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San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade.

February 23rd, 2003

Whiskey Drink
Morning, the shopping done. Laundry detergent. Paper towels. Toothpaste. The necessary stuff it takes to get up in the morning and go to bed at night. Such is life in Oakland.

Well, now, the Honda Element. It drives well. I understood the comment made by one of the reviewers that there was a fair, but bearable amount of road noise out on the highway, but it seemed OK doing sixty with the windows up and without the stereo playing. The seats were comfortable, none of the scrunched up leg and back position problems I experienced when I test drove the pre-Liberty model Jeep. It's an SUV, but a small SUV, capable to carrying four people in bucket seats with a couple of duffel bags stored in back, twenty miles per gallon in the city, twenty-eight on the highway. The seats indeed do fold up and down and around with little effort, you can open up more cargo space in a minute. Room for lights and cameras.

It does have a bare bones feel, though. I'm not sure the model I drove had the trim I was Honda Element. looking at on the web site, although it had the CD\radio with the seven speakers, an mpeg3 player plug-in, convenient holders for coffee cups, the stuff you expect. It's a bit inconvenient climbing into a back seat, but once you're inside the room is incredible. They're bucket seat duplicates of the seats in front with as much if not more leg room. The usual electric windows and mirrors, but you don't have that packed in a leather presentation box feel you get in a higher end vehicle where you're, well, packed in leather. In this sense it really is a utility vehicle, like the older Jeep. They had five of them on the lot in different colors. They're ungodly ugly to the point of beautiful, of course, the concept "ugly duckling" and "gooney bird" came to mind, as well as a brief recollection of a weird British van seen in a 1950's movie set in London.

Do I detect a backing off here, the scrape of dragging heels? Gooney birds? Bare bones, off road, packing the cameras in other than leather?

Who knows? I gave the young guy my name and work phone. He wrote his name on a dealer card and passed it over after fumbling around not finding a brochure. Probably not his first attempt at a sale, but maybe his second. As I was driving off, feeling dizzy, funky and disoriented, I thought this is probably not the time to buy a car, just focus on surviving the job and taking care of this dizziness shit. Yes, yes, they did the MRI and found nothing, but that's not a guarantee, there are no guarantees. Something is wrong and the symptoms have occasionally verged on the scary. I believe dizziness is red underlined in medical texts and doctors look down at their hands and clear their throats when you describe the symptoms.

But I will probably order the damned thing. I pulled into a convenience store lot next to a Chevy Tahoe on the way home. The young woman driving was wearing a black tank top outfit littered with labels broadcasting her status and her one step beyond the "swoosh" intellectual station in life. All the stuff I've been fleeing for reasons unoriginal, dysfunctional and mundane. The Chevy Tahoe had nice tight pumped up leather seats, though, and I'm sure they cuddle up all around when you get in.

There's room for cameras in a Chevy SUV, not reason to doubt it, you could probably load a couple of extra photographers, a small portrait studio and a gaffer or two in the cargo space, keeping the back seats free for models and makeup artists. This is not what I had in mind, but I'm dizzy, you understand, and I'm thinking "packed in leather" has a certain soothing quality. Is this the time to buy a car? No. But I will, just to get it off my back (and before my Toyota craps out).

After word: I seem to have gone round the bend on this car business. Same thing happened when I was looking at the Jeep. Think, think, carp, carp, angst, angst! I've owned my share of cars, from old beaters, and, I must admit, mostly old beaters to Jaguars. Go to the dealer, kick the tires, step up to the desk and write a check. I don't think this is a wrestling match over my image, worrying over some chicken shit statement I might be making by driving a SUX Seven or a BMY Ninety Five. I don't think. Be embarrassing it it was.

There's an "element" (yes: ha, ha) stuck in my head that buying a nice leather lined car like the lady's Tahoe (or the Land Rover I was thinking about), is somehow a step to the grave in some undefined immediate way: One car a giving up of ambition and packing yourself into in a leather lined, um, "box", while the other a testament to going forth. But where? To what? For all my flat statements of self awareness, I suspect I really know squat about what's going on (inside).

So, what's going on (inside)?

Don't know, but in the words of one reader: "Just get off your ass and buy it!" That's the right attitude. I don't like it, I buy another car, what's the fuss? You want to examine your navel, get a mirror. Get on with it, put what you have into the cameras, digital and film, pictures and stories, put the everything else into cars and computers. (Skip the computers.) You can't tell when the picture you're taking might be your last.

So I'll buy it. And maybe the lights. And maybe the lens I've been thinking about. And then I'll get laid off, which will give me more time for driving and shooting pictures and writing long screeds into the night.

You all right?

Why a journal? Why not another cat? Why not a book? Why not another glass of this here Wild Turkey whiskey drink...?

The photograph was taken at the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade.