Darkness/lightness

First in an upcoming series on Tokyo, Japan, and life generally…

This is brief recounting of two men from very different walks of Japanese life, whom I encountered in Tokyo near Ueno Station within 45 minutes of each other. The first, an older and somewhat rugged-looking salaryman, stopped for a smoke on the south end of Ueno Station by a ramp which descends down to the Tokyo Metro

Continue reading

The kitten, the junkie, the dog, and Steven

Extremes enrich an abundant life…

In my chosen profession there are extremes which exist outside of me and are mine (or yours) to take or leave. The world is ugly, and the world is beautiful, and I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself a photojournalist if I wasn’t willing to embrace how wonderful and horrible the world can be. You got to love the hate and hate the love, so to speak.

Scholars & Rogues has given me a forum to show you, our faithful readers, the weird bits of pathos, promise, and pain that I encounter as I wander in and around San Francisco, California and its suburbs. I do this to show you that we are not just a collective of progressive thinkers, critics, and college professors. We are also no strangers to the street. We have been in, and sometimes slept in, the gutters and found within ourselves the strength to take a realistic but also an humane and compassionate view of American life and how our country fits into the world.

So on the tenth anniversary of Scholars & Rogues, I want to make you feel good. And I want to make you feel bad. And I want to give you hope. Because that’s what life does to all of us on a regular basis. And to start here’s my kitten Kuro-chan grooming himself at my house in Brisbane, California…

Continue reading

The man who laughed t‘ai-chi

The Falun Gong Show…

On my way to work this past Monday, I drove past an older man doing t‘ai-chi exercise by the side of a particularly busy street in South San Francisco. I broke several traffic laws turning my car around so that I could pull up to the curb in front of him to take a photograph. Luckily, I got to him just in time to capture this exuberant expression.

I’ve looked for the old man each subsequent morning since this encounter, but haven’t seen him…

(Hillside Boulevard near Lincoln Street, South San Francisco, California 2017. See my other work here and here.)

A scooter at midnight during the war

There is always a war…

Down in San Bruno, California
there are renegades and vampires
running gun and overrunning every street.
There are always women in the crosswalks
shepherding their invisible children
to non-existent schools.
These women drink hard liquor for no pay,
because that’s their little piece
of The American Way.

Continue reading

Waiting at the Mark Hopkins

See in his face what you will…

Yesterday I photographed a luncheon for a San Francisco lawyers’ group in the Peacock Court at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. During a down moment I noticed this food server at the ready and looking completely patient, professional, but also a bit procedurally weary. I admired the combination of those three elements in him, and wanted to honor the man by preserving the moment…

(Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco 2017. See my other work here and here.)

Tiny woman, big butt

The smoking section for your average taco truck…

Smoking an elongated cigarette on El Camino Real in front of the Kaiser Permanente hospital…

(South San Francisco, California 2017. See more of my street photography works here.)

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.)

Image

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)

Continue reading

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.)

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…

Continue reading

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)

“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.

ShibuyaMarch1987

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

TokyoUnderbrush-1-1

Akihabara—May, 1988

Humor of the ‘surd

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

Image

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.)