Walking back from work today up the last part of the hill, I wondered how the male line of my family survived in Iceland. It brought back memories of running the three miles or so around Green Lake every night in Seattle, sweats and combat boots, the year before I entered the army, one foot after another, thinking what in the hell am I doing here getting ready for something I would not have had the slightest interest in if it hadn't been for the draft and the fact I wanted to finish college.
My Icelandic ancestors were farmers, as near as we can tell, right back to the thirteenth century, and farming in the outbacks must have required men who could climb hills and run lakes in their sleep as they dreamed finer dreams of climbing volcanos and sailing the Atlantic in search of Ireland. Maybe they didn't live all that long, my male ancestors, just long enough to marry, pop their rocks and die from the exertion, leaving the kids to the little woman, who, I can tell you, was one tough piece of work. I mean tough. Sword and shield, lead the troops to battle tough. Liberated five hundreds years before the rest of the planet understood the concept. The women of the Sagas. Dear god.
"What really happened to daddy?" the kid would eventually ask. "They said at school he was a wuss! Was daddy a wuss?, the kid sullen now, the concept of "like father like son" having reared its problematic head.
"He had a cat named Wuss," she'd reply (I hope sharply), tossing another cod fish into the soup bubbling over the kitchen fire, brow furrowed, thinking, riding that delicate line between soup, fish and vexation. "Daddy," she said, "was not ready for the country." Not ready for the city either, I think, but then, what do I know, what could I come up with, other than this line from an old Neil Young song? Not ready. Or conscious. Of the world around him.
Saturday, early evening, back from the the Chinese New Year parade, the cameras
and the shooting jacket sitting beside the desk, Wuss discussing dinner, Spider Cat upstairs abandoned by his owner for ten days wondering where's the guy who's been bringing his dinner. Next year I'm going to have to rethink this parade, try another vantage point. I recognized the floats and marchers from last year and I shot a paltry three rolls of film. It struck me even more a Chamber of Commerce production, a couple of commercial floats (Southwest Airlines, a Nevada casino with the same two young models in Gay Nineties attire: hats, veils and parasols. I shot two or three not very good pictures of them last year and I didn't shoot any at all this evening.) I got more shots of youngsters in correspondingly cute costume. I shot pictures of high school kids in white sailor suits, the women in the silk sheath dresses you see in 40's noir flicks, two of them asking if I was shooting for a newspaper. No, but I'd send them prints if they gave me an address. Yes! Shoot, shoot, click click. I hope they turn out.
Anyway, a somewhat listless march through the paces. Good exercise, if nothing else, two hours packing a camera bag. I need to do something different with the film and the writing. Write something else, anything else. Spend sufficient time on a single piece. Maybe go over the first chapter of that book I wrote years back, just a quick rewrite of that first chapter, mind you, it wasn't all that long, although I spent some ungodly number of hours on it in the 70's. Be curious to see what I said and how it read. I destroyed the hard copy, but the first chapter is still sitting on a hard drive here somewhere. Do more prints, do more writing. ("More prints, more writing", one foot in front of the other, still running Green Lake, I see, thirty years later.) My BS for the weekend. Change. Progress. Here in Oakland.