I’ve never dined at The Checkerboard Café, but I always liked the sign. Billed on its website as “Tucson’s Friendliest Diner,” I suppose I will make this my first destination upon my return. Of course, the home page possesses a few typos, including listing at as “Located a Grand and Oracle Road,” when I’m pretty sure they meant Grant Avenue, I supposed I’ll give ’em a pass. Seeing as how the website also lists its copyright as 2012, I suppose I’d have to dig a little deeper just to confirm that it’s even still there.
Some of the grime has been polished off the 4th Avenue I remember from those days, but hey – nothing stays the same forever. Shirtless days on the front porch, cold beer in the summer, an embarrassing amount of hackysack. Brooklyn Pizza’s garlic knots and walks over to The Grill at three o’clock in the morning for some tots. The old underpass, bathed in dim yellow light, always wreaked of urine; most of the young ladies I knew – a generous portion of which who’d smack me across my smug face for referring to ’em as “ladies” – preferred not to walk through by their lonesome.
I magic-markered a piece of copy paper and thumb-tacked that sucker right by the exit to the one-room hovel of a guest house I lived in. “Do you have your camera?” was scrawled in smudged blue ink. That was my healthy little reminder every time I headed for the door. I hardly ever went anywhere without my camera, and only seemed to need it when I’d left it behind. This seems to always been case, even today.
I made it a habit to go down to the 4th Avenue Street Fair every autumn and every spring. It takes a certain kind of con-artist confidence to stick your lens in strangers’ faces, and the various street fairs, county fairs, political protests, and other events proved to be a healthy training ground for inexperienced street photographers like myself. Some people notice you and immediately ruin everything by smiling or posing.
Other people just have to common courtesy to threaten you with as ass kicking.
With enough experience, you learn how to lie your way out of sticky situations, charm your way through others, and – most importantly – make accurate snap judgments about the people around you.
The easiest photographs to make – and often the most fun – are of street performers. They’re used to being looked at, and usually like to dust-off their ‘A’ material when they see a camera watching. Something in my gut tells me that this woman may not be with us any longer. This photograph is somewhere in the neighborhood of ten years old, taken outside of Caruso’s Italian Restaurant on South 4th Avenue. A tap-dancing, smoking granny – how could one not take a photograph?