Sunday, September 14, 2008
The Ballad of Sad Young Men
Besides the many real things to be afraid of and appalled by about Sarah Palin, did she really have to liken herself to a pit bull? As a pit bull lover and former owner who made everyone who happened to land on my blog this summer confront the loss of my dog, I was not the least bit excited and turned on by picturing Sarah as pit-in-lipstick, or convinced that it was an apt portrait. As if pit bulls don't get maligned enough, and frankly, I'd venture to say that Barack possesses more of the strength, intelligence and compassion that I associate with the pit bulls I have known and loved. Not that I necessarily see Sarah as pig-in-lipstick either (that's John McCain in drag), but perhaps more like one of those little, loud, yappy, vicious, sneaky, ankle-biting dogs.
Mostly these past couple of weeks, I have been spending my time worrying. Reading ... worrying ... turning the radio on and off ... worrying ... tuning into some blogs for some shared fears as well as some positive, hopeful thinking which is hard to come by alone ... swimming even more than usual to diffuse the anxiety and to locate some faith and optimism.
One one hand, living in New York City, I can assume that I exist amongst a significant population of peers with similar politics, but it is the America between the east and west coasts that I wonder and worry about come election day, and it is also that part of the country which, as a photographer, I care about the most. I am the kind of photographer who lights up like a kid in a candy shop when I step off the Greyhound bus in anyplace that resembles small town America.
I spent Labor Day weekend in Binghamton, which is currently where my heart is, and not just because my girlfriend lives there. I love the old houses and storefronts frozen in time and a downtown where the bricks haven't entirely succumbed to big box stores. I love the sprawling green trees and the big cloudy sky of a valley in the hills of central New York. I love sitting on a back porch and hearing next to nothing and seeing stars in deep darkness.
On Tuesday after Labor Day, while my girlfriend was at work at the Tri-Cities Opera, I spent the afternoon driving around in her little blue Volkswagon trying to put some of my affinity for Binghamton into images and feeling almost desperate since who knows when I will ever escape New York City again. Actually, if truth be told, I was prowling the streets for sad young men.
At the end of the summer, one of my closest friends in Minnesota, Anthony Stanton, sent me a description for a workshop he is teaching this fall in the theatre department at The St. Paul Conservatory of Music. His class, Heartsong, encourages students to create musical performances based on songs that resonate with our stories, our past, our hopes, our fears, our dreams and our losses. The song that he referenced as his own source of inspiration, The Ballad of Sad Young Men, has been sung by both Shirley Bassey and Roberta Flack and has some resonance in the gay community.
I was sorry I couldn't take his class, though I am barely musical, except when I try to play the violin with my girlfriend. But I, too, found his song inspiring and decided to approach it instead as an exercise in photography to give me some direction as I roamed Binghamton. And I discovered there is no shortage of sad young men in Binghamton and probably in every other town between the coasts. For that matter, who isn't a little sad right now?