California

a saturday

After running about ten errands in an hour–not exaggerating–I went off to find the Earth day event in Altadena, just north of Pasadena. I never found it, but my wanderings brought me all the way to the foot of the San Gabriel mountains, and I marveled that I’d never thought of driving all the way there in the last six months. In fact, this was my first pointless driving exploration in all the time I’ve been here. I isolated some very promising hiking trails in the foothills, and bumped into very friendly people, lots of dog owners (including of an adorable bullmastiff-ridgeback cross) and some landscape painters.

I drove back East on Altadena to try and find the Earth day thing again–my intent was to take portraits of people there–and came across the gelato place that just opened on Altadena: Bulgarini’s. There was a massive spread of publicity on LA gelaterias and this was the most lyrical and effusive article you’d ever come across about ice cream, they literally waxed poetic about the pistacchio. So I stopped in, because I remembered that today was their opening day and it was free ice cream from 12 to 8 PM. I stood in line probably 45 minutes listening to my iPod and watching crazy kids play, and talking to their parents and generally enjoying the crowd brought together by the promise of free sweets.

The ice cream was good, the pistacchio very excellent but I missed the black cocoa from Ile Saint Louis’s Berthillon…such the snob that I am.

After that, I went to the bookstore. I got a parting gift for my boss, the Lonely Planet Paris, my constant companion when I was living there, and looked at photo books, then bought the new biography on Einstein by walter Isaacson. I knew instantly that this was the next book I was going to read, especially after getting the 40% off coupon from Borders, and I highly recommend it. I’ve already put a dent in the book and there are some priceless stories in there, and you’ll just come out richer from having spent time with the “impudent” Albert. It’s a gem, a real gem. Run to it!

I went home to craft a sign, which I thought was particularly creative. It says in black on bright green poster board “FREE Portraits! (photo class assignment)” the whole thing attached to a little wooden rod. My romantic idea was to plant it in the ground next to me in the park, reading my Einstein book and hope that people would see me as a harmless art student, not some creep wanting to take photos of their kids. So the next thing I did, was drive to my newly-discovered favorite park, adjacent to Caltech. I parallel-parked very poorly (I was nervous) and decided to test the waters with the book and the camera first, without the sign. I sat on a bench, the park lady (who’s been there every time I’ve been there, with a green chenille sweater wrapped around her face) a few benches down, and sitting near the swings. It was overcast, and there was a boisterous birthday party in the far corner. I never mustered up the courage to bring out the sign, but I did meet a Caltech biologist who was playing with her daughter, and is originally from Benin! So I gave her one of my little cards (taken of the beach in Pointe-Noire) and we said we’d meet for coffee.

After that I figured I was never going to pull out that loud sign anyway, and thought it was a pretty productive ten minutes in the park to meet one of probably a handful of Beninese in this area. So I left rather content, but still a bit embarrassed.

I went to have dinner at my favorite Thai place, and they teased me for not having come in at least a month, almost refusing to talk to me, saying I’d moved out of the neighborhood. They finally fed me and I came home to Einstein, kind of wondering how someone as shy as me is ever going to take people’s portraits or even venture into street photography, which is what this class is about. At least I’m tackling my big fears by even staying enrolled in the class. Luckily I have two volunteers for tomorrow morning…

To be continued.

One thought on “a saturday

  1. I’ve never thought of you as “shy”. Take some portraits of the old lady with the green chenile wrapped around her head!

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