May 10, 2017 – Service

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“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
~Susan Sontag

I’m not sure if this place still exists. Unfortunately, I don’t even remember where it is. It’s probably somewhere on South Stone Avenue, or in the warehouse district on South Park Avenue. I suppose I could look it up, but it really isn’t important. I just remember riding my bike through the wrecked car lots, the warehouses, over the railroad tracks by the lumber yards and steel yards and welding operations.

I try to image what these places must have looked like when they were brand new. I can’t seem to conjure the image in my head. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a salvage yard or a warehouse that looked clean and new, with fresh signage and rust-free construction. These places always look like they’ve been there forever – they always look old. Old and tired.

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February 01, 2017 – The Flood


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Welcome to February. It’s the month when we’re all over it – the holidays, the cold, the relentless winter. This is the last long stretch until the earth starts to really wake up and remind us that it was worth the wait. It’s a long month, but we find a way to survive it, year after year, because that’s what we do. We endure it, and we wait for the green grass and the warm sun and the spring (and summer) rains.

We have this curious tendency to always make comparisons. To always focus on how things are imperfect. To always look to the future, when things are finally – finally! – going to be better.

For about two weeks after its arrival, we love spring. We rejoice in the weather and the light and the lengthening days. But then the heat of summer looms over on the horizon – and the oak mites and mosquito bites – and we immediately start to fixate on the colors of autumn and the warm friendly gatherings around the backyard fire as the earth begins to cool again, the smell of burning leaves, the cool breeze drifting in from the cracked window that makes it possible once again to clutch your partner close in bed without waking up bathed in sweat in the middle of the night because it’s so damn hot. We obsess over our elaborate Halloween decorations, our friends and family gathered around the Thanksgiving table, the wine and conversation as we gather around the fireplace.

Some like it cold. Some like it hot. Most of us find some silly reason to hate what we have, and yearn for what’s coming next. That’s the big mistake.

Rubbing my cold feet together, sitting in front of the computer tonight, I came across this picture – a flooded street in the warehouse district on South Euclid Avenue in Tucson, Arizona. Deprived of water and rainfall for most of the year, the monsoon rains that descend upon the Mojave Desert in July are a welcome reprieve from the oppressive summer heat. But the streets flood and the mosquitoes proliferate. The joy is short-lived and the complaints begin, almost instantly. And I just don’t get it. It happens every year, so it isn’t as if some kind of mysterious plague has blown into town that we couldn’t have expected.

A biblical flood in the desert? It’s more of a miracle than it is a curse, even if your commute is inconvenienced.

Life in the desert is a life of extremes. Freezing weather during the winter nights and oppressive heat during the summer. I feel like this is the perfect environment to develop a genuine appreciation for how fragile life is, how frail our ecosystem. When I’m freezing cold, or when I can’t seem to cool down (and want to dump ice water over myself), I try to concentrate on the engine of change, and the stubborn human spirit that stares the changing seasons down like a twitching-trigger-finger cowboy in an old western duel.

We endure. And there is so much more worth loving than there is worth complaining about here.
Without mincing words, all I can say is this: I fucking love living in the Tucson desert.


February 15 – The Flamingo

02-16 Flamingo post1The Flamingo was originally built in 1948, providing comfort and shelter for the likes of Bing Crosby, Gene Autrey, Rudy Valley, and other members of the Hollywood and show-business elite. Before it’s doors were closed in the 1980s, it had fallen into miserable disrepair. The rooms were poorly lit, the pool was dry and cracked. The old-world gloss had given way to broken concrete and mold.

When the doors were locked and the windows boarded up, shrink-wrapped soaps still sat in their dishes, dusty towels still hung on the racks, the beds still tightly made. It only sat vacant for seven years before the padlocks were snapped open and the hotel was resurrected with new furniture, carpets, air conditioning, and placards on the doors to designate which Tinseltown stars had stayed there.

I had the pleasure of staying in Burt Reynold’s room. Above the bed was a framed poster of a 1973 Reynolds feature I had never even heard of before: The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing. I still haven’t seen it, but I think I might have to check it out and add a movie review.

The Flamingo was the first Tucson hotel I stayed at – it’s salmon colored paint drawing me in – back in the Spring of 2001. I’d taken a road trip out to Tucson with my girlfriend to check out the city, seeing as how I had just received my acceptance letter from the U of A. Thankfully the new owner respected the building’s history – rather than tear down the classic sign, it was resurfaced and adorned with new neon tubes.

Hopefully, even as the city around it modernizes, The Flamingo will hold onto its charm. The neighborhood isn’t the prime real estate it once was, but affordable rooms in a college town will always find occupants. It isn’t fancy by today’s standards, but I’ll never forget how good that hot shower felt after camping on Mount Lemon for several days.

Today’s photograph is a continuation of “Film February,” made using the Fujica Half. I think the aged aesthetic of film works quite well with a classic mid-century building.


January 25 – The Sunflower

01-25 Sunflower State post

It is said that on the darkest days, the sunflower will still stand tall and seek out the light. I rather like that sentiment.

It may just be because I was raised in Kansas – the sunflower state – but I always assume everybody’s seen those time-lapse videos, fields of sunflowers craning their delicate necks from east to west, tracking the movement of the sun. It’s a marvelous thing to consider, that these organisms bend so literally to that glowing orb in the heavens. Everything that we enjoy is because of that mysterious object, and it’s promise to return in the springtime.

Entire populations have bowed in worship of the sun. It is the light that lets us see, the warmth that keeps us alive, the energy that draws life from the soil beneath our feet. Even in an age where the sun itself isn’t deified, it’s rising and setting provide powerful metaphors.

Today’s photograph doesn’t require much explanation. This is ‘pretty for the sake of being pretty,’ or ‘ars gratia artis.’ At the same time, I have a lot of memories anchored to this image.

Two summers ago, I walked by a small patch of sunflowers on my daily walk up Brewery Gulch in Bisbee, Arizona, on my way to Mimosa Market. The tiny brick bodega is another Bisbee landmark, although it’s far enough up the thoroughfare that many tourists never manage to set eyes on it (and those that do are often stymied by the cash-only practice). The proprietor had grown a little patch of sunflowers in the side yard, and I made sure to bring my camera with me one day to photograph the frenzy of bees rolling in the pollen like excited children in a snowbank.

I remember one monsoon season, years before I ever moved to Bisbee, walking up the road past Mimosa Market toward Zacatecas Canyon; the entire road was a river of water from the rains tumbling down the mountain from that morning’s rain-shower. A family was in the middle of the near-vacant road, and a baby in a bloated diaper from the water was sitting in the middle of the stream slapping her hands in the water and giggling. I’ll never forget how excited that fat-cheeked, mostly-toothless face looked.

There’s nothing like an Arizona monsoon. There’s nothing like saying hello to a beautiful flower as you walk by, every single day. There’s nothing like the collection of simple little pleasures that, together, are what make life grand.