Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lunch hour

Grey Gardens, San Francisco, March 2007.

I'm a lunch hour photographer. I skip the sandwich and the midday office gossip. If I'm lucky I get to take a bite out of something else: an elegant lady against an elegant frame, young love, stillness amid the hubbub of the city.

In his poem "Stay Away from Here," Frank O'Hara writes about his own lunch hour experience in New York City. It is akin to mine in many ways; San Francisco, after all, is New York's more graceful sister:
It’s my lunch hour, so I go
for a walk among the hum-colored
cabs. First, down the sidewalk
where laborers feed their dirty
glistening torsos sandwiches
and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets
on. They protect them from falling
bricks, I guess. Then onto the
avenue where skirts are flipping
above heels and blow up over
grates. The sun is hot, but the
cabs stir up the air. I look
at bargains in wristwatches. There
are cats playing in sawdust.
My lunch hour is never taken at high noon because the light has no shadows; it's flat and uninteresting. Two o'clock is good; three o'clock is even better. A harried worker rushes to her gym to decompress. The gymnasium is aptly Athenian with its imposing white columns. A man goes through vertigo-inducing heights to find privacy or a signal from his telephone. The first warm day in April unexpectedly arrives and the city becomes a tanning bed for its urban warriors, to be alone with their thoughts or the afternoon paper.

The geometry of the city is inescapable. Mondrian lines bisect and crisscross the frame with angles that are relentless in their sharpness. To find softness, I must flee the city.

Frank O'Hara ends his lunch hour this way:
A glass of papaya juice
and back to work. My heart is in my
pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy.
I end mine with a cup of strawberry yogurt. My heart is in my pocket, it is a Leica.

1 comment:

  1. I have to admire your lunch hour stamina. It constantly produces highly interesting photography. Thanks!