Monday, July 6, 2020

The People in Hollywod

I went to lunch with a friend in Hollywood. I finished my lunch and drove down to a busy part of Hollywood to do some street photography. I got there and was balless. With street photography you have to take pictures first and ask questions later....you just take peoples pictures without asking. It's a little weird at first. I was afraid people would get mad or say something. I missed a couple very VERY good shots because I was too afraid to just take the shot. You cannot hesitate at all or you lose the moment. It was very cool. Stuff happens all over the street. Every day stuff. Stuff that we all do. Most is mundane and some is not at all. If you look at people and what is going on as pictures...or potential pictures....you find some really neat moments. I just got my feet wet during those few hours and realized how much I liked doing that. It's very different from regular photography. More honest I think. I didn't have to approach people and pretend that I know them or something. That sounds bad but it's true. Usually when I want a picture...I want a picture..I'm in that head space...not the sociable I want to be friends space as much as the....you look interesting and I think you would make a beautiful picture head space. It's random people art. So I feel crappy many times asking people for a picture and talking with them...for really...just a picture. I know I will never see them again. But there are so many interesting looking people. With street photography you take the picture and they see you take the picture. If they want to say something they will. Otherwise....no harm no foul. And it really surprised me how few people said anything at all. Almost none. Even when they saw me take their picture. I loved it. I was walking around smiling like a little kid in a candy store. Because even barring the most everyday situations....you know...that with camera in hand you could get lucky and find a priceless moment like some of the great ones in museums. One in a millions for sure...but I love feeling like I could hit the photographers lottery at any moment. You don't know when a moment will cross your path and get captured by your camera. I talked to a man who looked a lot like Jesus and thought he was Jesus too. His beard and his hair...very much like JC. He says..."six billion people are watching you right now...I can't let you take my picture with everyone watching" As though I am now supposed to feel all weird that I am being watched. I said to him "Brother, nobody is watching us right now but God." And he said..."You sound sure of that." I said, "I am sure of that. You know and I know there is nobody watching us right now but God." And while I had already taken his picture while he was walking by...without asking...he would not let me take a portrait with permission. What a shame because it would have been a lovely picture. He was trying to tell me that if I believed him...about the people watching us that I could take his picture. I couldn't lie to him and say that I believed him because I didn't and he wouldn't explain any further how that was possible...all those people watching...so there was no picture to be had. He said if he let me take his picture lots of people would be mad...for whatever reason. Somehow my weight came up..I made a comment about losing weight and he says...don't lose weight..that's why we love you...you remind me of John Candy...don't lose the weight. I am always so tossed on the John Candy comparisons...he was big but he was a nice guy so I can never be to miffed at the reference. Jesus just kept eluding to the fact that I should believe what he said....even if he said black was white and white was black...just believe it. And I could not do that either. His hands were very dirty and when I went to shake them he said no....my hands are really dirty. I said that I didn't care and he actually embraced my hands with his and kissed them. It was a slightly strange thing to have happen on a street corner in Hollywood. His real name was Mike. And I walked by a homeless man and raised my camera to shoot....he raised his head a moment before the shutter clicked and stared into my lens. I wondered what he was thinking. He looked lost. And there were little dogs and big dogs and leashes with masters on them who sipped Starbucks and ate lunch on little patios overlooking the sidewalks of the famous. There were expensive cars parked in front of trendy cafes with washed up movies stars who ran from my camera...even though they were washed up and nobody cared at all about their cup of coffee with a friend. That really happened. It was a street full of people who sit and people watch everyone else while typing important things on their laptops while wondering if anyone important will walk by...all the while forgetting...or maybe they never got it to begin with...that nobody is really important. We are all important. So if we are all important then really we are all equal and that means that nobody is more special than anyone else...hence...nobody is important. I was leaving this street full of places to sit...and a little black doggy stared at me from a big black car while the master was inside drinking and talking and planning the next big thing with her protege and a laptop. I loved the little doggy and took her picture as she stared into my lens for a moment. She didn't bark at all from her Mercedes cage. And I didn't bark either. One little street in Hollywood full of people that wanted to see and be seen. Right next to my car was a Starbucks with tables outside. I had walked by it three times and on each walk by the same guy was sitting outside drinking coffee. He sat self importantly...if that's possible. Whether he was or was not famous...he sat as though he were. At one walk by I thought that maybe he was someone famous that I didn't recognize. Whatever the case, he oozed pretense and pose. I really wanted to get his picture but I felt a little intimidated walking up to his table and just doing it. And so I did. He sat in repose outside the Starbucks being and doing all that was wrong with being or doing anything in Hollywood. I walked right up and took his pictures and walked right away without saying a word. I think he liked having his pictures taken. Which almost made me want to erase it. I got in my van across the street to go to the place of ultimate disgust...the place where people value money and things over all else...Beverly Hills. Of course...with how I drive I had no idea where Beverly Hills was...but I found it somehow. Rodeo Drive. I wanted to throw up when I drove by looking for a parking spot. Especially with how the economy is right now. Here is a massive street full of shops that carry thousand dollar handbags and shoes that could feed a village. The kind of stores that only have a few dozen items in the whole showroom. There were more tourists there than shoppers. I parked and walked onto Rodeo drive feeling dirty for having done so. No drama. I know it's just a street. I know I love going to anyplace new to feel the vibe and observe and see what people are doing at that particular place. I know all these things. But I still felt slightly dirty being there in the heart of the monetary Mecca of the West. The place were the chique go to look more chique. The last street I had been on was full of rather ordinary people....ok we are all ordinary...but full of ordinary people trying to be extraordinary. The last street was full of people looking at other people...people writing books and trying to be more like someone else. On Rodeo drive there was a different vibe all together. Remove the tourists and the gawkers and there was a group of people that absolutely knew that they didn't want to be anyone else at all. These were the people that knew that people wanted to be like them. Rodeo drive had the people watchers and the laptop coffee drinkers...but Rodeo drive also had the people to be watched....the beautiful ones....the people worthy of emulations and adoration. I just had to swallow some vomit as I typed that. Rodeo Drive where life is juicy...whatever the hell that means. There was a homeless man sitting on a bench in front of a juicy store. He was reading a small book that turned out to be a dictionary. I took his picture from afar and one up close. It was the one that got away. I shot from the chest and it was not in focus...but I can still look at the picture and see his furrowed brow of concentration sitting on that bench among the elite of society. His name was Fred and he played the guitar and he thought it was getting too cold for his jacket. We talked about balance. We talked about the weather. And we talked about his jacket. The street was pristine and swept and the bench he sat on was solid faux marble. And he continued to read his dictionary as I walked away wondering about entertainers on stages and the fine balance to be had....according to Fred. There was a girl standing outside a fancy restaurant. How did I know it was fancy...she was wearing one of those long black table cloth aprons that says....our waiters are highly trained to kiss your ass....they will serve you and love you long time while you eat our overpriced food and drink our bottled water from imported glass bottles. I stopped as I was walking by and said..."Look at you in your fancy waiter outfit." I smiled when I said it to avoid being a smart ass....she took the smile for what it was...she says..."You're saying that because I have this long black apron on right?" She smiled too...thus avoiding any confusion as to who was being a smart ass. I laughed when she said it and she asked me if I wanted to come in and eat. I had to swallow a little more vomit before saying no thanks and heading on down Rodeo Drive. The end of the drive has a little faux Euro street with cobblestones and everything...it even has the faux EuroTrash....well they are not so faux....they were from Europe...visiting America...to see a fake version of where they live...a fake version that is WAY more expensive and believe it or not....WAY more pretentious than where they are from. The little cluster of Europeans walked around having fun and feeling at home in this distorted version of their homeland. At the end of the cobblestones was a small outdoor cafe where more people drank coffee and ate from little plates while watching tourists walk by...mingled with a few of those crusty mothers than knew they were being watched and emulated. Knew that their shoes were on next weeks issue of whatever fashion McCrap magazine was at the check stand. Knew that they were worthy of being the ones walking by....not the ones drinking the overpriced coffee. And knew that for all the Rodeo Drive adoration that accompanied their daily walk....that they were miserable inside and wanted to go home. I was glad to leave the cobblestone Europe and walk back down to Rodeo Drive. The meeter was ticking and my time was short to see if I could snap some pictures of real life happening. The longer I was on this street the less confidence I had in finding anything real. Even the tourists were posing. Asian men...Asian business men hate having their pictures taken. Why the hell would I know that? Vegas. Ten years of blackjack dealing. When the suit is on they are very private about their business. On a street corner stood a few Asian men and I did the unthinkable...I walked right up, raised my camera and took a shot. They were fast....as I focused and right before I actually hit the shutter button...they had time to see me and start to react. Those shots are good too. While they know you are shooting...it's a very instant first reaction with no thought...I have always liked those. You get a reaction that is very genuine and unplanned to the camera. Whatever the reaction is....its always good because it's genuine. I stopped, snapped the picture and walked on...leaving the business man to literally run sideways out of the camera range and talk loudly to his friends in Mandarin about my rudeness. How do know it's Mandarin? Vegas. Ten years of blackjack dealing. I had walked this street twice and both times seen this store called Juicy Couture. Oh how stores like this bother me. Oh how this type of spending and marketing gets my back up like no other. OK...first of all...what the hell is Couture. Do I know kind of? Yes. Am I going to go look it up....for sake of this writing....yes. OK, I looked it up. Haute Couture means high dress making. It carries with it certain standards which must be met to be called Haute Couture. Most of the really high end shops in Paris that have this label don't even sell the clothes...they just want the fancy label. It's custom dressmaking from custom fabrics and accessories.....essentially, really fancy pants clothes. And here we have an updated version for this generation...Juicy Couture. I walked by twice and was simply taken in by the advertising...."Is life really this juicy?" What on gods good green earth is juicy? Twice I walked by and twice I wondered if not only life was juicy but was my life juicy? How juicy was I? Was I dripping with juice or merely just an orange waiting to be squeezed. It was the only store that I walked into on all of Rodeo drive. All the rest of them just threw up high priced merchandise in the windows or had staff lingering at the door waiting to find a non tourist...or a really wealthy one....to jump on. And yet here was a shop that rose above the consumerism and the greed...here was a shop that asked important questions of me as I walked by...."Hey man, Is life really this juicy?" I wasn't really sure. I walked in through the high square archway made of faux Greek columns. Notice the appropriately judicious use of the word faux. Within a few seconds I had to...for the third time on that day...choke down some vomit. I don't think anyone noticed. I was discreet about it. My cheeks plumped up a little when it came up and I made a slightly sour face when I had to swallow it back down. The store was an explosion of color and splashy advertising on the walls. So when you walk into a store to find out just what juicy is, it really doesn't help that the following is on the walls...."It's not easy being this juicy." Oh really. Am I to get the vibe that being juicy is cool or sexy somehow. ...like it's not easy being Cheesy from Chester Cheetah? Or it's not easy being this good looking...from some lame ass bumper sticker? On the other other wall was painted...Juicy Couture...for girls who like stuff. I realize that everyone is different and some people buy this crap...but this was just shameless promotions of an ambiguous concept meant to glorify clothing for no other reason than it was juicy...whatever that meant. It was slightly maddening to me and yet the store was abuzz with skinny little girls shopping for skinny little outfits that would enhance their juiciness. I walked over to an employee and said..."I came in here because I wanted to know....Is life really this juicy?" He laughed a little and said yes it is. I laughed a little back and asked him what the hell juicy meant...as in...um hello indoctrinated store worker....what does it mean to say that my life is juicy?" He laughed again...a little....and sort of hemmed and hawed....well...it could mean lots of things....but he quickly backed off from his ambiguity and said...it means fun...life is fun...it's all about the fun. Well, I had to agree that fun was good...and that is what I did..."Well, fun is good." I knew what he meant as he looked at me for a moment longer before he walked off to have fun being juicy with a tiny 17 year old from Kansas. Was life really this much fun? It's not easy being this fun. I suppose he could get half credit for an answer that was at least the proper part of speech. And the people moved around quickly and tried on clothes and listened to music from girl band whose lead singers weren't old enough to drink yet. Fun couture...fun clothes...fun fashion...fun to spend money on overpriced shit. I was glad to leave such a fun place before my lunch decided to come up for a visit again. So I was driving home. I was leaving this place of Haute people watchers and famous couture. And there was a small park. There are several of them down near Rodeo drive. Each one has a sculpture in it or some art work. I saw these bright tulips....massive flowers ...three of them together in the park and I couldn't resist taking some shots of them as the sun went down. I had spent the day looking at people and things and possessions and now I had a quiet moment to myself to shoot some flowers. As I was walking towards the flowers there was a homeless woman sitting in the park and I asked if I could take her picture. She said no and I was OK with it ....I walked on. The sculptures were beautiful and brightly colored and the tulips stood tall with the sun behind them. I framed up the shots with the sun behind the huge sculpted flowers and spent about twenty minutes walking around the flowers thinking how lovely they looked and.....quite frankly....wishing I had a wide angle lens. I thought to myself that of all the shots I took today....these were my favorite....regardless of if they were very good ones....they were mine alone....no other person was in them...I didn't invade anyone's space....no wondering if they did or did not want their picture taken....no hoping for a good angle. Here, my camera was on a little tripod and I sat in the grass in no hurry at all. I sat in the grass and carefully framed each shot until it looked like I wanted...and I took the pictures of bright cement tulips growing in a park in Beverly Hills. It was still and solitary just like each tulip before me. I took a picture of the three tulips together from three different angles...each angle with the sun directly behind a different flower. Because each flower was alone and beautiful and deserved to have the sun shine down on it as it stood isolated among it's friends. I loved seeing the sun burst behind each flower. They looked heavenly like flowers do when they grow so tall and bright. Who knew that Beverly Hills could have a redeeming trait....artwork in the parks. Now these tulips in a quiet park...this tripod and me on the green grass....this park with kids and joggers and people sitting among the late afternoon sun beams falling onto them...the same sun bathing the fancy walkers on Rodeo drive....this was Juicy. And the tulips stood still for my camera. I walked away from the flowers and smiled and breathed and felt easy. I got what I came down here for...whatever that was...I got it. The homeless woman was still there and I stopped to talk to her about the pictures I had just taken. She talked to me for a while about some various places to go take pictures. She told me lots of things and while she was talking to me something interesting occurred. I looked at her and I loved her. I didn't just listen or stand there and look at her...I really loved her. I felt as though I was hugging her with my mind. I looked into her eyes and truly loved her. I didn't know her. I listened to her while all the while truly loving her...whoever she was/is. And she felt it. I knew it and she knew it. No doubt. I saw it when she felt it. And she knew that I loved her.

I didn't expect that at all.

                                                        
                                                               
His Thoughts


Master


Self Important



Jesus & Pal

Rodeo Reading


Asian Business


My Tulips

1 comment:

  1. You have a gift for story-telling. You should turn this blog into a book. It's really great stuff. I laughed over and over and felt lots of different emotions as I read each line.

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