It’s about time to leave the city for a week or so—we’re driving down 1 to Monterey and Big Sur for a couple of days, then on to Santa Barbara, and then to the scary Los Angeles. We’ve loaded up on Blue Bottle Coffee, and the camera batteries are charging as we speak. Yes, I’ve been reading Kerouac’s Big Sur to get a jump on the trip. I suppose I should have gotten some Henry Miller at the library, too, but I forgot about it and picked up some William Maxwell instead. In the back of my mind I hope the trip will inspire a new project to make up for the failure of the last one, but then I remember the last novel was conceived on the last trip to Big Sur. I’m over-thinking this. All I should be doing is enjoying M’s company, taking pretty pictures, and enjoying the scenery. Next week will be all about writing the syllabus for the online craft class…
bronspix said: love yr blog, the pics & journ entries - what r yr biggest influences: writers, music, poets and art wise? Would have asked on yr blog but it didn’t seem to work. Have a great day:) rgds Bronwyn
Thanks for following, and thanks for asking! And I wouldn’t mind reading yours, either.
Like everyone, I like to believe that the list is wide and all-encompassing, but probably revolves around a few core influences. In writing, my favorite books are Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, and The Easter Parade by Richard Yates. These are grim, serious books, but they’re also very funny. F. Scott Fitzgerald is up there, too, and Raymond Carver. I’ve been fortunate enough to study with some of my idols, such as Denis Johnson, Tobias Wolff, and Lorrie Moore, and they’re influences to a certain extent. I’m an American Indian (Ojibwe), and the traditional stories have provided me with character archetypes and a certain irreverent understanding of human interaction that I’m usually using in my writing.
I’ve played guitar and drums for most of my life now, and occasionally I sit in at a blues jam in downtown San Francisco. Blues is the basis of my playing. My style is indebted to Lightnin’ Hopkins, BB King, Freddie King, Chuck Berry, Louis Myers, Big Bill Broonzy, Magic Sam, Jimmie Vaughn—this list goes much further. I tend to go through quarterly Rolling Stones phases, when I’ll listen to nothing but the Stones. I also love The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), which is more indie pop, I suppose you’d consider it. I never wrote very many songs—I was too embarrassed by the banality of my lyrics, although I still like some of the music I’ve written. There’s a barrier between music and writing, in that I don’t listen to music when I write, and I haven’t been able to write good songs. I feel like reconciling these two huge parts of my life has been a failure on my part.
Artists…For photographers, I always liked Henri Cartier-Bresson and Enrique Mentinides (also known as “Mexico’s Weegee”). I love Gustave Caillebotte paintings—this one’s my desktop:
I’m a big fan of photographer Jeff Wall, who mocked up Ellison’s Invisible Man’s basement (with all the lightbulbs) for a light box photo. His cityscapes and street shots are also really interesting.
Already this list is longer than I’d like it to be. I’d like to point to just a couple and leave it at that, but you know how it is once you begin talking.
I take a lot of photographs with my iPhone, usually Hipstamatics because they just look better than the standard camera. In order to get decent photos, I have to take a lot of shots, and most of them end up in the bin. I’ll ballpark it at 20 shots: 1 post. I love it when they turn out, and the upshot to having so many photos is that I can follow my footsteps on an almost week-to-week basis for the past four years or so.
The downside, of course, is that I look like a total dork with my phone always held out in front of me walking down the street. I try to hold it more discreetly, and I try to take the pictures as fast as I can (which results in a lot of blurry shots in the Hipsta queue). I wonder if other people have the problem where their friends/family/significant others always roll their eyes at them whenever they go out into the world, surreptitiously reach for the phone, and aim it at yet another cloud or tree.
Hasn’t stopped me, either. And yes, I’ve been left behind quite often. All this hassling. “Catch up!” “Ooh, a rusted bulldozer on the beach! Ain’t seen that before!” “Watch out for that MUNI!” I guess it’s sort of an alone thing to do.