|2005 27th year |
same old address:
|Charley and I stood at the window in what was the chemistry lab of Victor School, looking west over the town that once was the fifth largest city in Colorado; that was 100 years ago. Now, a thousand sturdy souls reside in a community that has the single purpose of bringing gold out of the bowels of the earth. It is August and at 10,000 feet, winter is lurking. Sunny, cold and windy. Very windy. |
The only tourist in town hesitates at the corner of Victor Avenue and Third Street, studying the road signs, and scurries east toward Colorado Springs and eventually Kansas. The rickety old red truck with a oversized camper bounces along Third, just looking for a way out of town and into a more civilized climate. It’s almost as funny as picturing him/her/them dialing their cell phone. A bench marks the place where Goodie “two shoes” Knight used to sun himself and direct tourist traffic. If they were nice he pointed them down the easiest road, the old Gold Camp rail bed. If they were smart asses, they were directed down Phantom Canyon, one of Colorado’s, steepest, narrowest and most scary byways; thirty two miles of white knuckle washboard that can intimidate a mountain goat.
Retreating to my favorite place in the building, the janitor’s workshop, the reminiscing continues. This is a special place. A place that every man needs experience to be a real man. In the basement of course, with one dim bare light bulb, the back wall is fieldstone. The floor is solid nuts, bolts, washers and miles of questionable extension cords. In the corners are old leftover Christmas trees. A wooden wall is covered with Colorado license plates. A sturdy bench runs along a wall and holds several non-working electric drills. There are dozens of paint cans and who knows the contents. One can feel the presence of earlier coverall clad janitors, farting along. Eating bologna and onion sandwiches, belching and happily cursing as they tend “their” school.
Off and on for 27 years Suzie and I have run a photo program here, in the old high school, and 2004 was designed to be the finale. In 2003 we took back the school, one more time, and decided during the major clean up that was sorely needed, we’d do one more program. The neglect and repair were completed and some workshops happened, but the most worthwhile thing that came off was my time to think about, rehash if you will, my last several decades in the workshop business.
Victor can be a place of solitude. The remains of a once substantial mountain mining town has none of the allure of an Aspen, Jackson, Santa Fe, Carmel or other tourist trap, glitzy community loaded with trinkets and over priced everything to distract a visitor. If you let it, it will seep into your very bones. It is the kind of place to find one’s self. (That is, if you are searching.) Everybody knows everybody, and probably also knows your bank balance and how often you beat your wife. There isn’t much room or time for phonies. Everyone smokes. Children are born with a cigarette in their mouth. Everyone is armed. No one is a card-carrying environmentalist. Trucks are the main form of transportation. Big trucks, with big wheels and tires and a rifle rack in the window and an unleashed dog in the rear. The dirtier the better. Straw hats and plaid flannel shirts are in, and lace-up boots. If you want to see the mayor, just walk in her office; the door is open. Expect plain, blunt talk. Or, you can usually catch her at lunch at the Fortune Club, double burger and coffee. The city council is dominated by strong-willed women who can smell a con artist from miles away, and decisions that would take a year to turn in Carmel, are snapped off in minutes in Victor, and they’re rarely wrong. When you talk to people they look at you. They look hard, and they listen. After all, you could be one of those tree huggers, or worse yet a Democrat. (Colorado is staunchly Republican. A hundred years ago Alfred Packer ate three of the five Democrats in Lake County).
From May into October, this was the longest stay I’ve made in Victor. Time to think about the future. I remember the first workshop I ever went to, with Ansel Adams in Carmel in 1961. The first workshop I ever taught at; with AA in Yosemite in 1963. Then fast forward through the calendars to last fall at the Pinnacles. I can’t tell you how many there were. I don’t keep track of such trivia.
So, you keep thinking I’m going to get to the RENDEZVOUS date soon. Not yet. Time for a commercial. Last year I scheduled 18 workshops, mostly in Colorado. Only about half ran. Now, people are writing and wondering when the workshops are going on in 2005. Too late. I did make it to Montana with David Vestal at the Photographers’ Formulary. We had a grand time. Swell group. Great place, the Formulary. If a workshop with David and me appeals to you, you missed it. And it ain’t going to happen again next year. David is tired of the long trip and says no more.
Workshops? Sure, once in a while. Once a year the Rendezvous. A nice civilized location with grassy campsites and nearby air-conditioned motels and flush toilets. Then once in a while, when I’m up for it, a run to the desert. In the dirt and wind and silence. Where everyone goes home looking about Zone V, and the heavens are real at night and the serenading of coyotes. Something to look forward to.
What’s next. Back into the real darkroom and make some real black and white prints; because I like my darkroom and everything that goes with it. No computer station shall EVER replace the magnificent womb like surround of a real wet darkroom and the subdued light and the smell of hypo, and the quiet. No Epson or HP or Sony here. Rodenstock and Beseler and Leitz and Kodak (they can go away, but no darkroom shall ever escape the presence of Kodak.) Thanks George, for a lifetime of most reliable products. The trickle of a Cascade Washer, the soft hum of a surplus stabilizer, the buzz of a Thomas safelight, and Johnny Adams playing jazz on an old AM radio. Elton John, gag. Billy Holiday, hooray.
So, would you like to stay with me in a smaller and more personal mailing list? Tell me, and I’ll start a whole new roster.
|The Rendezvous|| |
October 21-23. $125. King City. Prior Weber workshop attendees only. Campsite and one Pietrzak dinner included.
Information will be sent upon application.
October 21, Friday, at 5:00 P.M. A martini, at my truck, in memory of our great friend, Dick Baker, There shall never be another.
|Well, that's it for now, see you when I see you, |