhuang yesterday, exiting the new-to-me Huilong MRT station and walking up to the Losheng leprosarium. I hadn’t been up there in a couple of years, and it seemed an interesting and suitable place to take a look at. The skies had been cloudy when I set out from Bitan, but the sun was shining as we crossed the footbridge over to the old complex.

Or at least what was left of it. Much as the disease chipped away at the bodies of its residents, various parties have chipped away at the community over the years, destroying invaluable old buildings to make way for an MRT facility. There were large-scale protests a dozen or so years ago, and most of the patients were transferred, some against their will, to a rather soulless new hospital building adjacent to the site.

I told the students a bit about the history and the importance of respecting the residents, and then went back across the bridge to use the bathroom. There I got a call from our class leader, who said that some authorities had shown up insisting that photography in the area was prohibited. I sent Chenbl over to deal with it, and when I finally got back to the community, everyone was walking around, taking photos as normal. “What happened?” I asked Chenbl, but he just shrugged and said whoever it was had gone away.

We walked up to visit some residents we knew from previous visits, old men who live in the old wooden buildings. The baby rabbits we’d seen on our last visit had all been raised and eaten, and we talked about how things had been there recently. Some other students went up to visit the old lady who has a particularly good relationship with the local cats.

As we were talking, mostly in Taiwanese mixed in with some Mandarin, a security guard came over and said we couldn’t photograph. “We’re just visiting friends,” Chenbl replied.

“Ok, but don’t take any photos,” the guard said.

“Why not?”

The guard had no answer. He glared and said, “I’ll tell our leader.” Chenbl shrugged.

“Tell your leader to look me up any time,” he said, showing him our college teacher IDs. The guard grimaced and stalked away.

As it turns out, we found after talking with the residents, that the area has recently become not only a big deal in Pokemon-catching circles, but some young men have apparently been telling their girlfriends that it’s “haunted” and showing them around at night, no doubt arm in arm, “protecting them” from the “ghosts”. I’ve seen the same phenomenon at Bitan, with these vaporous little gollums taking girls up the mountain to the “haunted amusement park” for the same purposes. As a result, the security people have gotten pretty tense about visitors. But it should have been plain to them that we were seeking neither ghosts nor Pokemon.

Our conversation turned to the history of the place. “If those students hadn’t told everyone what was going on,” one of the older men who had lived there for over half a century, said, “they would have torn this entire place down.” They talked about the old days there, including the local band. One of the men had played the trumpet.

“Me too! Do you still have it?” I asked. He said he had two, and went to fetch them. The valves of the first one were frozen from lack of oil, but the second one worked fine. Neither had any kind of branding of any kind. Were they hand-made? The man declined to play the horn himself, telling me to give it a go, so I took it and played “Wang Chun Feng” for them. They loved it, most of them singing along. I wondered how long it had been since they’d had any live music up there. I then played “Dance Age”, which they’d never heard, despite it being a similarly old tune. The horn was actually well-made, with a sweet tone.

We took group pictures and listened to another fellow who had constructed scale replicas of the complex’s buildings in wood. Chenbl is going to make prints, and we’ll take the photos back up there to give them. I was thinking we might even bring some instruments and play a little for them.

We’re looking down the maw of the third major typhoon this summer, which, unlike the previous two storms, is arriving mid-week instead of ruining yet another weekend. Every weekend is chock full these days, between Muddy Basin Rambler shows and photo class activities, without having typhoons throwing a monkey wrench into the works as well.

posted by Poagao at 11:37 am  
Aug 17 2016

The Ghost Money Index (GMI)

Upon crossing the bridge this afternoon and being confronted with a huge ghost-money fire in front of a spectacularly bad, yet inordinately expensive restaurant there, I realized that there is a massively useful metric for telling whether a given company’s products will suck or not. In retrospect it seems obvious; I’m surprised nobody has thought of it before. Simply put:

The amount of ghost money a company burns is inversely proportional to the quality of its products and services.

There are many reasons why burning ghost money is bad, bad for public health, bad for the environment, bad for safety reasons, etc. But just concentrating on the business aspect, we can see why this particular relationship cannot be denied:

  1. A business that burns a lot of ghost money is willing to spend money on something of no practical use. This speaks volumes about its budgetary priorities, especially failing businesses or small businesses that really can’t afford to literally burn money. What does it tell you that they would rather spend their limited budget on a mountain of ghost money rather than better equipment or training? Such a company is more likely to engage in slip-shod, half-assed, temporary stop-gap measures to cover up problems rather than making effective changes to resolve issues.
  2. The business doesn’t care about its employees or its patrons. The decision to force employees as well as customers to inhale the fumes from toxic fires casts serious doubt over any aspirations of the employers to take even the most basic care of their staff and environment. So why should they care about their products or post-sales service? If they’re willing to compromise their sanitary standards in this fashion, allowing ask and other dangerous chemicals in their environment, do you think they will care about other safety and health standards in their workplace?
  3. The business is not willing to make concrete efforts to improve its situation. If the company is utilizing this method to fix its problems, it’s obviously either not serious about improving or is so incompetent that its products are most likely to be full of problems they didn’t care about fixing or were simply unable to fix. You can tell the entire mindset of a Taiwanese business by how it conducts itself in this fashion.
  4. The business isn’t really thinking about what it’s doing or its future, merely going along with established norms without thinking about it. If those running the business were truly interested in innovation and breaking the mold, they would have realized that a scam burning ghost money is, and would be spending their precious time and efforts on improving their products and services. Otherwise, they obviously aren’t looking ahead, but are simply going along with current business trends and following others’ leads without taking the initiative. Do you want to invest in a company that is only capable of bowing to peer pressure and slavishly copying others?
  5. The business is not green, sustainable or in any way interested in protecting the environment. Being “green” and “sustainable” have become catchphrases in Taiwan lately, but you can tell which company is serious about these areas just by looking at the amount of ghost money they burn. Small industry has ruined much of Taiwan’s pristine environment over the course of many decades, and the only ones worth supporting are those that have made real commitment to sustainability and the environment.

Therefore, I propose the formulation of a Ghost Money Index (GMI), where not just the general public but interested investors, would-be customers, employees and patrons can access this information directly. Businesses and other groups would be required to disclose accurate information (which would be directly observable in any case), while investors could see immediately which companies are the most forward-looking, innovative, and thoughtful, while job-seekers could pick out those companies that have their best interests at heart. Environmental Protection Agency personnel would have an easy time telling through such algorithms which companies are inherently likely to commit large-scale acts of environmental damage. Smartphone apps could show travellers which restaurants have better food, which recreational facilities are safer, which parks are cleaner. Schools and universities could use the data to track business trends and improve the general economy. Even real estate forums could establish a database of homes located further away from high-GMI areas for those who value their health and comfort. Resale values of homes and other buildings could be more accurately estimated based on whether or not their surroundings are high-GMI or not. Hospitals in low-GMI areas could even tout the fact in their descriptions.

The best part of the GMI is that the data isn’t buried in confusing statistics and hard-to-understand graphs; though a scientific system of measurement allowing for the precise ratio still needs to be developed, the basic principle is right out there on the street for everyone to see.

Start using the GMI today!

posted by Poagao at 7:48 pm  
Jun 15 2016

SF Final

Technically I wasn’t leaving until 1:20 a.m. on the 14th, but I wanted to get to the airport early enough to snag a decent seat from Eva Air this time. Still, I had all day; I took my time packing my one suitcase and getting everything charged before Ken called me a Lyft over to Joe’s place. The Lyft driver was named Elizabeth, and she expressed not only great interest in street photography, but also great dismay that she had missed the festival. I told her some sites to visit and people to contact.

Joe and I walked around the neighborhood, stopping only for some mint iced coffee and to attempt to resurrect a small dead bird on the sidewalk with incessant flashing (It didn’t work). The light was excellent, and I don’t wonder why we see so many such shots in the HCSP queue. Joe had to go to a shoot in the afternoon, so I headed into a mall to look for some neat-o stuff to bring back to Taiwan. As I was walking into the basement level, I ran into Vineet, who was with his family. Our interaction was both brief and awkward. I emerged in back of the mall to find a Target where I could get some goodies, and I walked around both sides of Market while waiting for Joe to return; we met back up by the trolley cars at five, right near a Muslim man all in white was holding a sign reading “I come in peace.” A couple of white men had approached him at one point in a way that made me think there might be trouble, but either their intentions were honorable or the Muslim brother won them over.

Dinner was at a Vietnamese place, after which Joe. Just. Could. Not. Get. A. Ride. Drivers kept cancelling; one even claimed he’d already picked us up and dropped us off, without us ever even seeing the car. Eventually we got an Uber back to Joe’s place, where I picked up my stuff, and we headed out; Joe to the theater to see the latest X-men movie, and me to the Bart Station to catch a subway to the airport. In the station was a very good violin player, good enough to make me wonder if Joshua Bell was moonlighting again. But I couldn’t linger; I had to get out to SFO. I couldn’t help but feel, however, that I was just getting used to the place, not to mention the timezone, and now I had to leave.

The sun hadn’t set when I stepped off the subway at the international terminal, even though it was 8 p.m. Nobody was at the Eva counter, so I sat and charged stuff until a small crowd had gathered. When I got to the gate, I found that the only seat left was an exit-aisle window seat. That would do, though I’d prefer to have an actual window. Don and Gene were also at the airport at the time, but they were at one of the domestic terminals.

I again took my time, wandering over to the TSA line, dispassionately watching the somewhat desperate people in policesque uniforms trying to convince everyone that they had an important job to do, even though it was blatantly obvious that the whole thing was a big show. They even played a video for the people in line showing normal people going about their day and suddenly getting shot dead. The spot concerned human trafficking, but that was beside the point; they obviously want people to be as nervous and afraid as possible. Let people relax and think, and it won’t be long before they realize what a farce the whole thing is.

I opted out of the rapiscan machine, as usual. And, as usual, the short, squat woman in “uniform” called out, loudly and repeatedly, “MALE OPT OUT OVER HERE!” It took a while for someone to come, but I wasn’t in a hurry. I watched as some people were herded into the rapiscan machines, while others simply walked through the X-ray machine. “Can I do that?” I asked, pointing. “I was given a choice between a pat-down and the rapingscanning thingy, but it seems like lots of people are just going through the X-ray only.” Of course she ignored me; any answer would have implied some kind of safety concern was involved.

When the officer finally got around to groping, I almost thanked him for the massage. The moment did seem to call for a little levity, so when he told me to spread my arms, palms upward, I said in my best Jerry Seinfeld impression, “Ladies and gentlemen….I implore you!”

The officer was not amused. “Too old a reference?” I asked.

“That doesn’t happen,” he said. Ok.

I still had plenty of time before my flight, so I bought a sandwich and some yoghurt and sat at the gate listening to music. I hadn’t listened to music in a while, so it was even nice and more relaxing than usual.

Then boarding, squeezing into my seat, followed by 13 hours of watching animated movies, eating and sleeping. Too quickly, I am back in Taipei. I went straight to work, but I’ve been loopy all day. I just want to sleep, but I know that if I do, I’ll wake up at 2 a.m. and not get any more sleep. It’s weird to be back; it feels like the last week was all just a dream by now.




posted by Poagao at 6:52 pm  
Jun 14 2016


Yesterday was brilliant again. I was determined to join at least one photo walk this time, so after a nice breakfast at a nearby crepe place, I walked over to the golden gate park to meet up with the group at the Deyoung museum. After quickly browsing the tiny Davidson show there, we headed off through the park. The breeze coming in off the ocean was brisk, and for once I was glad that I’d brought my heavy police jacket. The drum circle was rather than usual, they said, but the hippies were there in force, as were the roller skating people. We ended up at the Haight street fair, where everyone pretty much disbanded, though we bumped into James and a few others on the way through. I don’t generally like event photography, but there was one guy there with two Olympuses (Olympi?) around his neck, so I figure it was covered.

After that, Ken drove us down to Joe’s work, where I chatted with him and others for a bit before taking a short tour around the area while the wonderful light lasted. The sound of a bottle breaking just behind me made me wonder once again about the general level of sanity in that neighborhood. Down at the town hall, the colors of the homeless people lying on the lawn matched the flags flying above.

After Joe had locked up, we caught a Lyft down to meet Ken at a sushi place, We Be Sushi, which was delicious and fresh. Our non-Japanese waitress was still learning the terms and pronunciation; it was cute. We talked until late and then headed home.

posted by Poagao at 3:16 am  
Jun 13 2016


Saturday, June 11th

It is so dry here! I prefer a bit of humidity, and this dryness has me drinking gallons of water all day.

I woke up before sunrise, for some reason, and watched from my window in Ken’s apartment as the city came to light. We’re on a light rail line, so every so often a streetcar will whoosh by. Ken says he’s used to it, but I’d quickly get tired of having to pause movies every time it happened.

Ken was going to Jack’s workshop, so I tagged along, and probably pissed off some people with my various interjections as Jack spoke calmly and deliberately about his subject. When the group left the classroom to go out shooting, I kept my distance, looking at where they went, what they shot, etc. It was interesting, and not unlike my experiences teaching in Taipei.

I’d wanted to join at least one of the StreetFoto photo walks, so I left the group at 11:30 and headed towards Chinatown. My stomach then took the opportunity to remind me that I had only eaten one slick of toast so far that day, so I had a bite before heading over to the meeting point. Unfortunately, I was late; the group had already left. So I wandered around the area on my own instead, eventually bumping into JC, a photographer who wanted my advice on his photography. We arranged to meet later near the Cuppola building, and I continued down towards the harbor, approaching it though the second floor of an empty mall. I could only imagine how bustling and alive the area had been in the past.

I caught a ride with JC, his wife and his daughter over to Joe Goode, which is fortunate as I wasn’t looking forward to that long walk just then. We got some food at a nearby market, which of course was far too much for one person to eat, and I looked through JC’s book and gave him my thoughts.

They were making a video about the event, and so I missed most of Vineet’s talk, unfortunately, but I was able to enjoy Ken Light’s stories about his career, as well as Richard’s talk about his background and his work. After they announced the winners of the contest, we wrapped it up and headed over to a nearby place for dinner and conversation. There was a snag when we found you had to show picture ID to get in, and my Taiwanese ID apparently wasn’t cutting it (It ain’t my fault the bouncer couldn’t read Chinese). I managed to get in with my passport, but some of the other attendees weren’t able to enter, which was unfortunate.

We ate and talked and enjoyed each other’s company well into the wee hours; it had the atmosphere of conclusion as people said good-bye and left through the chain-link gate, back out into streets.

I’m sitting at Ken’s table writing this; it’s the morning after, and he’s gone to help Jack with the second and final day of his workshop. Don and Gene have continued on their 40th anniversary tour of the area, though they might go back to the Rayko Center before they leave. There’s one more photo walk today, staring at the Deyoung Museum in the park, where they have a Bruce Davidson exhibit, apparently, so I will try and make that. I’m leaving tomorrow night…well, technically in the early hours of the 14th, but I have to be at the airport on Monday night.

It’s another beautiful day. God it’s dry though.

posted by Poagao at 1:33 am  
Jun 13 2016


Friday, June 10th
I woke early to a clear sky outside, the sun forcing its way into my room around 7 a.m. Still no wifi, and I was checking out that morning. Downstairs at the donut breakfast, the manager lamented that they were losing all kinds of reservations due to the lack of Internet. What a disaster.

I packed up my one piece of luggage and headed down Market towards the waterfront, checking for wifi along the way. There was one point in between two Starbucks I could manage a short Line conversation with Chenbl, which mostly consisted of “I can’t hear you” and “What?” But I couldn’t linger, as I was heading to Pier 24 again, this time with Don, Gene, Blake, Joe and others.

It’s a nice exhibition, but I was all about that Eggleston…just lovely. Afterwards some of us walked along the waterfront and back up Market; Joe knew of a good Vietnamese place; we were in the mood for pho. Don and Gene graciously stored my luggage in their rental car.

We met Tyler and Skyid on the way up Market; they were making their way down, but as the street was so fabulously lit, there were having trouble justifying their usual flash.

Everyone met up at Turtle Tower, a restaurant where they apparently cannot separate their cilantro from their green onions, resulting my raw beef pho being just meat and broth because I told them no cilantro. It was still good. The Thai-style tea caused a small sensation at our table.

After lunch, we caught a bus out to the inner Richmond to take a look at the Green Apple’s photobook offerings, which were very nice. I could have stayed longer, but Blake was itching to return to the streets, so Joe and I caught an uber to the place he’s staying, which is near the Joe Goode annex. I got the opportunity to meet Icarus, Joe’s famous cat, who was friendly and laid-back, as well as Matt Gomes, whom I’ve known for a while online but had never met in person. This trip is full of that kind of thing, and I love it. I wish I could do more of it.

We headed over to Joe Goode in the evening; they were having some trouble with video, so Don gave his talk on his background first, and then I gave my talk on my Sunflower experiences, and then we did the BME panel, unfortunately lacking Andy and Simon, who had thought they could come but couldn’t because of various extenuating circumstances. Still, I thought it went pretty well. A lot of people came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the presentation, which was extremely gratifying.

After another presentation on the drought in California by a very talented young photojournalist, we headed out to the Mexican place again. I had an enormous burrito. I’m not kidding, and neither were they; it was huge. You could knock a man unconscious with that thing. I really don’t know what the hell is up with American portions these days.

Ken Walton, the hard-working organizer of the event, was gracious enough to let me stay at his lovely place near Golden Gate park for the remainder of my stay here, so I left with him instead of going out with the others. It’s just as well; I was exhausted.

posted by Poagao at 1:04 am  
Jun 13 2016

SF 3

Thursday, June 9th
The maid hadn’t set foot in my room the day before, so I was working with previous-day towels and bedsheets, but I managed. I’d actually met the maid, who is from Guangdong, the day before, but apparently she only sweeps by once a day, and if you miss her, too bad.

Being without wifi, I was cut off from everyone’s plans. After my donut breakfast, I walked down to the nearest Starbucks, a small, gritty edition on Market, where I sat eating a salad and croissant while checking my messages. Next to me, a woman chatted on her phone about some meeting, and after she stopped, I heard her say, “I guess you must hate all the noise I’ve been making.”

I assumed she was still on the phone, and ignored her, but when I looked up, I saw she was looking at me. I started and stammered, “Uh…what? No! Why would I? This is a Starbucks!” I left the FFS unspoken. Was she coming on to me? Why else would she say something like that? This is a strange city, I concluded as I walked up to Union Square, where I’d lay out on the lawn in the sun a quarter century ago while visiting. They’ve redone it so that there’s no lawn to lay on; instead it’s now all concrete and awful street paintings. I then walked over to the Apple Store, which impressive; the Top Security People standing ominously by the door and the green-shirted Geniuses bustling around. Classes were being held on iTune on the second-floor mezzanine.
I walked up the street past more crazy homeless people to the restaurant were Joe works. On the way I spotted a large older fellow with an iPhone on a tripod, which he moved lazily around a street corner taking shots. He wasn’t looking at anyone. I approached him, questions on my mind, but he radiated fear. I retreated.

Up the street, I found Joe bustling around, chatting up customers and getting drinks, a little tattooed ball of energy with an on-point coif. I don’t know how he does it. I sat and chatted with Chris, a fellow from the UK who is a DJ and record collected, about the sad state of the music industry, and how iTunes sucks. Joe gave me a white-chocolate/caramel cookie that should be illegal to go with my ice coffee.

It was SFMOMA day in the StreetFoto schedule, so I bade Joe and Chris farewell and walked back through a new set of crazy homeless people back to Market and Third, and on to the museum. Inside I found Richard and Jared and some other folks I knew. They’d been there a while, so I took off on my own to see the photographs, some of which were worth looking at. An original Stephen Shore, recently printed, made me realize what he meant when he said the “vintage” feel people attach to him is really inappropriate, only a product of old prints aging naturally. The real scenes from the 70s look far more like what I remember being true in the day, though I was just a kid then. I also saw some Winogrand, and there was an Arbus show upstairs. I took a shot of a woman whose hair matched one of the paintings almost exactly. One of the museum guard told me in a confidential fashion that the “black hole” on the 5th floor would “blow my mind.” It didn’t. In fact, much of the exhibit seemed overly precious, and some of the descriptions had small errors such as misquotes of Henri Cartier-Bresson. But the architecture of the place was impressive, drawing me up staircase after tilted staircase. I wondered if they chose the guards based on their interesting appearance. They are part of the design, aren’t they? Either way, it works.

I got so caught up in the whole thing, standing on the upper balcony looking out of the city, which was magnificently lit by the afternoon sun, that I was late in setting out for the Joe Goode Annex, which was the site of the evening’s activities. I walked through a park and up Market back to my hotel, which was still without wifi, and then continued on. And on. And on, eventually arriving at the venue just as the photo talks were kicking off with a talk by the laconic Ben Molina. I loved it because Ben gave concise answers to many bullshit questions, and I knew exactly what he meant.

Most of the talks were interesting, particularly the one by Koci Hernandez about his photographic search for a man in a hat representing his absent father. Joe was particularly active in asking questions, but I wondered if perhaps they should have let the speaker decide the pace of the slides. I’m talking there on the 10th, along with Don, Joe and the rest of the BME people in attendance. I guess we’ll see.

After the show winded down, Blake Andrews and Tyler Simpson joined Joe and me and a few others to a nearby taqueria, which was delicious. Then we went to a bar where they played magnificent 70s music, and chatted while Joe printed out shots from his Instax. We caught an Uber with a driver named Lorenzo back to our neighborhood (Blake is staying at the Goode Hotel, just around the corner) around 2 a.m. I walked the rest of the way back to my still wifi-less hotel, took a shower and slept. Another good day.

posted by Poagao at 12:36 am  
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