Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Take Me Home I'm Finished

Francis Street, Dublin

"You write until you come to a place where you will still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again... When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through."
--Ernest Hemingway

Friday, November 5, 2010

Skull Hunting in Venice

Venice, Italy

The bus from Venice trundled down the long causeway, carting a dazed load of passengers away from the world's most improbable city. I was one of them that day, weary and delirious on a still-bright July evening after my first day of exploring this odd settlement, this treasure nest, this town built on sticks in a swamp.

It's easy to fall in love with Venice. But for me, it isn't about the picture-perfect vistas or the Guggenheim or the 80 cent prosecco you can by from a kiosk alongside the Grand Canal. OK, it's kind of about the 80 cent prosecco you can buy from a kiosk alongside the Grand Canal. But Venice, with its serpentine lanes and secret bridges and dead-ends, is the sort of place where I feel like someone took a screwdriver, dug into the control panel in my brain where the deepest dreams are stored, and programmed a place just for me. My map was useless. I just gave up, and let myself be led.

Just when I thought I'd succumbed to Stendhal Syndrome -- that condition where you pretty much drop dead from overexposure to culture and beauty -- just when I thought it couldn't get any better, I gazed out of the bus window on the way back to the hotel and -- what was that blur I saw? -- SKULLS! Skull signs! Skull signs on a rusty railway bridge! First one, then the next zipped past while I craned my neck to gawk at these high-speed flashes of silver and rust. A morbid procession of eerie warnings flashed past my vision, an entire typographical ossuary. The Rialto Bridge? Yeah, yeah. Sipping prosecco on a gondola on the Grand Canal? Uh-huh. Whatevs. Whisk me off to Venice and all I'm gonna do is slum for skull signs.

The bus passed over the bridge before I could dig up my camera, carting me off to the Hotel Ambasciatori. There I dragged my luggage into the lobby, checked in, and obsessed. About the skull signs. I knew there'd be no rest in my head till I went back to find them and photograph them. Time and distance can be hard to judge in a foreign city with a fizzy head full of bubbly. I knew this. Nevertheless, I gave my head an optimistic scratch and thought to myself whimsically: Well then, how about I just pop out a minute with my camera and take a little stroll to that bridge over the railroad tracks? How far could it possibly be?

Forty-five minutes later, eyes squinting in the hot sun, I arrived to my destination. Skullbridge. Granted, trudging uphill through the industrialized outskirts of Venice isn't everyone's cuppa tea, but it's not a bad way to spend an afternoon. And granted, skull signs are their own reward. But I do recall the weird feeling as I stood by the side of the road, alone in my derelict pilgrimage, stared at by well-to-do Venetians on Vespas as I angled my camera over the rusted railroad tracks. One reason is as good as any when it comes to collecting images. It was a long slog, yes. But worth it. You do it for the love of the quest.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Skull Orchard

Temple Bar, Dublin

I'm two days late for Halloween. I'm up to my neck in offline writing. This image doesn't have any typography in it. Or numbers. Or ampersands. What does it have, then, you ask? Skulls. Lots and lots of skulls. And when you're racing toward a deadline, it's good to have a couple of these fellas grinning at you. Perspective, call it.