Dinosaur child

With the short arms but hardly any roar…

While an orderly transported my wife from the ER to her private hospital room, a dinosaur child came calling in the hallway…

(Kaiser Permanente, South San Francisco, California 2017. See my other work here.)

Be school

“Let us go forward together with our united strength.” #HopeTuesday

So my teaching assignment on Halloween was to manage five periods of world and American history. Toward the end of second period, around 10 a.m., one of my students whipped out this mask, put it on, and just sat quietly at his desk. And since he had finished the classwork anyway, I let him roll with it. And Churchill didn’t seem to mind.

Yes, yes, I know, Guy Fawkes was a treasonous bomber whose religious motivations seem uncomfortably plausible in our current age of terrorism. But he’s come to represent a righteous, anti-oppression kind of protest, and to see some affinity for that in a modern-day American high school is kind of what #HopeTuesday is all about.

(I’m a substitute high school teacher. The photograph is from my pictorial teaching diary. See it here.)

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A lunch lady blues

Show her some respect…

I am the goddess

you never pray to.

I am the mother

who forced your father to suckle you.

I give you food,

every day,

I feed your arrogance.

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Dance class

His name is Joe and we were both in the same waiting room at Kaiser Permanente in South San Francisco. He caught my eye because he was so nicely-dressed, looking much classier than the anxious people one typically sees in dreary HMO waiting rooms. Joe makes a habit of dressing nicely all the time. He likes to look good because he’s a dance instructor in San Francisco. According to his card, he can teach you the Tango, the Cha-Cha, and the Boogie. I can give you his number if you’re interested…

(South San Francisco, California 2016. See more of my work here.)

One need not catch them all

The game doesn’t matter, people do…

I’m not a fan of the Pokémon franchise, I don’t play the mobile game, and don’t intend to start doing so. Still, without even trying at all I encountered a lively, free-range Pokémon whilst he was buying afterschool snacks at my local grocery store…

(Midtown Market, Brisbane, California 2016)

Here’s to Henry

Bukowski would have been 96 today…

How do I pay tribute to a man who both enriched and destroyed my life? If I had never read his work I’d be less of a boozer than I am, but also less of a human being. Charles Bukowski would have been 96 years old today, and I have praised and cursed his very existence with every gulp of cheap beer or sip of fine rum that I have ever taken.

(↑Kiyokawa, Tokyo 2012)

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Be this guy

A dad with grace and humor for #HopeTuesday…

She was chewing on a French pastry, he had her pacifier in his mouth. I’m not a dad so I don’t know how these things work, but the incongruity of it was surprising and delightful. I also think this man showed a lot of humor and grace by keeping his kid’s chew toy in his mouth so some stranger could snap a picture of him in public.

I figure if I had ever decided to be a father, I’d have wanted to be this guy instead of the tight-ass my own dad was…

(Midtown Market, Brisbane, California 2016. See more of my work here.)

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Determination

Snack it up on human moments for #HopeTuesday

I don’t know about you, but my Facebook and Twitter feeds are saturated with links to media coverage of the race to the White House between TweedleBint and TweedleBitch. I’ve grown physically weary of the topic, and the climate of fear and anger that has washed over my country because of it. I found the best way to recede from this madness is by taking time to look around me at people and what they do. Observing such things brings a sweetness and a kind of joy to life that no fascist or machine-politician president can take away from us. I really believe that.

And there’s hope in this, which is why I pursue it and why I’m encouraging all of you to do likewise. You don’t even have to plan anything, just savor the unexpected moments life is throwing at you right now.

For example, recently at a Mexican supermercado I encountered a little girl who really wanted the hell out of some Cheetos. She knew I was watching, and didn’t care. She would not be denied, and so…

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Jasmine and Buddy

The streets don’t care if it’s the 4th of July…

She was sitting on a Japantown sidewalk, on Webster Street around the corner from Nijiya Market. She looked displaced, like a woman who’d just left a difficult relationship and the apartment that went with it. But she also did not look frantic, and I hoped that meant she had friends who could let her crash on a couch for however long she needed to.

Then there was the dog, Buddy. He may well have been the reason she was holding it together, not freaking out, while she figured out how to use the city to take care of them both…

(Japantown, San Francisco 2016. See more of my work here.)

I am broken

Alcoholism sucks…

I am broken

and I have been for many years.

I’m not some toy

you can take back to Hasbro

and say “This fucking thing is fucking fucked up.”

They would laugh at you

and I would too.

I am not a toy.

I am a man.

And I hurt,

and I love,

(I love more than you know),

and I rage.

And I love you all, you are my life,

you are my Jesus,

but I am broken.

And I don’t know how to fix me.

So please

bear with me.

The doctors are coming in

with long, sharp stainless-steel tools

and they will probe me

and figure out what’s wrong.

There might be blood.

Sorry.

(Brisbane, California 2016)

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“Tokyo in the Underbrush”: ArtsWeek

Pictures and poems from Japan’s bubble years…

Introduction
In January, 1987 I graduated from Lehigh University with a B.A. in journalism. By the first week of March I was in Tokyo, Japan to start my first real adult job and the rest of my life. I was 23 years and two months old, and had decided I wanted adventure instead of an entry-level stateside newspaper job. So through some business contacts of my father’s I secured an entry-level marketing position with an American information services company in Tokyo.

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What I present to you here are poems and photographs I created while living and working in Tokyo in 1987 and 1988. All the images are of Tokyo drunks and homeless people because, at the time, I was naïve and couldn’t believe this aspect of Japanese society existed. I felt I had to document it.

Poverty and homelessness still persist in Japan, of course, and through some strange twists of fate I resumed documenting Tokyo street life four years ago. This has resulted in a book I’m trying to get published called “Tokyo Panic Stories.” You can see samples my recent Tokyo work here and here.

So please enjoy this 28 year-old folio of words and images. And keep in mind that while I make no apologies for the quality of the poetry (I am actually still pleased with some of it), the poems were written by a man less than half his current age of 52 years. Also note that each photo is paired with the text right beneath it, and click any image to see it full-size.

Tokyo in the Underbrush

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Akihabara—May, 1988

Humor of the ‘surd

When you stare straight ahead, people love you. Continue reading

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Squinting at another reality

She was shuffling around Nakamise Dori, the shopping boulevard that leads to Sensō-ji in Asakusa. She touched a lot of elbows trying to speak to people who pulled away and ignored her. This did not phase her. She kept moving through the crowd, sizing up the passersby with a laser-sharp focus that seemed to cut through the communal illusion that we are all okay and everything will be fine…

(Asakusa, Tokyo 2015. See more of my work here.)

Prince among men… (S&R Honors)

Look for the purple banana, bitches…

I’m sitting here drinking a beer…

Let’s go crazy, let’s get nuts…

It’s not a very good beer, it’s a Budweiser…

Let’s look for the purple banana until they put us in the truck…

And I’m sad as fuck.

In fact, I’m chewing off a fingernail. It does not taste good.

We’re all excited, but we don’t know why…

There are so few true geniuses on our world, in our lives.

Most of us are too stupid to recognize true genius.

C’mon baby, let’s get nuts!

Oh, fuck off, you know I’m right.

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Praise the lord, pass the steak sauce

It’s Sunday so, you know, nuns…

I was photographing a wedding dinner at Original Joe’s in North Beach. If you go, order the veal piccata. It’s fantastic. Anyway, it was hard not to notice these six nuns as they walked by the table where my wife and I were awaiting our meal. Right after the waiter handed these ladies their menus, I walked up to their table and said “Sisters, I’ve never seen this many nuns seated at a table in a public restaurant. May I take a picture of all of you?”

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Cold stone home

From my “Tokyo Panic Stories” series…

On a warm late September day they had staked out a spot in front of the Shinjuku Station A8 exit. He ate while she seemed to monitor their surroundings and the passersby, like she were guarding him so he could eat undisturbed. Their bags and overall appearances gave the impression that they weren’t just another couple out shopping. The step they sat upon was their cold stone home for the day, and they’d probably be moving on when Tokyo cooled down in the evening…

(Shinjuku, Tokyo 2013. See more of my work here.)

Mean street cutie pie

There was no child’s garden in sight…

She was tagging along while her dad walked his dog along Palou Avenue in Hunters Point in San Francisco. Dad and the dog are on the left. On the sidewalk nearby there was trash, discarded clothing, and a dead raccoon. Hunters Point can be that kind of neighborhood. But that didn’t keep her from skipping, giggling, hugging dad’s dog, and being the cutest thing lighting up the street that day…

(Hunters Point, San Francisco 2016. See more of my work here.)

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Prince: R.I.P. you sexy motherfucker….

“Paisley Park” is my favorite Prince song ever.

This is the song that inspired me to start lugging around a camera when I lived in Tokyo in 1987 and 1988. The video is immediately below, which for copyright reasons I had to make a video of a video and YouTube might take it down soon anyway. Some of my Tokyo photos follow it.

Prince inspired me to be simultaneously in love with, and detached from. all of you and our places in this world.

Dig it…

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