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San Francisco Union Square

July 28th, 2001

Saturday morning, just after eight, in Portland. The train was late, arriving at the Oakland station Thursday evening at 11:00 instead of 9:00, but I walked the short distance to Jack London Square and sat out in front of the Last Chance Saloon beside the deserted yacht moorage, drinking a Guinness and shooting the odd photograph of the night and the light: The beer, the wait, the harbor, the one or two really dumb alcohol induced conversations going on behind me in the bar that made me think life is good, why worry?

The train up the coast was OK. I sat and watched the country roll by, thinking, if I were driving, I could pull over and shoot a picture of that funky weird assed building over there with the peeling paint or that funky weird assed building beside it (with the peeling paint) and then thought, well, I said I'd like to do that in April when I did, in fact, drive up the Oregon coast and I, in actual fact, spent my time making time driving and not really shooting at all. (There were other things going on. I'm not complaining.) And those funky old buildings facing the train were not facing the road. They've repainted the stuff on the road where the tourists can see them, put up 7 - 11 signs and rebuilt everything with prefab plastic and aluminum.

(Then the dream sequence comes and it's fifty years later, this guy who looks like me is travelling up through Oregon andLunch in Oakland wondering at the disappearing plastic and aluminum, so many fewer houses that look like prefab backyard storage sheds that you could buy back in my day out behind the big hardware stores, thinking "I should photograph all this before it disappears", before the true down home prefab - plastic - aluminum - America of my youth is lost forever...." and then I laugh and get on with it. Why in the fuck should I want to shoot pictures of old buildings, when there are people about? Wonderful prefab - plastic - aluminum people, the heart and soul of America, clogging the roads, filling the restaurants, standing at bus stops and stalking the streets of Oakland caging quarters? Photographs of prefab buildings? Train ride Satori: it comes with the ticket.)

I read about half of Kavalier and Clay on the train. So far, so good, I guess. I have no critical facilities anymore.Lunch in Oakland I think maybe I'll finish the book and consider my thoughts about it in another six months, give it time to find its own way into my personal book ledger. Meanwhile I've ordered three books (just now, from Amazon) by the Florida writer Carl Hiaasen, whom I heard, recently, in an interview on public radio, in which one of his characters, a steroid addict (A 'zoid' freak? A 'something or other freak? Whatever. It had a great sound to it.) moves around his office dragging an IV drip. I want to read how he handled that. I want to write it myself. They also mentioned a writer named Elmore Leonard (Makes me think of Elmore James, which is not altogether terrible.) for his great street dialog, so I ordered one of his books too. As I've said, I stopped seriously reading in the late seventies and I'm looking to find the spark again: Books, writing, music and photography, all at once or one after the other, they're out there somewhere and I want to play.

Life goes on, the trip goes well. There will be other stories before this is over.

The banner photograph was taken in San Francisco and the photographs of my fellow techie were taken (under protest) at a recent lunch in Oakland. The quote is from The Zen Koan, by Miura and Sasaki.