How To Try
I shot the Solano Stroll for what is now my fourth or fifth time this morning. It was one of the first festivals I shot after buying a new 35mm camera after thirty years of photographic sloth. Other than managing to destroy a roll of film by opening one of the cameras before I'd rewound it and losing, no doubt, the greatest photographs ever taken by the hand of man.- I got kind of spaced out there in the thick of things - it went OK. Shooting it the way I shot it today (and over these last four years) may be enough, however. Walk up Solano, walk back, shoot everything that moves. Maybe next time I need to observe it from one of the restaurant patios overlooking the route, juggling it all between long lens and glass of wine.
The Solano Stroll is held on Solano avenue in Berkeley, an entire mile of street blocked off and lined on each side with food vendors, political movements, social clubs, community activists and martial arts schools. Plenty of barbecue, Thai on a stick, hot dogs (beef, turkey, vegetarian, rotarian, Rastafarian), ice cream, yogurt and sushi, not to mention political groups asking for your signature for some worthy cause - this is Berkeley, after all - senior, junior, library, secondary and tertiary, not to mention a parade that strikes me as being very much like any parade you might find in any small American town: fire engines, kids in marching bands, baton twirlers, kindergarten kids in impossibly cute costume. The usual groups of less than young ladies in flavors of latin, middle eastern belly dancer and Ninja dancing dagger dress. Home town Berkeley, in other words.
I had a realization, as I hunted photographs in this culturally complex, politically active Berkeley town, a realization I could have had in any neighborhood anywhere, liberal or conservative: that I've spent my life fleeing places exactly like this, filled to the brim with competent, successful, rational and well behaved parents and their children. Mommies pushing baby carriages, daddies with kids up on their shoulders dripping ice cream (Brill Cream, you scream, I scream) all wholesome bread and butter American stuff. The veritable American Dream itself on parade. I've never wondered why, particularly, this phobia of mine. At some point it became so obvious to me that I never really asked why. Why not? Is this not the place you grew up? Would life not have been easier, dum dum? Dumb, dumb? And of course the answer is, what else, no, it would not. Not, for whatever reason for moi. Don't see any way to turn that around after all these years, wouldn't even know how to try.