I moved out west for the usual pioneer reasons. Also, I liked the way the neon looked in the rain. I quit my newspaper job at the Reston Times in Virginia, where a light in the lives of dejected photo staffers was the deli on the ground floor, the Brown Bag Cafe, unfairly known as the Brown Bug. The woman there knew my name, though I can no longer remember hers. Upon hearing my plan to move 3,000 miles away for dubious job prospects, she said, “Errykaaa, you are young. It is not whether to jump, or not jump. You must jump!”
So, Vincent Ferris, one of the first friends I made out here, has jumped. Seattle was “like living on a couch in Mom’s basement,” he told me. So he moved 3,000 miles AWAY FROM HERE (?!?) to New York City, to share a house with seven “anarchists.” The fridge is full of food found in Dumpsters. They’re “freegans.” Several have court dates for Occupy-related activities. Vincent was literally breathless with excitement. Panting.
“I just want to, you know how you grow up with pictures of New York. I’m having this dream of walking around New York, taking pictures. Stuff one would have daydreamed about, I’m making it happen. Imagine, like, Robert Frank or William Klein, shooting these marches. I feel connected with this movement. I’ll ask questions later. To say ‘These people need a shower’, to have a point and a concise argument, that is so left-brain. It’s emotion that would make someone occupy a park and stay there. This is: you’re not gonna eat your vegetables, and you’re gonna stay at the table until you don’t have to eat your vegetables anymore.”
When I first got my beach property, my neighbor Stanley told me to go get a tide book, and if the tides are ever 9 or 10, to come here and watch them from a ringside seat. It is sound advice, observed by many, and so you will see the trucks of Watchers convening around the destruction at the appointed hour, a 10.5 tide at 12:33 p.m., for instance.
This was a cute place, the people were nice, and were connected to the aforementioned, excellently crafted, departed fort.
It fell in on Thanksgiving day. It is a lonely, frightening feeling, to come across a body. I can’t get used to it, can’t get over it. I am one of these people who pay to get on a rollercoaster, then close my eyes.
But it’s a wake, too. Like an Irish wake. There’s some laughing and joking and who knows what beverages in the coffee cups. Pictures fail, and words do, too. There is no way to capture the roiling white water, rolling around giant trees you could never budge.
An artist named Mark has a place that will likely fall in next. He was getting ready to evacuate. He told me he has 18 cats. That makes me picture the closing scene in “Logan’s Run” where the old bearded guy is living in D.C. with a zillion cats, having escaped the apocalyptic culture where everyone dies at 30. But I digress.
It’s said that the camera can be armor, that the act of looking and composing with a machine creates a psychological detachment from what you’re seeing. Certainly war correspondents need to do this, and I have, more than once, encouraged shy photography students to think this way. It doesn’t always work.
“Were the crowds of people who gathered along the bank to watch the waves undermine the barn’s foundation and send it splintering into the sea awed by the vivid display of the ocean’s fearsome power? Did they feel compassion for the family that had to endure the destruction of their lifelong home, while a festive crowd of onlookers cheered the building’s collapse?
“Some who were drawn to this dramatic spectacle were sensitive to the loss and pain…they winced as the old barn shuddered and the roof collapsed and left soon afterwards. The others, well, the others were there for the show.”
Butler adds that Washaway “serves as a lesson that, once forces are set in motion, mankind’s best efforts to contain them are puny and ineffectual. Our society has shown an arrogant display of contempt for the natural balance…If you believe that technology will bring about a last-minute rescue, you’re a gambler, and the stakes are the world.”