A DTLA Story

A few weeks ago I shared an excerpt from an upcoming short story that follows a young man as he tries to find his way in downtown Los Angeles. Well, that short story is available in full today from the Amazon Kindle store.

From the description: “A young man starts a new life in Los Angeles, but powers beyond of his control force him to come face to face with inconvenient truths that will change his life forever.” You can find out what happens to Johnny for just the price of a cup of coffee by clicking here.

Bacca Blows

"Bacca Blows" is from my "Rauchen ist Tödlich/Smoking is Deadly" portfolio, which features black and white images featuring the ephemeral aspects of the act of smoking. Like my other current portfolio "Figments", photos from "Rauchen" exhibit a strong sense of contrast, texture and balanced composition, even when the subject matter, smoke and lust, are themselves transient. You can own a limited edition of this print here.

Political Documentation

The role of White House official photographer has been highlighted around the internet lately. Pete Souza, former official White House photographer for President Obama, recently announced a new book of photos from this period, due out in November. This Vanity Fair post alleges that President Trump requires  current official White House Photographer Shealah Craighead to keep a stool handy. This Verge blog post tries to compare the work done by Craighead to Souza's; they are not sure if she is being sidelined by Trump or if she is not as good as Souza.

Whatever the case may be, I would like take this time to share a few of the photographs I've made of politicians and political events in the last 8 years. This gallery features the following people:  Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Los Angeles Council Members Cedillo, Krekorian and Buscaino; former Los Angeles Council Member Jackie Goldberg; California Assembly Member Jimmy Gomez; former California Assembly Member Beth Gaines; Congress Person Tom McClintock (CA-4). 

First Impressions

Head shots are not just for actors anymore. Think about the first impression a hiring manager would have of you if they saw your current LinkedIn photo: would it leave a good or bad impression? If you're not sure, send an email to improve your first-impression.

Eric Garcetti, 1 July, 2014

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will give his State of the City speech tonight in Los Angeles. What will he say? Mr. Garcetti is pictured here during a 1 year anniversary of his 2013 inaugural at Los Angeles City Hall. 

Adorno-an excerpt

The following is an excerpt from a short story that was inspired by a photo I took of a friend:

As I returned to the studio with a new bottle and fresh glass I heard the record player spin a familiar frenetic piano percussively repeating a single minor chord as a bass melody chased it like a wicked wind from below:

Wer reitet so spät…

“Der Erlkönig,” I said as I poured each other a glass. “Curious choice for this hour and this weather. Let’s hope we’re not tempting fate. Cheers! To music: long may she live.”

“Cheers!,” Gabriel returned and we clinked glasses. We followed the custom to look into each others eyes while we took the first sip. “I hope you don’t mind my choice, but I have recently been studying the work of Goethe.”

“Ah yes, the poet of this thrilling Lied.” Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir! “Do you mind if I smoke? I know it’s a habit that’s fallen out of favor with your generation.”

“I don’t mind, as long as I may also have one.”

“And you continue to amaze.”

In the sparsely lit studio I could still see a rush of color to his face. “Karl says I have an old soul.”

“So, that’s why he sent you to me!” I handed Gabriel a cigarette. I lit his cigarette and he took a hearty lung-full, leaned back into his chair, lifted his head to the ceiling and let out a slow grateful exhale, like he was giving thanks to God for such vice. “Why Goethe?,” I asked.

 

“Faust. I believe humanity has sold its soul for destructive advancement.”

“Have you read Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus?

“No, but I just finished reading his Tod in Venedig. It’s in my coat pocket.”

“I’ll tell you what. I will lend you a copy of Doktor Faustus if you lend me your copy of Tod in Venedig.”

Gabriel put out his hand. “Deal.” We shook on it.

In seinem Armen das Kind war tot.

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Marian

Marian’s eyes will pierce your preconceptions and his words will gently knock them off their comfortable pedestal.

It is en vogue to say we are not born with a purpose, but to Marian this is rubbish: he believes we all have a calling and that as we grow older the vicissitudes of society and it’s accretion over years of living make that calling harder and harder to hear. In a world of analytics and adherence to spreadsheets, it is good to know there is still a trace of humanity to be found in the world.

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It is en vogue to say we are not born with a purpose, but to Marian this is rubbish: he believes we all have a calling and that as we grow older the vicissitudes of society and it’s accretion over years of living make that calling harder and harder to here. In a world of analytics and adherence to spreadsheets, it is good to know there is still a trace of humanity to be found in the world.

Berliner Date

Berliners are a hard-drinking, hard-smoking lot. Pictured here is the morning after a typical night of drinks and conversation. This photo is available as a print from my store here.

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"The Legend of Johnny Delmar," and excerpt.

An excerpt from an upcoming short story. It features strong and offensive language, making this NSFW.

The animal’s eye caught his.

 

Oh, shit.

“Alright, you tranny fuckers, shut the fuck up.” The place quieted down except for the din of bartenders serving the nonplussed at the bar. “Hello motherfuckers, I’m Maxxine Pad and welcome to Thieving Thursdays, where my cholo friend Hammy has put together another revue of cabaret cunts, loose lipped faggots, and maybe someone with talent this time.” She affected intimacy with the crowd by muttering under her breath, “We can only hope, right?” The crowd laughed. Back to full voice, “Alright. Oh, wait, before I forget,” she eyed Johnny again (oh shit, oh shit), “We’ve got fresh meat in the house!” The crowd squealed and howled (is this what rabbits feel like before the wolf’s teeth sink in?). “Can ya smell it? Try and take a big ol’ whiff of it! Can’t smell it? Of course you can’t, you stupid motherfuckers! You spend too much time snorting coke in the shitter!” Maxxine wrapped her arm around Johnny and brusquely brought him to the spotlight. He thought to fight her, but the thought of being the center of attention, of being in the spotlight again somehow, like back home, dismantled his defenses. “OK, honey. Tell us your name.”

“Johnny, ma’am, sir, uh-”

The crowd was raucous with laughter.

“Well, golly, Johnny, that’s OK. Can any of you stupid ass tranny cunts tell farmer John here what I am?”

“TRANIMAL!”

“A-plus, faggots. Johnny boy, just call me whatever you want.”

“Uh, yes…sir.”

“So, Johnny, you’re not from around these here parts is ya?”

“Well, no sir, I’m from Indiana.”

More laughter. Johnny turned red with embarrassment. He didn’t see what was so funny.

“Easy, farmer John. These faggots don’t know any better. Are you single?”

“Yessir.”

“Keep calling me sir and I might call you daddy if you’re lucky.”

“Well, I’m not-”

“Nobody cares! Now get another drink on me and get off my fucking stage. Farmer Johnny everyone! Give him a round of applause for being a good sport.”

Maxxine pushed him back to his friends. Despite the humiliation of it all, Johnny enjoyed the attention. At least he was meeting people.

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The Cigarettes that Bind

I was in my home town of Placerville on New Year’s for the first time in years. Growing up I would spend the evening with my family at church playing board games until the countdown to the new year, which we would begin with a prayer before leaving shortly thereafter. I had severed my relationship with that church many years before and found myself faced with an opportunity for a new experience. While my friends in Los Angeles and Berlin rang in the New Year with jubilant multitudes, I would bar hop on a quiet Main Street in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

I took this chance to explore a bar I had walked by dozens of times over the course of several visits home: the “Liar’s Bench.” I’ve been to my fair share of watering holes, but just the outside of this place intimidated me: even during daylight hours I could see hardened drunks in biker gear, seated at a bench by its entrance, smoking cigarettes. If it made me uncomfortable during the day, what would happen to me, a clean-shaven blazer-wearing light in the loafers camera donning man?

I swallowed my apprehension and walked in around 10 o’clock. Beneath the dim light was a long bar crowded with couples waiting to welcome each other to the new year with a kiss. Above these midnight lovers hung old signs, made yellow by decades of old smoke that twenty years of prohibition had not effaced. On these signs was printed bar humor like “there’s no beer in heaven so I gotta drink it all here!”, an older generation’s meme. At the far end of the bar a group of revelers huddled around a small television set to serenade themselves with Karaoke; the soundtrack may have been more country-western flavored than what I had grown accustomed to in Los Angeles, but just as mediocre.

Despite my concerns, no one seemed to care about my appearance or comportment. The only person that seemed to care about me was the bartender, who only wanted to know what I was going to drink. I ordered the cheapest beer and leaned against a wall to observe.

After a few minutes of observing people simply drinking and having a good time, I went outside to roll a cigarette, where conversation was likely to spark over a smoke. As I leaned against the brick façade hoping for conversation, a woman rolled up in a wheelchair and gasped at me: “wow I love your camera!” I carry an old 35mm film camera with me and this is a common reaction, but she went on: “that’s the camera I used in high school! I miss shooting film. I just loved developing photos in the dark room. I’m sorry, but can I hold your camera?” I was happy to oblige just so I could bring joy to at least one person at the end of a dismal year. She looked through the viewfinder: “wow I missed this!” She pointed the camera at me mid-drag and fired off a shot.

 

I then asked if it could be her turn for a close-up and photographed her at the end of an exhale.

 

She finished her cigarette, thanked me and went into the bar.

I started the new year a bit less of a snob.

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The Faithful Barista

I met a barista named Garrison who came to Los Angeles to attend a Bible college. For many years I was angry at all Christians for how their faith had been used to terrorize me as a young gay man. However, I have not found this anger to be a balm for that pain and now find it more instructive to ask people what their faith does for them.

 

Over the course of my ten day stay, I had the opportunity to ask Garrison about his faith. I still bristled at his hope to convert people to Christianity, but I was touched by how he wanted to share his faith. For Garrison, Christianity is not a weekly formality where men stand behind pulpits screaming fire and brimstone; Garrison shares what he believes to be true in his own heart over coffee, beers or even a cigarette. This demeanor seems to me to be closer to the Jesus who consorted with prostitutes and tax collectors than the preachers of my youth who made me afraid of being gay.

I grew up singing the same hymns three times a week at church and then later with a college choir; for these reasons it is not uncommon for a hymn to bubble up to the surface of my conscious mind. I would share these ear worms with Garrison who, being musically inclined himself, recognized nearly all the hymns I brought to the coffee bar.

My time in Los Angeles was brief, but I was looking forward to continuing our theological chats when I returned. I was crestfallen when Garrison told me he was quitting the coffee shop to focus on school, where his grades had been suffering. Knowing that our paths would likely never again cross, I took out a piece of paper and wrote down the benediction my college choir would end our performances with: “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you; The Lord lift his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

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