Bus-Stop

He walked past me, staring. I had never seen him before in my life. He looked like any man I would have seen anywhere in the world. There was nothing appealing or even unappealing about him. He had dark hair and was average in height. Not too tall and certainly not short. I watched him get closer and thought, Fuck, don’t let him catch you looking at him. Do not make eye contact!

It was too late though. As soon as I thought it, his dark eyes locked onto mine, and I turned my head away. I kept on glancing over to see if he was heading where I was heading, and I realized that he never took his eyes off of me. I clutched my bag closer to me and pushed myself against the class encasement. I had my back to it, but I was on the outside of the shelter and maybe he would be heading into it.

He kept walking past me. As he did so, I realized that he shuffles his feet almost exactly like I do because he doesn’t quite pick his feet up all the way. He lets them slide against the ground like he is floating, “shuck, shuch, schuck,” is what it sounds like. His socks with sandals were gliding on the pavement. I looked away, but I heard him say something that sounded like, “Where are you going?”

I was waiting for my bus and I didn’t want to have to explain to the man who I didn’t know what I was doing. I pointed my thumb over my shoulder, grinned, and said, “That way.”

He wasn’t amused by my response and asked me if I was heading home. I thought about it. Should I lie or engage him in conversation? How should I have responded? If I believed in what I said about home being where I am staying, then yes, I was heading to my “home.” If I believed that home is a feeling then of course I was already home. Instead, I just shook my head at the man.

“Can I come with you,” he asked me. I shook my head at this question too.

He said something else but cars rushed passed us. I didn’t know what to say to this, and I couldn’t help my natural instinct and I responded with the word, “What?”

“Would you like to go to an AA meeting with me?”

I shook my head and laughed. “I’m not an addict. No thank you.”

We stared at each other. His dark wind-breaker was hanging off his thin body and slightly catching in the breeze. His dirty sweatpants were baggy and loose too. He had them tightly cinched at the waist and I could see the remaining string dangling from under his jacket.

“Are you sure I can’t come with you?”

I shook my head, this time much more annoyed and said, “No, you can’t.”

He started to walk away and was shaking his head. I listened to his feet shuffle and watched him from the corner of my eye until I could no longer hear or see him. I was wondering what I did to provoke this response from a complete stranger. Was I dressed wrong? No, I was wearing jeans that weren’t too tight. I had my pullover sweater on and it was baggy. I had my hair pulled back and my hood on my head. I was wearing my schoolbag on my back. I had no skin on my body showing. I then had to think more about it and conclude that he was simply lonely and wanted some company of the opposite sex to distract him from his desire to relapse. That is what I concluded from the discussion, or that he was a maniac. Why else would he want to be near me and offer the AA as a meeting place? All I knew was that I wanted this man far away from me.

I felt relieved when he was out of sight and looked at my watch. The bus was scheduled to arrive in a few more minutes, and I was thankful for the expected arrival. When the bus finally came, I climbed aboard. That is when I saw that man, who recognized me too and only said, “Shit.”

He was in the middle seating area of the bus and I didn’t want to get too close to him nor did I want to walk passed him and get trapped in the back of the bus if he were to move near me. There was a man and a woman sitting near the front of the bus and I sat down across the aisle from the woman. The man was sitting behind her. I heard him call out to me, but I ignored him and reached in my bag to grab my mace. If need be, I would use it on him. I didn’t want him to know where I was going to get off of the bus and was thinking of my options. I could request a stop earlier or later than my true stop and walk the few blocks to where I needed to go.

My thoughts were interrupted by the ding of the stop requested sign glowing its orange color brightly. I looked at it and hoped it was him who had pulled the lever. It was, and he made his way off the bus, staring behind him and at me as he left.

The girl was looking at me and I exclaimed to her that I didn’t know that man. She was shocked, and asked me how true that was.

“I have never seen him before in my life. I don’t know who he is.”

“Really? I thought he was like an ex-boyfriend or something.”

“No, I don’t know who he is, but he really creeped me out earlier today,” and I told her about my encounter.

That is why you never make eye contact with strangers.

GAM

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Photography Overtook Them

When I think about the most influential photographers, I think about Brassaï and Robert Capa. These men were far from ordinary and not as acknowledged for their work as they should be. They appear to be popular, but in an underground way. Brassaï started his work simply and hesitantly. One of his first photographs was of the “Drop of dew on a leaf of Nasturtium” (Plassart). On the other hand, Robert Capa had no fear and dived right into war exposing the various sides; I believe that he found a beautiful side to it, such as the “Paratroopers of the U.S. 1st Airborne Division landing near Wesel, Germany on March 24, 1945” (PBS). I believe that Capa and Brassaï used photography to “Document a hidden reality” such as stated in Susan Sontag’s book On Photography (55). To understand the work of these photographers, one must understand their past and how it is influencing the future. I will start with what I have learned about Brassaï and then talk about Capa.

The first time I encountered Brassaï, I was in a thrift store looking at pictures. His name was on a large canvas of a bridge. I became curious because I had never heard of him. What I learned was that Brassaï was born in 1899 and died in 1984. He was born in the Transylvanian village of Brasov, Romania; although, during that time, it was in Hungarian territory. He originally was an artist that took up photography when he was influenced by famous artists, such as his friend Picasso. He wanted to broaden his documentation of the surrounding world and became a writer as well. Gyula Halász changed his name to Brassaï in order to honor his place of birth and moved to France when he was about twenty-five years old. Brassaï became the “Eye of Paris” and mastered the art of photography by capturing more detail than the average human envisioned (Edwynn). His work became so popular that he published a book called Paris de nuit (Paris by night) that came out in 1933 (Sontag 55). I was hooked by the talent emanating from his photographs; I eventually had to know more about this time period of photography and this led me to Robert Capa.

While sitting in my English class this quarter, my professor shared an image of Robert Capa. This image dated December 3, 1938 when he was featured on Picture Post with a caption reading “The Greatest War-Photographer in the World” (War Chronicle). With the thought of him being the greatest war photographer, I wanted to know more about him and what made him so great. To my surprise, I learned that he was Hungarian as well with his place of birth in Budapest. Capa was born Andre Friedmann in 1913 and died in 1954; he used photography as a way to capture the events around him and was a war photographer correspondent for five wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indo China War (Icon). These men were miles away from home and I thought about my life as well as theirs, since we are all foreigners to our surroundings.

Both men left home with the uncertainty of where their lives were going and they used photography as a way of “participation” (Sontag 10). Both were in a new setting and thus needed to feel a connection to it. Capa travelled the world and although Brassaï did not travel the world, both photographers needed to find comfort in where they were and photography gave them something to do to ease their discomfort. I understand this very well because without a connection to the world around us, we would be wandering with nothing to make us feel attached or alive, and we would have nothing to care about in life. Like the photographers themselves, life is always moving and changing; and the photographs appear to have little happening with them, but the viewer would most certainly be misled because there are infinitely many things happening.

Brassaï believed “Everything can be photographed” and this is what makes the “Drop of dew” so interesting because life springs eternally from water (Plassart). Brassaï preferred to photograph the underground Paris lifestyle and the city’s shell at night. This photograph is odd considering it is so simple and so exquisite. These raindrops are perched on the leaf while the reflection inside of them brings the mind to a state of wonder. This is an almost child-like quality of everyday occurrences and if my eyes turned away sooner, I would have thought the drops were on a map instead of a leaf. The biggest raindrop is like the sun and the moon overlapping while centered perfectly within the leaf. This is light and darkness; the darkness is the hidden, shadow world of the underground. What is seen in this photograph is condensed. Sontag says, “Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it” (4). Brassaï captured the world inside of worlds: the underground world of Paris at night and the water that would make me willingly drown like Narcissus because I want to delve further into it and understand it; thus, the rest of the world is like an echo. Brassaï and Capa left an echo onto the world because of their photography.

Capa also photographed pieces of the world (Sontag 4). Capa has taken numerous photographs of war. The “Paratroopers” are almost scattered directly in the same way as the rain-drops are (PBS). It is also simple and dream-like. It does not show the brutality of lives lost but a softer side. It reminds me of the break in fighting, or the calm before the storm and Capa was there with his camera capturing the condensed version of the broader sky view. There is something chaotic, beautiful, and reserved about this photograph. This photograph does not tell of what war is fought, why it is fought, or how many casualties and deaths have occurred. Nobody knows during a war what the outcome will be, or if the individual themselves will survive it.

Sontag expresses, “Social misery has inspired the comfortably-off with the urge to take pictures, the gentlest of predations, in order to document a hidden reality, that is, a reality hidden from them (55). Maybe this is why Brassaï went to those nightclubs; maybe he became so comfortable with his current life, that he felt a sort of superiority to his subjects. Could Sontag be correct in her assertion, and did Capa feel superior as well? Both these men were from their home of Hungary. This country experienced trauma such as the Holocaust (Holocaust Encyclopedia). If neither left, I do not believe either would have become the famous photographers they are today. Robert Capa was Jewish (Szántó); Brassaï was “sometimes incorrectly described as Jewish” (RoGallery). With this against them, they became other people by hiding themselves in order to survive; they changed their names and moved away. I certainly do not feel that either thought of themselves as superior to another. I think that circumstances eventually worked in their favor, but I don’t think a minority can ever feel superior to another human being; from my own experience of restricting my past heritage of who I am and where I am from, I often feel less than whole and halfway in-between two worlds.

With the changing of names, it brings up other things that can be changed, such as photographs. Capa’s photographs have been questioned regarding their authenticity in an article titled “Robert Capa in Love and War” (Whelan). I have found nothing stating that Brassaï’s work has ever been questioned. To have work questioned is a major deal. Sontag says “A fake photograph (one that has been retouched or tampered with, or whose caption is false) falsifies reality” (86). I agree with Sontag and this is where I would also make a clear distinction that altering a photograph turns it into arts because true reality cannot change, it is permanent; although, there are varying perspectives regarding the past, it does not change what happened, even if what happened can certainly be called into question.

If photographs can be called into question, it doesn’t necessarily change the popularity of it. It can become even more popular because people start discussing it. Robert Capa, in an interview said that he didn’t want to be “favorable or unfavorable” he just wanted his “prized photograph.” He stated “every photograph is the same to you. The prized picture is born in the imagination of editors and the public who sees them” (ICP). I wonder what exactly Capa meant by this. It seems he enjoyed his work immensely, but that he went with what the culture at the time wanted. He changed to fit their agenda so that he could fit into his own, and he never really knew what would be popular until the public viewed it. He just clicked his camera and let others make the magic happen for him.

Brassaï and Capa both took their work seriously. One of his most famous Capa quotes is “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough” (Morris). This implied a message to detail that one must work hard to capture and both of these photographers have done just that, even in their underground popularity. I think these images have become more “memorable than moving images, because they are a neat slice of time, not a flow” (Sontag 17). They are a piece of time that was captured and with each little piece put together, more of the past is revealed. More connections are made and more truths are revealed. With each slice, more understandings are made possible about a time in history that can be visited only through photographs, art, and literature. Brassaï and Capa did document the “hidden reality” (Sontag 55). They also documented hidden beauty and had meaning within their work. They took us into our own personal worlds of self-reflection. They were headed far from home like little birds trying to make it on their own and invented them-selves by becoming two of the world’s most influential photographers.

GAM

Works Cited

 

 

 

Interview for Life: Identity

I was sitting in an interview years ago and the manager asked me who I was. I told him my name, but he only repeated the question. I didn’t know what he was asking me. Did he want me to describe what I did? “No, I want you to tell me who you are.” I felt exposed and I could not think of anything, which eventually led me to question my identity. I certainly did not get the job, but I ended up learning more about myself. I realized that identity is being a part of something, but often times that involves having a unique or distinct personality or feature within the group. Human identity can change, but there are two different kinds of identities for humans: true identity and the false one we show to the world on a daily basis.

Humans are always searching for a deeper meaning or purpose. We seek to understand and to find answers. We change because we are constantly looking for our identity. There is no way to change being human; although we can change: our sex, sexual preferences, thoughts, ideas, features, hair color, religion, job, beliefs, likes and dislikes. These lists are vast. An animal or a plant cares nothing about these changes. They only wish to live and procreate. They are not bored in their lives like humans can become. With nothing to stimulate our sense of self, and nothing left to chase us except for disease, we are at the top of the food chain and we need to (re)create ourselves. Through the process of self-discovery, we become explorers and examine the world around us. This alone caused explorers to sail the world, stopping at each new and unmarked territory. Through these discoveries of land, they learned things about themselves and humans have been evolving continually through this exciting process. Humans now will alter themselves in order to have their wants and needs provided.

I have altered myself as well. I happen to be a brunette, and this is a part of my identity. Although I have chosen to dye my hair blue, blonde, and red, my true identity is to be a brunette. It is how I was made. The false color I ad to my hair in order for me to become something or someone else has made me uncomfortable. Strangers treat me differently as a blonde than they do as a brunette, and I had new experiences. Different characteristics can incite or evoke different treatment from outsiders and they can influence the individual; because of this behavior, I never dyed my hair blonde again. I also happen to be female and non-religious, but if I wanted to, it would be easy to change my religious identity. My sexual orientation  or identity would not be so easy to change. A physical identity may be changed through science and modern medicines/procedures but it is not the identity that I was born with; although it does become my new identity. Even if I alter some part of myself, and I had offspring, these hereditary traits that I alter within myself may still show up as characteristics in my offspring.

This is true in personality as well. There are introverts and extroverts. There are kind people and people that are nasty and cruel. There are various types of people in the world. If somebody has always been a certain way, such as shy, we can assume that this is the natural characteristic of that person. However, this same person could become a popular actress and they can put on a show of being outgoing or even confident. This personality can be a part of the individual, but it’s not necessarily the natural or true identity of that person.

Removing pieces of the body is easier to form identity but it’s not the natural identity. Haircuts, fingernail trimmings, limb amputations, and nose or breast reductions are all easier to reduce than to expand. By adding or expanding, a person will often need to continue to keep up with the maintenance of expansion for the procedure to keep. Changing my brunette hair to blonde is easy, but every few weeks to a couple of months, I must add dye to my roots in order for me to keep up this blonde persona. If for instance, I were to have a sex change operation, then I would need to continue to take steroids in order for my body to accept the change for the rest of my life. My true or at least first identity was the one I was born with, and later it is who I become. Experiences may influence a person to change, but people are still born with innate characteristics that ultimately do not change.

This is prominent in homosexuality. A person cannot control who they are attracted to. Most do not make the conscious decision to be gay and discriminated against for their natural and personal sexual attractions. Ultimately though, it is up to each individual to decide on their own actions and desires. Some people have pretended to be straight their whole lives but were untrue to themselves.

The extreme example of communism is a great example of why not being true to yourself doesn’t work. It sounds great in theory with everybody wanting to obtain the same things: health insurance, apartment style, and pay. Everybody is “equal” and everybody is an ant working for their queen called the government. It never worked and ended come the 1990’s because individuals wanted more than oneness. They wanted to form their own identity. My father for instance wanted to be an artist. His parents told him that he would starve and never make any money if her pursued this path. His parents told him that there would be no way he would be able to raise a family or play the masculine role of breadwinner as well if he became an artist. My father accepted his parents’ wishes as his own identity. He stayed the obedient son instead of being true to himself. If  he would have chased his passion of art, perhaps there would be more color in the world today; instead, he forfeited and the world will never know what kind of influence he could potentially have had.

Identities can change even though there are natural intrinsic qualities that will always be a part of the individual. Identities can be influenced from outsiders. Human life is always changing but humans can still become what they want to become. It’s important to find a good support system and figure that out. Chasing individuality, dreams and true identity, that is what matters. After all, nobody wants to wake up one morning and realize that they were so much more than just a woman, a mother, and a daughter; they were so much more than just the cage enveloped around their left ring finger.

GAM

Hunting Turkeys

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Personal photograph: George Bush Puppet, Mr. Rabbit puppet, and Mr. Frog

I was at a class in the middle of the woods. My professor was President George W. Bush (George Bush Junior). He was teaching the class how to hunt and specifically turkeys. He gave his lecture and let the class attempt their hunting. I saw my turkey and hid behind a bush. I watched the bird and made sure that nobody was coming nearby. I aimed my gun and finally shot my bird. It fell to the ground quietly. After I shot my turkey, I met up with the class in the specified place we had agreed upon before dispersing. All the students showed their turkeys off, but when the professor saw my turkey, he smiled enormously. He was extremely proud of me because my turkey was the largest in the class! Then, he grabbed my turkey and started to de-feather it while describing the process needed to cook the turkey.

GAM

Vertebra

I was spending time with another long-haired blonde woman who was slightly taller than me. She happened to have an operation on her spinal chord. She was perfectly healthy, but they inserted an outlet into a lower vertebra of her spine regardless of her health. She pulled her shirt slightly up and I looked at it. It looked like a phone jack for internet connection had been inserted into her spine. I asked her about it but she stated that it was, “no big deal if it was done successfully,” like hers had been. I was a little bit taken aback by her comment and stared at her sitting on her little backless stool in the middle of the dark room. She then told me how cool it was because, “at any time, you can just plug yourself in and recharge.”

GAM

The Perfect Mother

I had this dream on Mother’s Day (in the United States). I was trying to write a list about the qualities that make up the perfect mother. In real life, I have two mothers or even much more than two because I have had several parental figures in my life. I have the woman who adopted me, who is not my mother, who I refuse to call my mother, and who the law states is in fact my only mother. Adoption is a strange thing. I had a mother before the woman who adopted me became “mom;” I was swiftly taken away from my mother at four years old and she was given the future title of being my “birth mother, biological mother, natural mother” or any other term society wants to throw onto her. I refuse to do that to her. She was and always will be my mother to me regardless of what names society calls her. It’s quite confusing to know and have memories of my mother and being forced to call the new woman who started raising me “mom.” I always wondered why I had to lose my mother and why  I could no longer see her. So, I wrote my list, or attempted to write my list of what makes the perfect mother, but all the details I wrote down didn’t make any sense. There were so many details missing that I could not, by any means, finish the compare and contrast list of the qualities needed to be a “good” mother.

GAM

Mystery Key

I was my favorite fictional character: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was heading down this escape ladder that is on the side of a city apartment building. I had a boyfriend, and it was Buffy’s boyfriend Riley, who was also my favorite of all her boyfriends. He had given me a silver key but he had not told me what it belonged to. It was such a mystery to me that I felt I had to solve the puzzle. I was inside a house now and I needed to go down the steep stairway and into the basement that was full of paramedic supplies. Riley was there and he was cooking some food. I looked around his room and saw a microwave. I put the key into a slot above the microwave and turned the knob. Riley had a TV dinner inside of the microwave and it came out perfectly cooked.

GAM