Never in a million years. Well, not for the last few anyway. I wouldn’t ever have thought that I would be cheeky enough to put a picture of my feet on the blob. Actually the phrase “my feet” and “blob” seem to go... dare I say it.. “hand in hand?” For a dozen years [Editor’s Note: upcoming is T.M.I.] I have been plagued by what is called in the popular media, “unsightly toenail fungus.”
The kind of stuff that turns otherwise normal looking people into stand-ins for the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Having never spent much time in golf club locker rooms, or gyms for that matter (my exercise bike is home, much more convenient) where those weirds microbes lurk I was kind of surprised when it first struck. My dad had broken a toe in the forties, and for years, that one great toe of his had that yellowy, scary, layered, “I just took out the garbage” look to it. It was a thing of wonder really. Of course just being different made it somewhat interesting, the kind of curiosity you feel when you can’t help looking at someone with some sort of flaw to which you attempt to avert your eyes, but in the end, succumb merely for curiosity’s sake. Aging, it is said, is not for the faint of heart, and when you remain someone with an essentially 14 year’s view of the world, as I do, the tough parts about growing up are not only personally challenging, they can be baffling.
As a kid two of my uncles, Uncle Max and Uncle Joe were favorites. They looked like an Uncle should look. Kindly round unaggressive faces, ever present hints of a smile, and bald heads. Oh, they had a bit of hair ringing their crowns, but essentially, they were prime candidates for the missionaries of the Hair Club for Men. Uncle Max was a special fave since he always, and I mean always, had a roll of Cherry Lifesavers in his pocket and was willing to dispense them virtually instantly. You only got ONE, but you always GOT one. If either of them had actually had a head of luxuriant dark Brylcreem’d locks like my dad, I don’t think I would have seen them in the same way. There was that extra little “worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize” effect that baldness seemed to reserve that made you feel just a bit more comfy in their presence.
ph: Tom Zimberoff (circa 1978)
As someone who once sported a Jew-fro’ of the first order, and was told more than once by the photographer behind me that they would be able to get a much clearer shot if only my hair didn’t stick up so far, it has slowly come to me of late that the richness of that mane is particularly time-sensative. As in, at this time, it will no longer be like that. It must be how women feel who see their hair going from that Virginia Mayo / Lustre Creme commercial richness to a very lifeless grey, something akin to George Washington.
And while many of us would aspire to be worthy of George’s wisdom, judgment, and leadership qualities, his hair would probably not be the object of such 21st century adoration. This is all part of the plot where they tell you that apparently you missed the briefing... What briefing, you ask? Oh, the briefing where they tell you that your body has other plans: that great mane of hair you had, the one that is disappearing from your head, will start to make appearances on other parts of your body. Now can anyone explain to me just why you have to reach your sixth decade for your ears to all of a sudden begin to develop rich, dark, vibrant curls, when for your whole life they were as sleek as a sharks tummy? Is it a vain attempt by your eardrums to send a message? Somewhere inside your ears, do those drums, unable to wave their arms and shout “I can’t hear a frickin THING anymore!” just grab whatever follicles they can, as if to layout a stretch of ground art – like the aliens did in Peru centuries ago? It’s a lousy way to send a message if that is their intent. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where, to be sure, there is a different attitude about body hair generally, I shared locker space with a chap from Bosnia. He cannot have been over 35. And he looked quite normal, save for two of the most enormous, untended, wild tufts of hair sprouting, and I do mean sprouting, from the front of his ears, that I have ever seen. Trying to look him in the eye while discussing the results of the bicycle team racing event of that afternoon was like how I imagine it must have been for an interviewer to be sitting backstage chatting with Jayne Mansfield, and look her right in the eye. You just can’t do it. This guy’s ears had the same exact fascination for me as watching the cleanup of an automobile accident. Cracked glass, torn metal everywhere, big dents and twisted frames. You can’t walk by and NOT look at it.
So I find it funny that so much time and money is spent on trying to get us to buy what the pharma companies are selling – on the evening news programs there are ads for Lipitor, Viagra, Nexium, and who knows what else. But forget those serious conditions – blocked arteries, sexual performance and tummy aches are nothing when you have to stare at your very own toes each time you hop out of bed, or take a shower. I had taken one of those drugs for toe fungus called Lamisil for a few months about ten years ago –don’t be put off by the warnings about potential liver and kidney disease, and the notice not to allow it anywhere near where barn animals gather – and it actually started to clear things up. And then one night late, just before going to bed, I accidently dropped a 600 mm (that’s one of the really BIG ones) lens right on my toe. It’s not the recommended treatment for insomnia, believe me, and my ravaged tootsie finally just gave up, and went back to its old ugly self. I stopped taking the Lamisil and have accepted, not unlike the rest of my self, what it will be. So this morning when I hopped out of bed, and answered a phone call, I was amazed to look down and see this wonderful composition: my feet in a box of light that the morning sun was creating next to the bed. I ran downstairs and grabbed my new Ricoh R8 (a very slick tiny tiny camera with a big heart) and shot a few frames.
The key, I think is not to look for too much detail. Imagine these might be Cary Grant’s feet, or even Jimmy Stewart. Actually, I suppose Karl Malden or Leo McKern might be a little more on target. But part of aging is getting to be comfy with what it is that you have, and this morning, by the light of that great softbox in the sky, even my very own clodhoppers looked worthy of a moment to themselves. We’re just sayin..David
This picture of the Air Force Memorial, near the Pentagon, was shot in March of this year (last week, actually) with the M4 Leica in the 'fro picture above. Viva la Leica