Today’s image is a photograph of a retired screen print of Vlad Tepes, or Vlad The Impaler, derived from a popular A 1491 engraving from Bamberg, Germany. The history of this Romanian tyrant is interesting, especially his connection to the myth of Dracula, which is derived from his father’s name, Vlad Dracul (Vlad The Dragon).
I could write a hundred-page essay about ‘Omni,’ and I’m still considering it. There’s no way I could distill the qualities of this person into a quick post like this. I met Omni on 4th Avenue near downtown Tucson. During the entire time I knew him, he was living out of his car, a Dodge Omni, and spent his time in local coffee houses writing “spells” into Bibles lifted from hotels, playing open-mic nights, scribbling artwork and signs on cardboard, and strumming the strings on street-corners. He was a pleasant guy, and often made friends with local college students and kindred hippie spirits, so he never went too long without a decent meal or a shower.
He wasn’t ever anything you’d consider ‘normal,’ but he was always smiling, writing music, and entertaining people with his wild conspiracy theories. I imagined he’d had brushes with the law, but it’s pretty inevitable when loitering is your lifestyle. I remember hanging out various flop-houses where he was allowed to crash, and abandoned apartment units he discovered were unlocked. I watched him scrub his teeth with salt in lieu of toothpaste, and I watched him make friends with non-English-speaking emigres who could play the bassoon, guitar, trumpet – and I hung out with them in their squatter spots, candle-lit with no electricity, making music and trying to communicate without a common language.
Omni wasn’t mentally together; many likely assumed that he was on the Asperger spectrum. To my knowledge, he has yet to be diagnosed. Years after he left Tucson, after he packed up his gear and drove out of my life, I learned that he wound up in some legal trouble in Colorado. To my knowledge, he’s still behind bars after having hunkered down into a chemical toilet to spy on girls using the toilet during a yoga festival. He was spotted running from the scene, covered in feces, and was later apprehended. The news didn’t necessarily surprise me, but it was sad to learn that this guitar-playing vagabond had somehow wound up in a position like that.
I don’t forgive him his trespasses, but I can recall very pleasant moments with him, and recognize that he is mentally ill. I suppose we’ll see what happens as his legal situation unfolds. After violating his parole, he has been sentenced to six years in Boulder – you can read about it HERE.
Years ago, when I was in college, I took it upon myself to do a photo documentary revolving around body modification subculture. I spent all of my free time in a local piercing and tattoo shop, going to weekend performances, and learning about both the contemporary execution and history of scarification and flesh-suspension practices. I hopped a ride to Los Angeles with the owner of the shop to attend a performance by a group called CoRE (Constructs of Ritual Evolution) at The Key Club on the strip.
I sat in the back seat of the car during most of the drive, hungover from a night of moaning about relationships and chatting about art with an old friend, and drinking way too many whiskey and sodas; I pretty-much felt like hell during the whole ride. On the long stretch outside of Yuma, in the front seat, the driver and his girlfriend sparked a joint, but all I could do was close my eyes and try not to feel nauseous. We rolled into Los Angeles after dusk, headlights scattered through red-flag smog-laden air, with about an hour to spare before the show.
The opening act was Society 1, a metal band founded by Matt Zane, a man concerned enough about his image enough to have removed his year of birth from his wikipedia page and edit-out his participation in the Los Angeles pornographic film industry. I don’t really understand why, of course; the attitude of metal is to not give a fuck about that kind of thing.
Society 1 performed a solid set and Zane was unforgettable. Halfway through the show, he sang while sitting prostrate, center stage, facing away from the audience, while hooks were installed in his upper back. He performed the second half of the show suspended from the flesh, microphone in hand, swinging above the audience. It doesn’t get more metal than that, kids. Definitely an experience I won’t forget.
Living in Tucson for a majority of the past fifteen years, I saw a lot of bands come and go. Many of my college buddies had garage bands and a few of them had it in them to hit the downtown music scene. Most of them have scattered to the wind these past few years as degrees were earned, families begun and careers established. There are some,though, who have had some serious staying power here in Arizona, and Carlos Arzate is one of them.
Carlos Arzate is a singer-songwriter, native to Tucson, whose songs draw inspiration from his personal life growing up in the Sonoran Desert. I believe I read an article in The Tucson Weekly that described his style as “Sonoran Soul.” It’s got a ring to it, but it implies a softness that, while present in many of his songs, doesn’t communicate the dynamism of his work.
Arzate is just as expressive and kind in person as he is on stage, and he’s deeply anchored in the music scene, collaborating with other prominent musicians. I have enjoyed every performance and would absolutely recommend checking out Carlos Arzate & The Kind Souls. The songs tell a story, communicate an emotion and paint atmospheric pictures.
This is one of my favorites, written as a first person narrative of a laborer who chooses to risk the dangerous journey across the desert to the United States in search of a better life.
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
Tumacacori is the site of Mission San José de Tumacácori, an 18th Century Franciscan mission. It takes its name from an earlier mission site founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1691, which is on the east side of the Santa Cruz River south of the national park. This particular mission was founded at an extant native O’odham settlement and represents the first mission in southern Arizona.
The later Franciscan mission, now in ruins, was never rebuilt once it was abandoned after repeated Apache raids in the 19th century. Nearby Tubac was besieged in 1861.
“Time eventually positions most photographs, even the most amateurish, at the level of art.”
There’s little that I could even consider writing about today’s image. Sometimes simplicity and irony speak loudly enough for themselves. This image was made before a greater part of downtown Tucson was renovated. I would have to drive down to South Sixth Avenue to confirm it for myself, but I’m assuming that this business is either something completely new or has been refurbished.
Of course, it’s always possible that nothing has changed at all.
Glenwood is a small little hamlet in Catron County, New Mexico, less than an hour north of Silver City. Officially founded in 1878, fewer than two-hundred people live there today; the silver and gold rush had, once upon a time, attracted a healthy number of people looking to carve their way into the riverbeds and canyons to earn their fortune.
As part of the Gila National Forest, there are some pristine landscapes. There’s also a small little area known as ‘The Catwalk,’ a National Recreation Trail, which follows the route of the old pipeline used by mining operations along the side of Whitewater Canyon.
Little else is here save for abandoned houses and defunct businesses slowly being reclaimed by nature. Just my kind of place.