Friday, January 20, 2023

Lilith talks, and talks

Lilith and I walked quietly around Min Soon, who was meditating on a bench that looks out on preservation land. We walked down the hill behind the townhouses, where the plants grow extra large, pausing at the eucalyptus tree that coughs up tar, and then up some stairs to the back of a maintenance shed. A short man in black baseball cap is standing inside. "Nice camera!" he says. He used to work for the Nature Conservancy on Maui as a photographer; went up in helicopters, looked down on ridges too narrow to see otherwise. But lots of people had left, so he became their grunt. Lived in Ewa, has a standard shift car that he bought from a friend for $100 (down from $500 because he didn't know how to drive it), is now resident manager up the hill from us. "Mind if I take some photos?" I asked. "Lucky I cleaned up yesterday." When I said I prefer scatter, he said, "oh you should have come by last week." He remembered me as the woman who once came around and took photos of sheet metal. Lilith was pulling on the leash, because chickens. I told him about our book, _Lilith Walks_, and the odd conversations we have with people when we walk. He said that was a great idea, and he wished he'd written down what happens when people come by the shed or call him on the phone. We introduced ourselves, and then Lilith pulled me away.
At the rec center down the hill, a woman in yellow shirt and shorts, big framed glasses, approached and asked if Lilith was friendly. Would she meet her dog? Of course. So she walked to her ancient blue SUV, opened the front door, and out leaped Boba, a poi dog with a bit of a boxer's nose. He greeted Lilith, then walked to the nearest light pole, lifted his back leg and fired. Then fired again.


Monday, January 9, 2023

Chronicle of an photograph not taken

She was leaning on a concrete wall, smoking a cigarette and looking at her cell phone screen. A young woman dressed in a SUBWAY teeshirt, outside an empty SUBWAY, across a narrow road from the empty movie theater, devoid even of its letters now that deconstructors came to take them down. Lilith and I walked past, gazing at the empty theater, its brown papered doors, its EXIT signs with nothing to exit. Mostly, all we saw was ourselves, reflected. On our way back, she looked at us and smiled. "May I take your photo?" I asked, thinking of the way she'd bent down with her cigarette, reading her screen. "Why?" she asked. "Because I like to take photographs." Lilith sniffed her ankles, and she was happy her own dog had been noticed in its absence. She came up with the idea of having us take a selfie together, so I took one of her smiling and my one spectacled eye peering into the small square, STL logo on my head. But of course that was not the photograph I'd wanted. As we left, I read a long tattoo down her arm from elbow to wrist. The letters were big, stenciled in a fancy font, and added up to a phrase about being true to yourself (but not that, exactly). That was the photograph, in the end, I didn't take. Then I'd better remember the sad beauty of the phrase. Maybe I'll get myself a sub sandwich one day (though I hate Subway) and ask to take the photo of her arm. She said the empty theater might turn into a Planet Fitness, if they could ever fix the air-conditioning.