Seeing Homelessness

We walk past or around homeless persons every day on the sidewalks of Oakland and San Francisco. Along our city streets and through freeway underpasses we carefully drive past ramshackle homeless encampments.  Some of my images are made from the perspective of a casual passerby. Those photographs show people sleeping or lying on the street under blankets, newspapers, or nothing at all. They are anonymous, faceless, not so much people, as “a social issue.” Other photographs are made from the perspective of a seeker. Those images (and conversations) attempt at understanding and a desire to see those who are without homes (or adequate food, clothing, health care, or employment) as persons possessing innate human dignity, with hopes and dreams, not unlike that casual passerby or more importantly, the photographer himself. Click on images to enlarge. 

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By the time Jessica finished fifth grade she was the biggest kid in her small private school, even bigger than all the sixth graders.  Strangers on the street had begun to mistake her for a Cal student. She seemed miserable in her little school. One day we were alone in the kitchen and I sat down across the kitchen table from her as she bent over her homework.

…Son: Counterculture Feminist Poet Raises Football Player

October 1, 1976
Officials at Emery High School in Emeryville,
California, were surprised when a popular female
gym teacher showed up with a beard. Doris Richards,
in a yearbook photo eating a banana, described by a
former superintendent of schools as “the sweetest girl
I’ve ever known,” spent a six-month sick leave under-
going a sex change operation. The teacher, who now
wants to be known as Steve Dain, informed the school
he wants to stay on the job.
           The San Francisco Chronicle

The Alien Becoming the Familiar

During our fifty plus years of residing in north Berkeley, my family and I have had the opportunity to sample a wide variety of cuisines. Nearly a decade ago, strolling down Solano Avenue we counted nearly 30 restaurants offering Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese and variations of all- American meals with the exception of a Subway sandwich franchise, no fast food outlets.

Sweet Alabama

My social media feeds were full of calls to “Boycott Alabama!” “Leave!” “Never go there!” Andy Borowitz, one of my favorite political humorists, posted: “Americans given new reason never to go to Alabama.” I saw lots of Likes and Ha-Ha emojis. And then disparaging comments along the lines of: “Stop writing insults about Alabama; they’re 50th in education. They can’t read that shit.” More ha-ha’s.

Not So Fast, My Dear

If you read the popular press, it seems many people dread turning fifty, feeling as if the hourglass has now been flipped and their life is certainly half over. Against all common belief and expectation, however, fifty turned out to be one of my best years ever. Not only did I go way beyond my comfort zone, stretching my mind and body, by hiking the full fifty-mile circuit of the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite National Park, ascending from about 6000’ to 11,000’, but I also met Norton.

On Not Getting Down To Write

I think this morning, after I check the headlines and start the laundry, I’ll get going on a couple of pieces of writing I have in mind.  Exploratory things.  One, an account of my year in Walthamstow, East London over 40 years ago; a year of robust immigration to the UK of British Subjects from India and Pakistan. I was living in Manor Park, E. 12, and teaching reading in a primary school in E. 17. The idea for this piece was sparked by a news story I’d recently read about the arrest of several putative airplane bomb plotters from Walthamstow . I think I’ll see if I have anything to say about that so I begin:

Virtual Robert Levin

We sat in my car parked by the beach at Todd’s Point smoking a joint; this was Mendocino after all. I had brought Robert the book of photographs we’d produced after he’d moved into the nursing home. He was pleased with the quality of the photographs.

IF

We are sitting in the living room, the late afternoon sun making its way toward the horizon, casting a warm glow on the walls. My son and I have been chatting, catching up on family news. He is about to leave when we are startled by what sounds like an escalating argument on the street below.

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