“Feeling lost, crazy, and desperate belongs to a good life as much as optimism, certainty, and reason.”
“It doesn’t matter how many times you leave, it will always hurt to come back and remember what you once had and who you once were. Then it will hurt just as much to leave again, and so it goes over and over again.
Once you’ve started to leave, you will run your whole life.”
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
“The so-called Left-Right political spectrum is our creation. In fact, it accurately reflects our careful, artificial polarization of the population on phony issues that prevents the issue of our power from arising in their minds.”
“The concept of social justice, which purports to promote equality among the lines of gender and ethnicity, is based on intersectional feminist theory. Per the theory, certain classes of people are naturally oppressors, while others are victims. There’s nothing more divisive than that.”
Perhaps I ought not delve into it too deeply if I don’t intend to follow the whole conversation through before moving onto the next project – but it is portrait month, and I do think this is an interesting one. This is a portrait self-proclaimed revolutionary, activist, and savior of the people; that hasn’t quite been my experience of the man, but I certainly have to respect the passion, even if I don’t quite understand the method or appreciate the affectation.
”Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts.”
This is Craig. He calls himself C-Sharp. This is a rare photograph because this man is always donning large, reflective sunglasses; he’s always hiding behind his hat and sunglasses. He suffered a stroke, years ago, and struggles to walk; he shuffles up Main Street with his guitar and plays the occasional song before inching up the hill to the soup kitchen. He’s been around the block more than once and, despite his physical limitations and he lack of teeth, he makes are and carries a positive attitude.
That’s more than I can for most folks that have everything they could need.
Today’s portrait is for you, C-Sharp. And ‘Portrait Month’ will continue tomorrow with another fresh face. See you there.
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.
The Underscore Orkestra – Formed in Portland, Oregon
“With members hailing from many corners of the globe, playing a blend of Balkan, Klezmer, Hot Jazz, Swing and Americana music, both original and traditional. Entire sets in each style can be heard or a nice melange of all. They are often joined by live Belly Dance. Their Performance evokes the old world and the new, the eerily haunting sounds from the east, with definite roots in the west. Influences are far and wide but range from New Orleans Jazz, to Eastern European, Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, Roma and Klezmorim Music, Manouche Swing, to Acoustic Metal.”
I think that about sums it up. The performances are lively and are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. This portrait above is of Jorge Kachmari, the lead vocalist and violin player for the group. These guys braved icy winter weather in the crotch of the Mule Mountains to perform an outdoor set in Peddler’s Alley, where I used to sling espressos and sell artisan coffee. On their way to SXSW, they’d find friendly venues to play while on the road, and Bisbee has always been a welcoming place for the wandering spirit.
The following morning The Underscore Orkestra found a slightly more welcoming venue: The Bisbee Grand Saloon. It was a Sunday morning and the saloon had already set up its then-famous bloody-mary bar. It was warm and toasty and the saloon filled it’s seats quickly when word got out that there was live music. The sold some albums and merch, played a solid set, and then packed up and headed on their way.
I’ve been following them for a few years now, and I sure do hope I get the chance to see them again.
Flip Cassidy and the Junkyard Gospel:
“Raw, rusty Americana folk-punk perfect for driving on long desert highways. Pairs well with whiskey.”
“The Reverend Flip Cassidy is a rusty man who plays rusty songs on rusty guitars. The Junkyard Gospel is a howling, raging acoustic sound bellowed forth with a voice like a rusty saw blade. His solo performances are known to be highly energetic and infectious, surprisingly loud, and have even caused rippling, whiskey-induced fervors in audiences, fellow performers and bartenders alike.”
Living in a celebrity-obsessed culture, I genuinely believe that a distinction must be made between pop stars and musicians. Pop stars are, in so many ways, packaged products, manufactured for mass-consumption. Pop stars are the Skittles® and soda of music. There’s certainly showmanship, charisma, and skill in the celebrity circuit, but the salt-of-the-earth musician is an entirely different animal. Traveling from town-to-town – drawing people together in parks, at farmers markets, saloons, and theaters – there’s an army of talented folk out there.
Musicians connect with people, hang out and have a beer after their set, tell you about the road, and occasionally crash on your couch. Pop stars have a celebrity that renders them inaccessible, walled-off by security, by entourage, by wealth. Going out to your local pub and watching people make music right before your eyes is a magical experience. Everyone should go out to see live music more often. These guys live out of their cars, on buses, in cheap motor lodges – they have stories, passion, and a measure of honesty and bravery.
Flip Cassidy blew through town and drew one helluva crowd. Not only is this wandering poet a musician, but an insanely talented photographer – naturally we had a lot to talk about. When he rolled through town a year later, I bought his old twelve-string guitar. It’s currently resting on the corner of my study. I highly recommend you take a look at his music and his artwork. This guy is always making something, and he produces really amazing work.
Check out the Junk Yard Gospel
Check out Flip Cassidy Photography