I'm still painting feathered creatures. I got a new camera last year, an entry level SLR. I'm not a materialistic person, but I have an attachment to this camera that borders on unhealthy. I love it so much, I think my kids feel in competition with it. They do however, think it's hysterically funny that I would rather give up all my clothes and be naked than give up my camera. I think I'm serious when I tell them that. The only thing that I've discovered that bothers me about my new camera, is that it didn't automatically make me a great photographer.
After shooting about 1000 pictures these past two weeks, I got maybe 15 good shots. I was so frustrated by my ineptitude, I blamed my surroundings instead of myself. I told myself I was hanging out too much in beautiful places. All these lakes and mountain vistas, I've been oversaturated by beauty, maybe I needed something grittier, more urban. I don't have anything urban in my commuter suburb town, but there is a run down area, by the train tracks and the river. When I told my husband I was going there to take pictures, he said with a smirk (and probably a little truth) , "watch out for the Hell's Angels".
My first time I went down by the river was years ago, just before Christmas. I received some kind of government cheque in the mail, wrong person, wrong address. Working in social services at the time, I assumed it was a welfare cheque. I felt terrible about the mistake and imagining some poor man with no money before Christmas and the hassle he would have to go through to get another cheque, I decided to hand deliver the cheque myself (I was naive and didn't know you weren't allowed to do that at the time).
I was surprised when I found the address on the map. I knew there was a shake and shingle mill and some run down businesses but I didn't think anybody lived by the river. When I got there, I discovered, nestled among a few industrial type shops were several houses. They were decrepit shacks that looked like they should have been condemned. I found the address and noticed two men in a wrecked car on the lawn, obviously strung out on drugs. I pegged it for a crack house and wanted to turn around but didn't because... I'm sort of stupid and a little determined sometimes.
As I was trying to muster up some nerve to get out of my car, a man walked out of the house, a big, mean and scary looking biker dude. I thought, oh God, look at him! he's killed people! I just know it, this is it, I'M GOING TO DIE TODAY. Nobody will hear my screams and oh, how convienient, there's the river! They don't even have to drive, they can just walk over and throw in my cold, lifeless, dead body.
The man didn't speak, he just stared at me suspiciously . I croaked out a weak "Hi, uh, are you _________? "
"Oh, well, ha, umm...I guess I got your mail by mistake, I thought you might need it" and screamed silently to myself, "PLEASE DON'T KILL ME!"
He took it, said nothing and left. As I drove away, calming myself down, I started to think, "I know that man from somewhere" but I couldn't place where it was I had seen him.
Several weeks later, passing by a lottery kiosk in a store where I often shopped, there he was. It was a picture of him that had been hanging there for about a year. He had the same suspicious, unsmiling expression as he held up a nice fat cheque in his hand. He had bought a winning ticket at the kiosk and won the lottery, a six figure sum.
What the hell was he doing living in that falling apart shack by the river, getting government cheques? I'll never know.
The riverfront is slowly changing. One day, probably sooner than later, the shacks and old shops will be gone and there will be ice cream kiosks, cafes and tourist shops where you can buy Indian dreamcatchers made by authentic white suburban housewives doing piecework while watching The View. People will take leisurely strolls down there with their families and their dachshunds and toy poodles. Until then, here are some of the pictures I took last week. The robin I painted above was there, looking a bit rough around the edges. But that's to be expected, he lives down by the river.