Sunday, July 13, 2008


Cinnaminson, NJ 1989
A Conversation with a Wall

I've alway thought the world was a strange place and that most people just tune it out. Some of us tune it in. I'm one to engage just about anyone I come into contact with everyday-- wait persons, mailman, people in a check-out line behind/in front of me, etc. Just can't help it. Even in "self-check-out" lanes, I talk back to the voice when it say "move you xxxx to the belt". I keep waiting for it to say, "move your ass, old dude" or some such. And I really get annoyed when it gets on me for not scanning fast, I'm just cranky in my old age. The guy cleaning my window in the pic was someone I saw once a week or so.....he worked at the Shell station in Austin. In those days -- late '60s early '70s there was no self-pumping of gas, that came later. Service stations actually serviced your car. I figure it this way, if I'm friendly with people who "serve me" in some manner, like the guy who delivers my heating oil, in the long run that will pay off. Just the other day, I had to joy of switching my propane service (used for our gas cooking stove and gas clothes dryer) from one dealer to another. The previous dealer had starting charging us a yearly surcharge because we didn't use some minimum amount of gas, and our heating oil supplier has now started selling propane, and they don't charge a surcharge. So we switched, but the change over required that the old company come out, removed their tank and valving, and the new company had to come out and install the same stuff, but all new. That required a town issued permitting process. We thought there might be a problem with an outdoor lighting fixture being too close to the tank -- it was well within the 10-foot required distance for an ignition source -- but when the inspector came, I immediately went out (with my blind dog) to talk with him, and explain why all of this was necessary, and in the process chewed the fat a bit with him. He played with Dawg, asked about her blindness, and during all of this, signed off the permit. I walked with him back to his truck chatting all the while. He never even looked up at the light fixture. I saw him two days later in the grocery store, and we chatted a bit more, this time about the fire department. Point is, that guy will remember me, this house, and the blind dog. The next time I see him out and about, I'll ask some question like, "You guys getting to use that new aerial ladder?" That's just me. Ellen says I will talk to a wall if nothing else is available. I think that sort of questioning and curiosity is what shows up in my images. That what my form of documentary photography is all about. Russ Lee kinda' referred to it as visual and cultural anthropology. This diatribe came about due to an email conversation where my friend stated that when he was young he would avoid any contact with service people like the guy cleaning my windows at the gas station (referenced above). My daughter was like that when she was younger, and hated it when I would stop and chat with poeple I didn't know. Now she refers to herself as "Director of First Impression" at the museum where she works -- she handles the first desk of the museum, and you have to pass her muster for entrance to the museum. I guess she learned a bit from her old man.....

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