A Trip to the Baths

sc0591f38fTennessee Williams’ Amanda Wingfield is a character that I understand. That scene when she appears in the dress in which she “led the cotillion,” the way she waxes about all the gentlemen callers, the opportunities she once had as a young girl, I understand it all. I, too, was once young. And if Amanda appears foolish for trying so desperately to hold onto those treasured days, it’s a foolishness that most of us relate to, perhaps some of us more than others.
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Yesterday, in my blog about three different San Francisco men, I touched on the fact that I’d made a visit to the remains of the Sutro Baths. The Sutro Baths were a large swimming pool complex built in the 19th century. It closed in the 1960s and a fire destroyed the building not long after. For decades, people have visited and walked around the ruins that face the Pacific Ocean. The venerable Cliff House is nearby and tourists and locals can visit both together.

It had been years since I’d hiked around the Sutro Baths ruins. When Eric and I were in the city in June, we drove by, but did not stop and explore. But Tuesday, when I was tooling around the city, I felt I needed to go there, a mission of sorts.
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When I lived in San Francisco, I visited the Sutro Baths on occasion. I must confess, anything with the word baths in it’s name just sounds kind of sexy to me. I’ve seen the old pictures and the reality is probably not nearly as sexy as what I’d imagined. But still, I am a swimmer and I do love history so there was an appeal.

In the summer of 1997, my friend Greg Zukowski, a friend from New York and also a photographer, came to visit San Francisco. We got together and he asked me if I wanted to do a photo shoot with him, maybe something out and about in San Francisco. Because I was young and still loved the idea of having my picture taken, I said yes. I suggested we go to the Sutro Baths and that is where the majority of the pictures were taken. He took picture after picture, I gave him pose after pose. I smized, I tooched. I took off my shirt and posed shirtless. I’ve never had the best torso, but I’d run several miles that morning and felt confident. He asked if I wanted to take off my shorts for a few pictures. And, I figured I’d already been naked in a play and this was San Francisco, really, why shouldn’t I? So I dropped my shorts and posed for a few shots, my Speedo tan line, complimenting my summer skin. I don’t remember ever feeling more handsome.
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I also felt unlimited possibility. I had broken up with my boyfriend but we had remained friends, in fact we still lived together. These were my last weeks in San Francisco; I was moving back to Los Angeles and looked forward to starting the next chapter in my life. I know it’s a cringe-inducing confession, but I thought I was going to go back to Los Angeles and get an agent and start booking commercials and guest starring on Friends and Ellen. Of course, that’s not really how it went down, but, hey, that’s the great thing about hope: it gives you hope.
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Months later, when I was living in Los Angeles, Greg sent me a bundle of pictures with a letter saying that one of my pictures was going to be in an art show he was doing. He sent me a flyer for the show with an image of me. I was thrilled. I felt famous. By then, my Los Angeles reality was not shaping up the way I’d hoped. I still lived on my friend Amy’s couch, not making enough money to get an apartment. I dated with some regularity, but every guy paled in comparison to the ex-boyfriend I’d left in San Francisco. I was lonely and lost. But I loved my little bundle of pictures, they made me feel handsome. Years later, I am so happy I have these wonderful pictures taken by my talented friend Greg.

All of these things were in my thoughts as I wandered around the Sutro Baths on Tuesday morning, taking pictures of the ocean and the rocks and the ruins instead of selfies, because, as it turns out, I don’t like most pictures of myself anymore. Like The Glass Menagerie, it was my own memory play. I’m not young anymore and some days I mourn it’s loss more than others. But there on that overcast breezy morning, with each salty breath I took in, for a few minutes anyway, I was 29 again, slim and tanned and young with a world of boundless opportunity before me.
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The Secret Life of Swimmers

Secret-Life-of-Swimmers-06A few days ago, at the pool, I was telling one of my pool friends about one of my last blog posts, Helen the Mouse.  She told me that she’s fascinated by pool culture as well, in fact, she had created an art project a couple of years ago.  She told me the name of it and indeed, I remembered reading about it when it first came out.  If you live in Culver City, you might remember seeing the images on streetlight pole banners. The pictures are evocative, crisp, sexy, and honest.  I loved them before I knew who did them and now I love them even more. You really never know who is swimming in that lane next to you.

Here is the link to the series.  

http://judystarkman.com/projects-/secret-life-of-swimmers/11/

Vintage Independence

Unknown-1I have to be honest, when I found that vintage postcard of Monkey Island that I used in yesterday’s blog, The Least I Could Do, I was pretty proud of myself.  And then I wondered if I could unearth any more vintage postcards starring my hometown.  I found a few, all of them very cool.  So I decided to make a little album and share them with you.  And if you have an old Independence postcard that would fit nicely into this album, by all means, send it to me and I’ll add it to the rest.  

Pretty, Funny Ladies

Mary

Mary

I have always been a sucker for a pretty lady who could make me laugh.  If you are reading this and you are my friend and you are female, the odds are 100% that you are a pretty lady that makes me laugh.  I am very blessed in the pretty, funny friend department, so I thought I’d post a few pictures of the pretty, funny ladies who’ve made me laugh since I was little.  I know it’s an incomplete list, I’ll probably go back and add pictures for the next few days because someone will occur to me and I’ll return here and make an addition.  Some of these women are known for their beauty, some of these women are known for their comedy, and some are known for both.  If you think of someone I HAVE to add, please tell me, there’s always room for one more pretty, funny lady!

What’s in Your Locker?

53-119Some of you might be familiar with the story of Vivian Maier.  She was an American woman who worked as a nanny for the majority of her life.  She was a private person who often took pictures on her days off.  It was really only after her death, that the world discovered her photographs, when a stranger bought the contents of her storage locker in an auction.  Many of the rolls of film had never been developed.  Her work is now considered among the finest American street photography, with comparisons to Diane Arbus and Lisette Model. It’s scary to think that it could easily have never been discovered.  I doubt Vivian herself could have imagined the way her art would come to light and continue to touch the hearts of people.  I saw the exhibition that was held at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery a couple of years ago and the photos are beautiful and haunting and sad and whimsical and rich.  Vivian Maier had a gift and I’m glad someone discovered her gift and shared it with the rest of us.

What is in your storage locker?  We are all artists, every one of us.  You can read more about her at vivianmaier.com, you won’t be the only one to sit and wonder what her life must have been like.  As the website says, she is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.  You can look at her story as tragic or hopeful or both. But we all have something magical that we store away and we hope that someday, somehow, our art will see the light of day.