Tuesday, August 20, 2013

DeKalb County Cemetery, 1881

Hidden among sprawling shopping centers on Sycamore Road in DeKalb is the DeKalb County Cemetery, a former poorhouse cemetery or "Potter's Field" for the burial of indigent or otherwise unknown people, often transients who were wandering through the county and died. If I hadn't been walking by to explore a nearby trail in a forest preserve, I wouldn't know of its existence. There are many markers with names and dates, and many without. The proximity of this tiny, graceful cemetery and its unremarked-upon history to honking traffic, endless parking lots, and the likes of Michael's Arts and Crafts, Pier One, and Qdoba is striking, to say the least.


Here's a small article about this cemetery at a site devoted to the history of Poorhouses, "tax-supported residential institutions to which people were required to go if they could not support themselves."
They were started as a method of providing a less expensive (to the taxpayers) alternative to what we would now days call "welfare"—what was called "outdoor relief" in those days. People requested help from the community Overseer of the Poor ( sometimes also called a Poor Master)—an elected town official. If the need was great or likely to be long-term, they were sent to the poorhouse instead of being given relief while they continued to live independently. Sometimes they were sent there even if they had not requested help from the Overseer of the Poor. That was usually done when they were found guilty of begging in public, etc.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

In honor of Robert De Niro's 70th birthday

Here he is with Harvey Keitel in Mean Streets (1973), in a scene largely improvised. A few years ago I transcribed the dialogue.

what do you mean what are you doin? what are you doin to me huh?            what do you mean?            michael's been at my back all night he’s botherin me            why didn’t you make your payment last tuesday?            what do you mean I made my payment last tuesday what are you talkin about?            you paid him last week?            yeah I paid him last week c’mon what’d he say he say I didn’t pay him he’s a fuckin liar where is he?            you paid him?            yeah I paid him            last week?            yeah            last tuesday?                        yeah charlie you don’t know            he’s here            where?            out front            he’s here?            yeah            so what do I care?            ok lemme go get him we’ll straighten this thing out alright            hey wait a minute wait a minute charlie yeah you’re right            I’m right            last tuesday?            yeah that’s the tuesday that was last week that’s before the one that’s about to come up            my mistake I’m sorry forgive me it was last week the week before then I was thinkin of yeah            oh yeah it was yeah            that’s right            what’s the matter with you johnny you can’t go around bullshitin people that way you give your word of mouth about something you got to keep it            you don’t know what happened to me I’m so depressed about other things I can’t worry about payment you know what I mean I come home last tuesday I have my money in cash you know bada bing bing I walk home I run into jimmy sparks I owe jimmy sparks seven hundred for like four months I gotta pay the guy he lives in my building hangs out across the street I gotta pay the guy right so what happened I had to give some to my mother then I wound up with twenty five at the end of the week and then what happened today you’re not gonna believe because it’s just incredible I can’t believe it myself I was in a game I was ahead like six seven hundred dollars right on hester street you know joey clams?            yeah             joey scala yeah            I know him too yeah            no joey scala’s joey clams            right right they’re the same person yeah eh            so I was in there playing bankers & brokers all of a sudden I’m ahead like six seven hundred dollars all of a sudden some kid walks in and the kid yells that the bulls are comin right the cops are comin everybody runs away I grab all the money I go in it was an excuse that I could get away right you know and I’d give everybody the money back later and that way I get out I don't get into the game get a losing streak goin and all that what happens I come out in the yard and I don’t know this building I don’t know nothin I couldn’t get out it was like a box bing like this so I gotta go back in not only do I go back in but this kid says it’s a false alarm can you imagine that I wanted to kill this fuckin kid I was so crazed I wanted to kill this kid meanwhile I get back in the game bing bing bing I lose four hundred dollars meanwhile frankie bones is over there I owe him thirteen hundred for like seven eight months already he’s after me I can’t even walk on hester street without duckin that guy he’s waitin for me like I can’t move you know and he sees that I’m losin right so he’s waitin for me here so he’s tappin me on the shoulder and he says hey tappin me like this like a hawk hey get it up you're losin now gimme some money gimme a break over here lemme win some back you know I got debts I mean I’m in a big hole he says never mind gimme the money so gave him two hundred meanwhile I lost the deal I go outside I’m depressed now I know I know I know anyway to make a long story short

Friday, August 16, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Do You See When I See This?

What I see—what I saw, when I went zooming by on a county live road in DeKalb—may have as much to do with my inner camera as with the camera in my hands. A tree in the far distance, a flat horizon, an enormous, cloud-streaked sky. Ordinary elements of composition, striking enough to me. Are you taking the same picture when you stop? I wonder how much of a photograph is created internally, the mechanisms of desire and memory and aesthetics developing in their own private darkroom. What matters to me about an image beyond composition, the aesthetics of the photograph, and the various digital filters—my personal stake, how or why I'm moved—that's a dark semi-private lane. I may or may not see you there.



In my view you cannot claim to have seen something until you have photographed it. (Emile Zola)

You don't take a photograph, you make it. (Ansel Adams)

Monday, August 5, 2013