ABOUT THE AUTHOR
It is difficult to determine when I decided to be a photographer. Perhaps at the age of 13 when I was given a camera, made of plastic by Kodak, and commandeered a closet in the basement, decorating it with a small cardboard sign;
DO NOT DISTURB
WORLD’S GREATEST PHOTOGRAPHER AT WORK
Perhaps at age 30, when I abandoned my family, stuck my two Leica M2s into my pockets and became a homeless hippie to document the “Flower Child” phenomenon. Instead of becoming a famous photographer, I overdosed with LSD and eventually became a Hare Krishna. For seven long years I chanted the mantra:
“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama Rama Rama, Hare Hare”
two thousand times each and every day, do or die. During this “Era” my only contact with “Reality” was a book of photographs by Henri Cartier – Bresson
Eventually the chanting purified my mind, and I bid farewell to the intolerably chauvinist hierarchy of the movement, and found myself in the streets of San Francisco with nothing in my pockets except Krishna’s promise that I would not perish.
All my attempts to become a normal person ended in failure, and I gravitated toward the idea that it would be advantageous to terminate this life and make a fresh start, preferably on some other planet. Deciding to give it the appearance of an accident, I drove my auto off the backside of Mt. Tamalpais, but a small oak tree arrested the long plunge, and I emerged unharmed.
Angered by yet another failure, I decided on the uncomfortably plebian but indisputably effective dive off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Although suitably anesthetized with marijuana, my inherent fear of heights kept me from jumping, and I decided to close my eyes and lean forward until I lost my balance and fell. As I was doing so I felt a tapping on my shoulder and, looking back, saw a neatly dressed gentleman of short stature; obviously a European tourist of some sort. He did not speak, but handed me his Canon AE-1 and stepped back, straightening his tie and smoothing his hair.
I climbed down off the railing and made several snapshots of him on the famous bridge, whereupon he took his camera and departed without even a nod of appreciation, and with total indifference to my predicament. This planted a seed of irritation, which rapidly grew into indignation and forced me to postpone my demise, for departure in an aggravated frame of mind would jeopardize a favorable re-entry.
As I was walking off the bridge I became aware of the humor of my situation, and of the existence of a moral obligation to myself. Since I had nothing to live for, and nothing to lose, I had to make a total attempt at my childhood braggadocio. Impetuously I resolved that if Fate were to cast me into the gutter, I would be holding an old Leica as I lay there.
It took the better part of a year to accumulate enough money for a scruffy and overpriced black M-2. My ambition was to travel to Central America, and to the Middle East, to document Uncle Sam’s feats of folly, but the iron grip of poverty kept me chained to the trivia of everyday life in the streets of San Francisco.