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Off Highway 101 in Oregon

December 23rd, 2001

People and Confusion
A brief thought on all this prostate, kidney stone, leaky Wuss business. I'm not feeling down about any of it. The job seems secure for another three months, I'm in a good mood about what I'm doing, what I'm learning, where any of this might be going. I've been in worse situations with my employment. At least I'm doing something I like. Whether or not anyone will pay me enough to earn a living from it in another month is a problem I'll address when I get there. People have kidney stones. People have prostate cancer. Cats pee. There are worse things in the world and I'm not going to dwell on them (except where they make good journal drama, of course, one must keep one's priorities straight).

It is Christmas, traditionally a good time and a bad time. I would like to have made it up to Seattle for the family party, a Christmas "good time" tradition, but I do not seem to be falling into that other Christmas time tradition of down and out depression. The sun is coming in through the window next to my desk. The weather people are talking about sunshine through Wednesday. My cafe down the street will be serving breakfast tomorrow and Christmas Day. I have another entire weekend to putter around the house, play with cameras, read newspapers, listen to public radio, stare off into the distance, take walks, smile at passing ladies. This is good. There are so many fucking ways things could be worse, why not take sustenance in the fact they are better? (Sermon finished.)

Early in the afternoon. I drove down to a coffee shop not far from my office with a camera,Lake Merritt in Oakland. had a small cup and then walked down to Jack London Square. Normally, on any other weekend, Jack London Square would be filled with people at the farmer's market, a band playing in front of a large crowd on the central stage by the Barnes and Noble book store. Today it was fairly quiet, one lone guy wailing on an amplified sax, pretty good, but only one or two people standing and listening. I walked the full length of the line of stalls, the usual fruits and vegetables, the less usual bottled this and packaged that. The mayor of Oakland, former governor Jerry Brown, was standing near the entrance of the Waterfront Hotel, talking to what appeared to be a passer by, no retinue, no press, maybe a uniformed guy or two watching discreetly from a distance. He walked on down toward the main square and entered a bakery, sitting down by himself at a table near a window. For whatever reason I didn't shoot any pictures.

Perhaps mayors take their own introspective walks during the holidays. I'm not sure what he was looking for out there in the crowd, playing at being another face in a world where he hasn't been just another face since he was governor. People were cool, they knew who he was, some took their kids up to introduce them. He was a guy in slacks and a sweater, a little heavier than I remember, balding, with dark unkempt eyebrows over eyes that beamed intelligence and, perhaps, a touch of madness. A bird of prey indulging a harmless conceit, perhaps, wandering out amongst the pigeons.

I too took my walk today in what are normally crowded places, familiar landmarks emptied to some degree of people and confusion.

The banner photograph was taken off Highway 101 in Oregon. Be interesting to take this same photograph with a large format camera locked down tight on a tripod. Well, maybe in another life or another year. The scene along Lake Merritt was taken in the late afternoon.