The definition of wite noise flickered twice on my vocabulary screensaver yesterday. It was just long enough for me to pause and consider that maybe it’s not the same as white trash, which is as far from the actual definition as I am right now from actually falling asleep; at prime past midnight. No, white noise as it turns out has an altogether sublime meaning rooted in physics and not in poverty. It’s a noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what the sound coming out of windows and echoing through the streets of Los Angeles was like last night when the words caught my attention to begin with. I knew it was all due to the monthly affair formally referred to as Art Walk Los Angeles, and less affectionately as Latino Mardi Gras. I love Art Walk. Try as I might, even with a slew of freelance commitments staring at me angrily when white noise wasn’t around I eventually found my way downstairs and made a blissful lap around the block avoiding eye contact with people in case I ran into a friend. Running into a friend would mean only bad things. Well good things, but in a bad way. Well, maybe just bad way of doing things that are good. In any case, I would have rather avoided it last night.
Of course, it took ten feet for me to run into my roommate Shawn braving the sidewalk with a teenie canon dslr strapped unusually close to his chin like a bib. That little thing. That bib thing. That’s all it took. I found it so charming that I turned on my heel and followed him on his way. Maybe he was following me too, but at that point it didn’t matter because we were officially thrust into the traffic of impatient pedestrians and had to move simply to avoid profanity. Why the setup? Why all this talk? I know you want to know…well, I’m practicing being a writer. All this time you thought I was just telling you an interesting story about white noise, but I’m actually practicing writing. Of all things to happen this last week, the most profound has to be my friend Tommy giving me Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”, a book on writing and other life advice. That was four months ago and I finally gave the book a chance, only to find myself transformed with every page turned and with every clever, honest, funny, brutal piece of insight this woman has to share. Do yourself a favor and pickup a copy if you haven’t yet.
Anywayyys. Shawn and I walked in perfect cynical unison until we hit the Spring Arcade. We live on Spring, just a block away from this sometime historic, but now mostly banal shopping experience and it often feels like we’ve seen it all. So when a vendor at the entrance was frantically shoving boxes around and we realized they were filled with old photographs there was a great deal of reservation in our enthusiasm. Just remember the first time you had sushi. Or any other ethnic food you were convinced would move when you took a bite. But photograph after photograph we found ourselves hooked. The first ten minutes we would share a lot. Well, not so much share as we would compete a lot for who found the best shot. The most grotesque. The most vulgar. The most provocative. The most tender. The saddest. The loneliest. The most pathetic. And then we totally lost track of each other. At one point I though he had left only to find him behind three other diggers all head in the bucket deep with old images of people they didn’t know. There is so much more I want to tell you about this moment, but I’ll just cut it short because I feel the white noise of my skull slowly taking me into dreamland. Six out of ten people upon approaching the bins would pronounce some sort of disapproval over the selling of someone else’s private moments. They would ask the salesman if (the twenty thousand photographs diplayed) were of his family. Then they would exchange a terrified observation about finding their own family in the stash. Sometimes they would just walk away appalled. White trash came to mind a couple of times.
You see, I love old photographs. The ones that no one else wants. The ones someone donated, gave up, tossed away. Whatever. There was a reason their owners just couldn’t handle them anymore and had to let them go. And I’ve done that too. But some images are timeless, and they resonate with us at different times of our lives. Like this one below of a girl standing on a beach in what seems to be her school day best. The inscription on the back says 1968, over a decade before I was born and the only thing that came to mind when I saw it was that I KNOW her. Initially I set the image back in the bin. I guess I do that. Sometimes I give up on exactly the things that are most familiar, most precious to me. It’s a bad habit and I’m working on it. So imagine how frantically I looked for the image half an hour later when after paying for six different pictures the salesman whispered in my ear: “you can have one more for free.” I was sure this would be my ruin. Only one image came to mind, and it was somewhere 45 minutes back in time reverse-shuffled by countless hands and a last minute conflict over bin positions imposed by the fire code police. I was sure this is why I should have blocked the white noise out completely, put that new song from The Rapture I just discovered on repeat way up loud in the earbuds and stayed the fuck home. But I didn’t, and so for the next five minutes I held my breath. And I dug, and I asked the other diggers in the way of an owner looking for a lost puppy: “have you seen a little black and white photo of a girl dressed in skirt at the beach? wearing shoes like bowling shoes? not sure if they were? did you?”. And then I found her, way down in the corner. Aaaah.
The girl at the beach reminds me of Hanna. Hanna is a fairly new friend, but just as timeless. She’s a beautiful singer, songwriter, artist and person. I asked her to come play with me a few weeks back and take some portraits in a particularly perfect spot in my studio. I swear the light was brilliant. White and not noisy at all. My other roommate Georgia says that’s God’s light. She also says that there is a grey area. She likes to pronounce these grand things when you least expect to hear them. She also likes to place little objects around the house and play mirror tricks and furniture tricks and I think she has a thing for Jesus, because one time I walked into the kitchen to get morning coffee and he hung, was tucked, nestled into every nook and cranny. He was a picture, he was a spoon, he was a pamphlet and an old button. So I think Georgia is onto something when she talks about the grey area and says : “well, the grey area, Evi…well, the grey area is love.” I should ask her now about white noise.
The real Hanna…or maybe just how I saw her in the brilliant light…