If you are going
Lack of self-esteem? For sure. Imposter syndrome? Maybe. I think about that a lot, too. Imposter syndrome. Then, I met Eric Kroll.
I had been working as a director. Dirty movies. Creepy, I know. But the work pays well. A few years earlier I had been denied tenure at one one (and only) job I had ever truly enjoyed in this life, and some pals who had started making big money in the early, early days of internet smut offered me a gig shooting content. This made more sense to me that returning back to The Middle-school-high-school Gig. Plus, it paid well. Really well. But that’s another story.
Eric Kroll was having dinner with some friends when my pal Adrianna Nicole introduced us. I had no idea who Eric was, but I was aware of Fetish Girls. It was one of Cherry Poppens very favorite books, and she was one of my very favorite people. Poor Heather. Rest in Peace.
I had just blown one of my packs, and I mentioned this to Eric. Maybe just as a way to make some conversation. I mean we’re five minutes deep into knowing each other, and Eric is offering to take me to his storage unit to borrow one of his. The very beginning of a close friendship / mentorship that lasts to this day. But I digress.
Eric’s work and the knowledge he started sharing with me was boosting my self-esteem, and I didn’t feel so much like a fraud; plus, my job was taking pics of naked people doing the nasty. Why not pay for another hour for some arty-farties? (“Arty-farty” is my go-to term for anything I do creatively.)
I was aware of Hockney’s photos / photocollages, and I still have my mom’s old SX-70. But it was super inconsistent and that film is expensive. The Fuji Instax is new and reliable and on a work-related trip to Samy’s, I teated myself to one and started to experiment.
I didn’t want to (nor could I) make photocollages like Hockey’s, but I sure as fuck gave it a whorl. And after the solo show I was going to have at a small gallery in Louisville pulled the plug at the last minute (work was already framed), Jody and Stephen from These Days graciously stepped up to the plate and took a chance on me.
And for that, I am forever grateful.
But like most rides, who knows how long it’ll last. I’ve got my post-COVID energy going, so I’m going to revive the blog (who the fuck blogs anymore!? Where’s your TicTok and your Podcast ?!), and add my virtual bookstore (cause I can’t brick-and-mortar).
Let’s see how long I can keep it up. Pun intended.
Mark put up the materials, and I put up the labor and went to work.
I had constructed a book called Friends and Enemies using a dos-a-dos structure to compliment Tim O’Brien’s two short stories, and I felt the same structure would work for “Thunder Road”.
My work on Thunder Road took way longer than it should have — for which I am 100% responsible — and eventually I handed it off to Mark. He saw the book to its completion. Lead Graffiti and my friend Bill Roberts from Bottle of Smoke wrapped it all up into one beautiful package.
There’s not much more to say about this on my end, other than Mark produced a terrific book, and all that’s really important is the book is complete. I’m quite certain Thunder Road will stand The Test of Time.
And I still consider Mark a close friend.
So I’m scouring the flea markets and second-hand shops and thrift stores and all that usual nonsense on a not-so-recent trip to San Francisco, and I was having terrible luck. I’ve never really had any luck in SF, though, so I wasn’t surprised. I made one last stop over at The Magazine on Larkin Street. I used to live in the neighborhood, and it’s one of my very favorite places in the city. It’s the only store I know where I can find early Beat magazines and Betty Page bondage mags under one roof. Their Vintage Smut offerings are incredible — world class — as is their knowledge on the subject.
They’ve got a couple of boxes filled with hundreds of photographs; one box houses the tame, weird stuff, while the other features mostly hard-core smut. I like to rummage through both.
I pull an old Polaroid of a girl wearing a helmet. It’s a motorcycle helmet, but it looks almost like an astronaut’s. Upon closer inspection, I’m not even sure it’s a girl. I’m pretty sure she’s a she, but who knows for sure. I set it aside, but I wasn’t ready to commit my 25 cents for it.
Deeper into the box, I pulled a second pic from the same sitting. This time, she’s looking away in this sort of arty-farty way that intrigued me. I wondered if she had the camera on a tripod and was taking a self-portrait. I wanted to know if she worked in a lab — or if she might have been a doctor. I wanted to know why she was sitting for a picture in her helmet, and why she chose to look away on the second take. I wanted to know why one picture was developed in January, while she waited another month to get the other one developed.
I flipped the second picture over, and since it was priced at a dime, how could I put them back in that box?
Some time later — just a few weeks ago, actually — I bought a new scanner, and the first two things I decided to scan were the pictures of the girl in the motorcycle helmet. And when I started messing around with the two scans in Photoshop, it became clear to me what she was doing in the second picture.
Well, not so clear, really.
But something’s about to go down, and it might not be good.
And at that second, when it dawned on me there was a second person living in this picture, and how that second person radically altered the mood of both pictures — it really startled me. So much so, I’m printing a book featuring the two images…cause that’s how I roll.