Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday Redux

A year ago yesterday, I began my "career" as a "photographer". I didn't have a real camera, just a joke camera from the pawn shop, but I hauled myself out of bed on Black Friday 2009 for a self-imposed assignment--I wanted to contribute some pictures to a photo contest called Picture Black Friday, documenting capitalism gone wild. Since I didn't have any spending money myself, it was really the only way I could participate in the consumerist orgy. I went to Macy's (formerly Marshall Field's) on State Street, a place that I feel to be the belly of the beast here in Chicago. There are other, more frantic shopping emporiums, but Macy's remains the most opulent and the most slavishly traditional.

I forgot to submit the photographs I took, but the experience ignited a small passion for photography. My dad was (is) an amateur photographer who subjected my siblings and I to highly irritating posed photography when I was a kid, and I've always felt a bit ambivalent about picture-taking, though I knew I'd probably be good at it if I ever gave it any sincere effort. Over the last year, I did manage to land one paying job, shooting papparazzi-style pictures at a teenage indie-rock club in Berlin for 40 euros. And I've gotten some satisfaction documenting things that I feel should be properly documented, like the beet harvest in North Dakota or the queer festival in Copenhagen. I've enjoyed taking pictures, though I still have a certain ambivalence toward photography in general.

I decided to go back out to Macy's this year to revisit the Black Friday thing and see whether I've made any progress as a photographer. Actually, I don't think I have! I think my eye was fresher and more excitable last year, before I thought about what I was doing. Now I've started thinking about composition and all that nonsense. But I'll post a few anyway. If you're interested or bored enough to compare, last year's pictures are posted in my Flickr account, linked near the top of this page.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dutifully checking in

My apologies for the lack of blogging. Bloggers do occasionally have other business to attend to, and I have been busy moving into and fixing up my new home in Pilsen. I'd say it's the first time I've ever lived alone, except that my cat Booger is here keeping me steadfast company. I got the place for an obscenely low price, contingent on my fixing it up and making it decently habitable--it was a bit of a wreck when I first arrived, and I've been patiently patching, painting, tiling and weatherproofing. The first few days were pretty primitive, sleeping on the floor. When I was younger, and the world was more generous, I had little trouble furnishing an apartment--all the necessary accoutrements seemed to appear in alleyways as soon as I needed them. Now that I'm 30, I resigned myself to obtaining furniture in a nominally more adult fashion, i.e. searching the free board on craigslist. I've been barely even glancing down alleyways as I walked home. But everything I've needed has stubbornly fallen into my lap, as if to remind me of the world's persistent bounty. I can't even take out my garbage without coming across a nice, hardwood kitchen-table or a modernist cabinet sitting in the alleyway.

So my house is rapidly becoming a home. I've accumulated so little in my itinerant life, just a few boxes of books, that putting together a house has been very much a from-scratch endeavor. So many little things that a house requires--forks, spoons, extension cords, shower-heads! But I'm very much looking forward to this stage of my life, a cozy and introspective winter. Besides low-level homemaking, I've been engaged in that other great marker of adulthood, book-writing. I'd always told myself that I'd hold off on the book-writing until I'd gathered enough wisdom and experience to justify it--maybe when I'm 30, I'd laugh, 30 seeming as distant as another galaxy. But life has a ruthless way of collecting on promises, and so here I am at the age of 30, working on a book. I won't say anything about it except that it is springing directly from my debauched imagination, and will definitely not be a contender for great American novel.

I don't want to jinx it by naming it, but I've a subtle feeling that tectonic plates are slowly shifting in my favor. I should read the horoscopes--a startling number of fortunate coincidences and alignments have come my way these last few weeks, and I want to be as receptive to this trend as possible. I was even convinced, for a few days, that I had opened some sort of magic bank account; no matter how many withdrawals I made, my balance didn't seem to change. Sadly, this did not turn out to be true, but I like the spirit of the thing--I think of Malvina Reynold's Magic Penny, a sing-songy meditation on love that I was taught at Communist summer camp as a child.

I'll end this admittedly self-indulgent little post by noting that I'm featured on the WBEZ blog (as an editor's pick!) as a subject of Anne Elizabeth Moore's Revision Street, a modern version of Studs Terkel's classic Division Street that will (presumably) see eventual book form. What an honor! Reading myself talk about my life and past is incredibly boring to me, but you might be interested: the interview is here. I find it especially ironic being featured on WBEZ--ever since I made that drunken pledge of $20 that I was never able to honor, I figured I was an enemy of public radio.

Thanks for sticking with me, blog-readers! We're already neck-deep in our second year, and still going steady, are we not?