Secret Pop

Feb 19, 2004

I spoke to them in the dark, and they lay still.

I think my father is disappointed that I never became a lawyer. Or maybe he's just disappointed that I'm not actively participating in a pension plan. We talked over very small glasses of wine -- cordial glasses were all he could find in the post-move bedlam -- and he asked me whether I ever thought about still getting that degree. It came on the heels of my telling him how much of a breeze I found tax court to be. I didn't want to disappoint him, but I didn't really know what to say. I think, ultimately, my parents want for me exactly what I want for me. But we have starkly opposed ideas about how one gets it. And it vexes me to feel so certain that neither my mother nor my father believes I have amounted to anything that approximates my full potential. Still, it was nice to sit and talk in the new house. My father even lit candles for our dinner. A big, florid tree of them. Far more fuss and fanfare than I am accustomed to when having dinner with him. There wasn't much hope of finding complex ingredients, so I made penne carbonara in a jif and we dined like kings. Kings surrounded by boxes and boxes and boxes.

I have been contending with a lot of disappointment this week. Just things not going the way I'd planned or hoped. Friends not coming through or plans splintering. I find myself growing weary of always donning the brave face. The no-I'm-not-upset face. The oh-it's-fine-I'm-better-off-this-way face. The face I wear so that everyone else doesn't have to feel guilty. They never seem to notice. It's not my face at all.

Having noticed some new photos on my MySpace profile, my friend Steve accused me of taking more pictures than anyone else he knows, even the photographers. I suppose this post is my way of proving him right. Although, I will note to myself that I haven't really been taking as many pictures as I would like. I want to be taking pictures I can thrill to. Showing them off is secondary. But getting a glimpse of some captured brilliance is lure enough. I think my poor digicam is beginning to tire, though. Knobs turning in a more grinding-like fashion. Compartment doors no longer smooth and true. Whatever will I do when this dear old friend succumbs to age and overuse. It's hard to imagine my hands knowing what to do with a facsimile. The spool on my trusty old Canon A-1 SLR camera broke somewhere between Gila Bend and Albuquerque. I don't remember where. It was outside a roadside attraction as I was trying to rewind a roll of shot film and found that it wouldn't go back into the canister. I ended up trying to do it manually under my jacket, but the color negative film was compromised and there were little shards sprinkling into my lap where the spool ripped through its perforated edges. Nearly seven years later, I hadn't yet taken that camera in to get it repaired. It had been my dearest love for years. Had carried me through high school melancholia and had introduced me to that special perfume of the darkroom. It busted on a vacation, so I made do with buying an Advantix camera at a Wal-Mart, in Albuquerque, I'm fairly certain, now that I think about it. I am not a fan of Advantix. And I'm sorry to have missed out on the certain-to-have-been-myriad pleasures my A-1 would have revealed. But the point is, this past summer, when I was at long last determined to get my A-1 back in working order, instead of suping it up, I bought another one online. The same model. With lots of fancy attachments. So now I have "my" A-1 again. And I still find it to be my most favorite camera. But it sure is heavy and impossible to carry in a handbag. So it stays at home most of the time. I long for an excuse to take it out and engage it in some stupid photo essay. It's much heavier than the cameras I currently use. My hands sometimes shake when I'm advancing the film. It makes me feel frail somehow.

As I have been sorting through stored things, I have come across many old photographs -- some of which I will likely post -- and folders filled with photos I enlarged and printed myself. They still smell of the darkroom. I like it. At Risley, I was darkroom manager for a year, and I remember spending nights in that creepy basement room, all alone in quarters which were already too close, glad that I had never seen Nightmare on Elm Street.

With her dark hair, and her arms around her knees, she looked like a little Chinese pirate.

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