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San Francisco Gay Pride Parade

July 19th, 2000

Our Discontent
We're going to have a flurry of people quit the company in the next couple of weeks and my feeling is that I'd like to hunker down and clean up my company web site and not think about these things, take the vacation I was talking about - go up to Oregon on the train and then drive up the coast to Canada with a tripod and a camera - and then see how things look when I get back. How's that for putting it off?

My state of mind seems unusual, at least to me. When I was younger I'd be jumpy about all this, people heading out into the wild blue yonder. I'd want to go along. When I was younger I had friends in the area and I could find other employment if things got out of hand. When I was younger, I bit my nails. None of these things apply anymore. I'm still the loner on the road. Typical photographer's psychology from what I hear, a loner cruising the streets looking for, what? Clever images of strangers? This is a life? Could be.

Everyone I've known has long since settled down and turned their face to family and children and career. Well, in a couple of cases, more than one family, sometimes with children, sometimes not, and many careers. That doesn't seem unusual. From everything I've ever read or heard that's what's supposed to happen, is it not? I think of the movie Woman of the Dunes, perhaps because the protagonist is an addle pate photographer who finds his inner soul while trapped at the bottom of a pit dug deep into a beach beside an ocean.

Sound strange? It isn't, really. Not strange at all. I understood that movie in my head, I thought I understood it in my heart, and maybe I did, but there was obviously no connection there to lead me into a pit of my own (with a crazy lady for company). This old stone is still rolling and he's not sure it's because he's smarter than most or tougher than most or unusually more stupid than most. Maybe, to be nice, we'll say all three. Let's not take a vote.

I had a friend a long time ago who came to San Francisco from London to stay with me during three San Francisco Gay Pride Parade consecutive summers in the mid 1970's. We were friends rather than lovers, both travellers looking for whatever it was we were then looking for, something more perhaps than what we'd seen of life so far, the long haired hippie scene seeming a good place to look for ideas. I remember that last spring she said she'd read and been moved by John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent and maybe I should read it too. Steinbeck was a favorite author, but I hadn't read Discontent since high school or maybe college, so I took it down and reread the story. A classic tale of one man drifting, taking his life finally into his own hands and wresting his rightful place in his world. There isn't enough space to go into it here, but that "wresting" was done at cost and that's much of what makes it a good book by a great author. I understood exactly what that book meant and that the coming summer would be our last together.

The London friend has long since made her peace and chosen her path. Wife, mother, career woman, who knows? Juggler, singer, spy. Seamstress for the band. She was ready then, reading Steinbeck, when I certainly wasn't, at least for the choice she had in mind. I knew lots of men and women like me in those years, those years we all experience checking our options as we are able to see them, a settled life with a family or, as with Steinbeck's character, a man with a family, who finally turns his back to a fumbling past and chooses the world in which he already lives, a world from which he's spent his life running. Steinbeck wrote it well. I don't think I could read it again, The Winter of Our Discontent.

The photographs were taken at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. The quote under The Sole Proprietor title is from The Blues Brothers.