June 14, 2017 – Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl

FINE ART PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE
– – –
OTHER ‘IMAGE OF THE DAY’ PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE

It’s still hard to put into words when I look back on these two. I met the husband and wife musical duo at a 4th Avenue bar in Tucson, Arizona back in 2005 or 2006. The two were playing music in the bar lounge. It was a week night and there was no cover charge, which is really the only reason my girlfriend and I went out that night; we were both going to university and didn’t have a tremendous amount of spare cash, so free music and cheap happy hour drinks were always a solid draw.

I really enjoyed the music. Amy and Derrick always had magnificent chemistry. They always seemed happy and in love, and that came through in their music. They’d take breaks in between songs and interact with the crowd, ask questions, take requests, and make jokes. It was impossible to walk away and not take some of that joy with you. As relatively broke as I was, I had to buy one of their albums, and it become a regular part of my musical rotation.

Years down the road I secured a job in the old copper mining town of Bisbee, Arizona. With the mining operation all but shut down, the town had long-ago become a mecca for artists, musicians, drop-outs and various other vagabonds. It’s unique color and history also make it a draw for tourists, which sustain a healthy hospitality industry – restaurants, bars, and hotels abound in Historic Bisbee. As it turned out, Amy and Derrick called Bisbee their home; they played multiple sets at various venues each and every week. My favorite times were Wednesday nights at The Copper Queen saloon where Amy would play solo, seated behind her keyboards, and take requests from anybody who happened to be there – funny, improvised, and ingenious performances. I quickly learned, when dropping by Doug Stanhope’s Super Bowl party, that the couple actually rented a house from the comedian and lived adjacent to the Stanhope compound.

In a small town, everybody seems connected to everybody else in one way or another.
I could never boast a close, personal relationship with Nowhere Man and Whiskey Girl, but I always enjoyed their music and their kind, generous energy.

Amy Ross suffered from lupus and kidney problems. After spending more than a week at the Tucson Medical Center, she passed away at the age of forty. She’d been suffering from a blood infection and died shortly before a scheduled surgery. Derrick shot himself in the head in his home in Bisbee with a firearm he purchased shortly after his wife’s death. Amy’s death was announced on her Facebook page:

“Hey kids! Bad news! I died this morning and Derrick didn’t know how to tell you. I love you all and hope you go out and be nice to someone. Funerals are a bore so hopefully I don’t have one. Give Derrick some alone space…He stinks at this stuff so leave him be for now. Thanks for all the kindness…Please spread it around.
~Whiskey”

We learned shortly thereafter that the message was penned by Doug Stanhope after receiving permission and password information from Derrick.

It’s hard to tell if anybody had any idea that Derrick would take his own life. He’d mentioned that he might kill himself while speaking on Stanhope’s podcast before Amy’s death, but such a public proclamation – and on a comedy podcast no less – didn’t seem to bend too many ears, especially when speaking with a man known for humor that’s regularly pretty dark.

The whole town, still absorbing the loss of Amy Ross, was in shock after learning about Derrick’s suicide. A gathering of locals descended upon The Grand Hotel Saloon in celebration of the lives of Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl. Local musicians sang songs, covered tunes from the deceased couple, and many glasses were raised. The bar was packed with glassy-eyed locals, and I like to think that it was a decent send-off.

Today’s photograph was taken in the green room at The Bisbee Royale, a short-lived night club that is now home to the local radio station.

SEE YESTERDAY’S IMAGE OF THE DAY
– – –
SIGN UP FOR THE LENSEBENDER NEWSLETTER

Advertisements

May 13, 2017 – Tucson Rail-yard

FINE ART PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE
– – –
OTHER ‘IMAGE OF THE DAY’ PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE

I have published various iterations of this image. I took a lot of pictures that day, my feet crunching through the stones alone the railroad tracks. In this particular section in downtown Tucson, the rail-line runs behind warehouses and various artist spaces. I remember going out back during a show I was performing in at a place called, at the time, The Space. It was a fashion and music showcase, and I was wearing these amazing custom-made pantaloons and a painted-on curly mustache for a little performance piece.

Booze was flowing, and we were able to override the city ordinance by accepting donations, rather than accepting cash, for liquor. Art was on the walls and the music was loud, and I was half-clothed, wandering around without my glasses, pretty-well out of my mind. Halogen track lights on red brick and a clutch of people dancing and laughing. We’d congregate on the back stoop, a small group of us, on a rickety wooden platform with three precarious steps down to the graveled ground, just ten feet from the rail line. I remember hunkering down, red wine in a plastic cup, smoking a cigarette, as the train whooshed by, drowning-out our conversation.

Ten years later, I realize that these are the stories I’ll be telling to younger people. You know, “when I was in college” or “when I was your age” type of stories. Speaking about when times were more innocent, when the rules were more relaxed, when we got away with murder and still can’t believe it. I think this happens with every generation. I’m glad I was wild and reckless and had a memorable night in a strange performance space along Congress Avenue, with a collective of creative and free spirits, huddled against the darkness, in this tiny little corner of the cosmos.

SEE YESTERDAY’S IMAGE OF THE DAY
– – –
SIGN UP FOR THE LENSEBENDER NEWSLETTER

February 12 – Suicide Alley

02-12 Suicide Alley post

FINE ART PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE

In October a train hits and kills a pedestrian around 7am. Officials investigate the incident as a suicide.

In November, a man kneels down in front of a train. The conductor tells police the man walked out of the bushes near the tracks and bent down to place something on the tracks. He then knelt down, facing away from the oncoming train. A note is found on the body, along with a single dollar bill. The note says goodbye to a friend and requests that whoever should find the note to please deliver the dollar, a debt, to the mentioned friend.

In December a man steps in front of a train and remains there until he is crushed. Witnesses tell police that the man intentionally stood in front of the train; the engineer sounded his whistle and flashed his lights and was unable to stop before killing the man.

Sixteen years ago, the Tucson Citizen published an article about railroad deaths after a series of tragic incidents, accidents and acts of suicide. Although the number of railroad suicides isn’t known, they’re not uncommon. The article included an interview with Dan Hicks, a veteran railroad conductor who has worked in the Tucson area.

“Hicks, 48, said he’s experienced the trauma of rail accidents several times,” the article reads. “Engine’s he’s operated have hit trucks, cars, and in one horrifying instances, a drunken woman who had been beaten and left on the tracks.”

Today’s photograph – two exposures made with my handy-dandy Fujica Half – shows an area south of downtown Tucson. Around the time these two images were made, I met an engineer at Hotel Congress. I was sipping a beer and waiting for some food at the lobby restaurant, The Cup Café. He was dating one of the women who worked there, a woman I’d known for a little while. He told me about the number of accidents he’d witnessed, and the number of suicides. He also talked about a stretch of train tracks nearby that area rail-workers referred to as “suicide alley,” where a cluster of deaths had occurred. He told me how certain determined people would arrange their bodies on the ground, laying their necks directly on the track.

I’d recently been walking around that very stretch of tracks. Taking photographs was actually a challenge while I was studying photography – an irony I can’t even begin to describe – and it was an activity usually undertaken on the weekends. I’d never considered that suicide by train was a problem in this shiny new modern world. I remember thinking I hadn’t heard anybody talking about it. I hadn’t heard anything on the news.

But then – I’d  pretty much been living in the basement of the Theater Arts Building (where the photo lab was), so how would I know? For the past several months that’s the only place anybody could ever find me. I ate there, worked there as an employee and worked there as a student. Hell, I had a sleeping bag and pillow, a hot plate and a wet-bar (rum, coke, tonic water, and whiskey) in my private, closet-sized darkroom in the bowels of that institution. I only ever emerged to meet my girlfriend downtown for food and drink, or to fetch a pack of cigarettes from the 7Eleven across the street.

It shook me to think about what it must feel like, to be that determined to end one’s own life. It shakes me still.
I can’t look at these photos without thinking about it.

FINE ART PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE
SIGN UP FOR THE LENSEBENDER NEWSLETTER