Drop 132: Choices

burrata and heirloom tomato‘What do you think?’

They are standing outside the restaurant reading its menu, which is on a little stand.

‘Looks amazing!’

‘I know, right! I think we finally found our place.’

‘The salmon looks awesome.’

‘Yeah, and it comes with fennel and garlic mash. I just love fennel.’

‘Tell me a bout it! The only thing I love more is garlic mash.’ She scans a few more items. ‘What about the burrata and heirloom tomato salad?’

‘Oh my god, looks super tasty. Great minds think alike. Any others that grab ya?’

‘Yup, one more.’

‘Me too. Bet it’s the same.’

‘You thinking bouillabaisse?’

‘Boy, am I! Bouillabaisse is driving a Harley all over my brain.’

‘Yeah, those three stand out, for sure. Choices, choices.’

‘Yup—well, whatever we choose, we’re going to feast, girl!’

‘We sure are! I’m famished.’

‘We could even get all three.’

 

‘Welcome ladies, so happy you’ve joined us,’ the waiter says, handing them menus.

‘Oh, we know what we want.’

‘Alrighty, but just to let you know, we have a special today: rack of lamb with prune compote serve on—’

‘Oh, no, we’re set. We were looking outside.’ She smiles. ‘I’ll have the—’

‘Yeah, just to also let you know,’ he says, smiling back, ‘that we are out of,’—he leans over the table and points at an item on the menu with his pinkie—‘the bouillabaisse.’

‘Oh, well that makes it easier then. So, I guess she’ll have the burrata and I’ll have—’

‘Ooh, sorry, that’s the one other item we’re currently out of.’

‘Seriously? Boy, that’s kind of lame. Well, at least you have the—’

‘Just a second, ladies.’ The waiter presses two fingers to his earpiece. ‘They just made a liar out of me,’ he says, shrugging. ‘We just lost the salmon and garlic mash too.’

By EM Vireo

Drop 131: Cinema

IMG_5443Man, some movie I watched last night!

Oh yeah?

Yeah. Production value was incredible—the acting just phenomenal.

Cool.

The whole cast was outstanding, really. I heard the main guy dropped like 50 pounds to play the lead. Looked all gaunt and shit. So convincing. So authentic.

Cool.

And Arkoff did the score.

Love him.

Huge complex soundscapes. So good. So clean. And you should have seen the costumes. These gaudy period pieces, totally genuine. Amazing work. Great set design and special effects too. Just genius. Heard the budget was like 150 mil.

Wow. So, it was amazing?

Amazing? God no! It was awful. Switched channels half an hour in.

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 130: Hookah

lover A waiter brings a hookah to a table nearby.

Ah, Jim thinks, maybe I’ll get us one of those. She’ll dig it. Apple tobacco—no, cherry. Will be cool to hang out, drink and smoke. Learn more about one another. Build this spark, this ember into something bigger, warmer, tastier—what a perfect metaphor for the beginnings of love. Haven’t met a girl like her for … well, forever. She has so much more than looks. She has smarts, opinions, strength. And our tastes are so similar, with music (well, except for Elliott Smith), movies (except for Charlie Kaufman’s stuff), books and all.

He raises his hand for the waiter.

Man, I don’t want to jinx it, but this one feels good and I want it bad. And it feels like we are already so close, that it’s just a matter of destiny playing out! That love has already laid claim to us and is just waiting for a cue.

‘God,’ she says, squinting at a man blowing smoke, ‘nothing as stupid as a fucking hookah, right? I mean, can you try any harder to look cool without actually being cool? Okay, maybe it works for some bearded dude in Turkey, but for any white guy it’s the epitome of modern douche uncool. No opinion, no personality. Um, yeah, give me one of them funky pipes with that yummy flavored tabacky everyone’s having. How about apple—no, cherry! Jesus. What a fucking crock!’

‘I totally agree,’ he says, dropping his arm. ‘Total bull.’ The waiter’s already coming over.

‘Cool. I like that about you Jim. You dig the cool shit I dig, except for not liking Elliott Smith, of course—oh, and Charlie Kaufman movies. Guy’s so great!’ She frowns and shakes her head almost imperceptibly. ‘Anyway, you’re not all about the bullshit, and I appreciate that.’

‘Yeah.’

The waiter arrives. ‘Did you want to order something?’ he asks.

‘Oh. Did you want another drink?’ Jim asks Sadie.

‘Mine’s still full but fuck it, sure, let’s get another round.’ She smiles at him in a way she hasn’t before. ‘Like I said, I like the way you think—I really do.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 129: Procession

invisible manJohn and I stopped on the sidewalk beside a large store window. A few seconds later an obese man in a fluorescent yellow bikini squeaked by on a unicycle. Not ten paces back, five monkeys in top hats scurried by in pursuit, then a bald, topless woman with enormous breasts, a man on sapphire stilts, and a lady juggling miniature versions of herself, who were, in turn, miraculously also juggling smaller versions of themselves. Not far behind, a yogi in robes rolled by on belly and back, then came a headless midget riding a tapir, and a large humanoid robot on enormous mechanical strides.

John mumbled something I didn’t catch as I watched a man made of multicolored mirrors stroll by holding hands with a three-armed girl whose hair was on fire, sending flames ten feet high.

And just like that, they were gone.

‘Wow,’ I said, turning to John. ‘Crazy! Circus in town, you reckon?’

‘Huh?’

‘What do you think that was all about?’

‘What?’

‘The procession that just went by.’

‘Came by? Huh? I wasn’t looking. I was checking out this jacket here. Think I should get it? Isn’t it incredible? Just look at the shine on those buttons! Anyway, dude, you wanna come or not?”

‘To what?’

‘Santiago’s pool party! Christ, you never fucking pay attention.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop 128: Lucky Man

tea smoked egg‘That was just amazing, Jolene.’

‘Thanks Bill.’

‘Yes,’ said Mary, ‘just delicious. You’re a lucky man George.’

‘That I am.’

‘How did you get the potatoes so smooth and creamy?’

‘Now, that’s a secret,’ said Jolene.

‘Come on, at least give me the recipe for that tea-smoked egg!’

‘I’ll email it to you tomorrow.’

‘Seriously,’ said Bill. ‘Best meal I’ve had in ages. I can’t believe that chicken sausage was home-made!’

‘Well, believe it!’

‘And that sauce! I haven’t tasted such depth since … since Paris. God, George, don’t let this one get away. She’s too good to be true.’

‘Absolutely, Bill. I don’t intend you.’

 

‘Can I fix you a drink?’ George asked Jolene when their dinner guests had left. ‘You sure deserve one after that incredible performance.’ He smiled warmly at her.

‘Oh God, yes please. You fix the best drinks.’

‘That’s true.’

‘Thanks for not saying anything,’ Jolene said when George gave her her glass.

‘Come on,’ he said, ‘you peeled the potatoes—and the carrots! That was a critical job.’

‘Shut up!’ she said, slapping his shoulder.Oh, can you send me—’

‘It’s already in your inbox.’

‘You’re the best.’

‘I might be, but you know, what they said was still true.’ He kissed her. “George really is a very lucky man.’

By E.M. Vireo

Another Hong Kong

tunnel visionWhen people think of Hong Kong they think modernity and money. They see skyline; they see lights. And yes, there’s plenty of that around. The sound of construction is ubiquitous here. It’s always more and faster, newer and better – go go go! Development is a galloping beast.

But we’ve seen the big buildings, we’ve absorbed the clean lines. They only offer what the world already knows. Below I have documented a different Hong Kong. One that lies in ruin. One that was left behind. The photos are from 2 locations: an abandoned TV studio and a deserted farming village.

We speak here of places and objects that once were, but still cling to the now in ways that are no longer whole, but still show a soul. There is beauty in this ruin, in this dirt and loss, often more so than in the neat arrangements and bright lights of the rushing, thriving city. We might find some greater, more giving truth in this callous advance, this slow decay.

Perhaps we relate cause we are also broken down, or breaking down in some way. And then, eventually we will all lose the battle with time, no matter how stubbornly we persist. In the meantime, we meet what is still here – capture it again with camera, with memories, with love and fear. What was useful becomes useful now in different ways. And we find beauty anew.

a long shot

all seeing eye

beach day

blue

cave paintingsgoing nowhere

Framed

leveled

LC

no smokin

rabbit

Slim

splitting dark

to a system

turquoise scene

x_bound to be

x_power lunch

x_indrawer shot

All pics by EM Vireo

 

Drop 127: Carnage

bruiseA fly lands on my cheek as I push the door open. The stench hits me as I step inside. Denial is reflexive but it soon makes way for raw disgust. Sickened through, I take it in: carnage on a devastating scale.

They are everywhere and not one can be saved; in fact, most already show extensive decay. They lie there, bruised and broken near a dirty knife, covering much of the marble slab. Some are carelessly stacked on top of one another, two, three, four deep. Others have been skinned and cut into bits. A few have ended on the floor

What terrible loss; what tragic waste.

The weather’s been warm. Left to stew, flesh has festered turning nasty shades of purple and black. Skin has bloated and erupted. Through these wounds and other lacerations fluids have seeped, pooling into sticky brown puddles. Flies swarm and maggots writhe. Decay has made a callous mockery of life here.

We have just arrived for the weekend, finding the country house deserted, as expected; but obviously someone has been here. So where did he go, and when will he return? And now I hear footsteps crunching closer along the gravel path: a heedless approach. I step away from the entrance and stand ready.

The door cracks open; it’s Sarah. She’s smiling but her face quickly plummets.

‘Oh my God,’ she says. ‘Oh my fucking God!’

‘I know,’ I answer.

She looks left and right, taking in the totality of the carnage. ‘Who would do such a thing? What kind of monster?’

‘Must have been Phil and his gang. They must have stopped by before going to Reno and left in a rush.’

‘Still,’–Sarah steps in now, swatting away the flies. Her nose crinkles at the thicker smell of rot–‘that’s no excuse for leaving such a mess. It’s disgusting.’

‘True.’ I look over the scene afresh, over the shrunken figs gone fuzzy, the piles of putrid apricots and peaches, the oozing plums and papayas crawling with worms.

‘Nothing worse than good fruit left to waste,’ Sarah says, shaking her head.

‘Yup,’ I say. ‘Nothing sadder in the world.’

By EM Vireo

Drop 126: Little Room

wallWhen I wake up, I’m still strapped down. I struggle against it for a second before I remember where I am.

I’m groggy. My foot is asleep, my neck stiff. How long was I out this time?

Lights go on and off, sometimes synching to the sporadic beeps. The low drone persists, adding to the claustrophobia. Row upon row of us, trapped in here together, staring ahead. We are neatly arranged and controlled. We must do as they say.

Another shudder and we all feel the fear. I’m a bit nauseous too. Whatever they gave me earlier hasn’t sat well.

We are crammed in, on top of each other, but it’s all very organized. They are professional. They wear uniforms and speak their rehearsed lines. The big one bustles by again, all business. She’s carrying a metal box to the back. God knows what’s inside.

She is the one allocated to our section. Robotically, she goes about her tasks: pushing buttons, stacking and storing, draining liquid from receptacles, preparing different vile concoctions. She cleans up the mess too. Sometimes she disappears into the little room; sometimes she just opens the door an inch and looks inside.

She collects orders through a wall-mounted phone. She’s always watching us, making sure we don’t break the rules. For your own safety, she says with that fake smile.

Another one has the section nearby. A man. I counted eight of them when they ushered us in. There are others who work behind the scenes, not showing their faces: the higher-ups. They only make themselves heard, announcing how it’s all to go down through the jarring PA system that cuts through everything.

The little room is ahead of me to the left. We enter, one at a time, through the hinged door, and come out minutes later. This has been going on for hours. I’ve been in three times and hope I won’t have to go back. But it might be inevitable.

For the rest, we sit, wait, do as we’re told. Everyone is exhausted, broken. Some are obviously heavily medicated, some are plugged into little screens that feed a stream of propaganda. I was too, earlier, but that effort is over for me now.

She’s back: our matronly overseer. She has the trolley again: its ominous contents, now all aligned, ready for distribution.

This is round two. The first, some hours ago, was most unpalatable and I want nothing to do with this second course, whatever it is, but you don’t have much choice here.

She starts at the front. No one refuses what she offers. We are all brainwashed by now. We succumb to the rhythm of this massive, efficient machine. We’ll take what they give us and be glad.

And soon she is beside me.

‘Chicken or fish?’

‘Chicken,’ I say, unfolding my little side table, ‘and apple juice.’

She gives me my tray. I peel back the foil to peek inside. Looks disgusting but I’ll eat it.

Good evening, everyone, the captain’s voice comes loudly through the PA. I trust you managed some rest and are enjoying your dinner. Still cruising at 32,000 feet, but just to let you know, we will be commencing our decent into JFK in about 35 minutes.

I drink down my juice. I’ll have to visit the nasty little room once more before we land.

By EM Vireo

Drop 125: Crossing the Road

crossing the road–Oh good, you’re back.

–Yup, had quite a walk.

–Oh yeah?

–Yeah, saw loads of people we know.

–Like who?

–Like Sarah.

–Nice. I’ve been meaning to catch up with her.

– She was with some tall guy. Looked British. Guess she’s banging him. Then, just after, I saw Julie. Round as a melon.

–Oh yeah. She sent an email saying she was pregnant, but I guess that was months ago by now.

–Also saw Ben and Bill on the corner of the street with like nine bags of groceries from Dean and DeLuca. Probably having another of their crazy dinner parties.

–Man, I love those two. Haven’t hung with them in ages either. Wow, you saw all those people!

–Yeah.

–Awesome. What a great chance to catch up with them all! No wonder it took you a while. Post office isn’t that far.

–Well, I stopped for a slice too, and get this: when I got there, Norm Jericho was just leaving the pizza place.

–No shit! Norm ‘The Noodle’ Jericho.

–The one and only.

–That’s incredible. I’ve been trying to find that guy for years. God, how the hell is he? In fact, how are they all?

–Huh?

–What’s going on with them? Sarah, Bill and Ben, Julie. They must have told you so much news.

–What do you mean?

–What did you talk about? Tell me everything.

–Oh, no. God. I didn’t talk to any of them.

–You didn’t talk to any of them?

–Of course not. I just saw them, and as soon as I did I crossed the road so they wouldn’t see me.

–Wow.

–Yeah. Anyway, your stamps are on the table.

By EM Vireo

Drop 124: Leopard

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. It boasts one of the highest leopard densities on earth.

Jeeps scurrying around the place looking to produce what the tourists crave. One of them is driven by Sunny, who’s been chasing leopards in Yala for eight years and is pretty good at it. In the back of his jeep today: two French tourists, Serge and Sylvie, who have never seen a cat beyond the domestic variety, clawing at strings and bugging out to catnip. Another jeep is driven by Stanley, who has run tours for over a decade. In the back of his rugged vehicle sit two Americans: Ken and Jack.

copy

Stanley has been rushing around all afternoon chasing tips that come in on his cell, but few have materialized. Jack and Ken have seen no leopard, though the elephants and buffalo, the kingfishers and painted storks have been lovely. Still, Stanley follows every new lead: a male cat crossing a dirt road here, a female returning to her tree with prey there. But the timing is off, and they just never manage to actually see one.

buffalo pond

It’s getting late, but Stanley chases one last tip, speeding to reach a dam where a male leopard has been spotted. They arrive to a spectacle of nine jeeps, all joshing for position. But he is nowhere to be seen. They pull up next to Sunny’s jeep, wondering what’s up, and Serge quickly let’s them know, flashing, on his small point and shoot camera, with a gloating look mind you, a picture he just took: an almost full frame shot of a leopard, walking across the road.

But it’s gone now, into the brush. They missed it again.whitethroated kingfisher

Nighttime at the lodge. Lapwings screeching, bats circling. An incredible Sri Lankan buffet of string hoppers, fish curry, roti and sambol.

Turns out the French couple, and Ken and Jack are staying at the same place, and sitting at the same table.

‘No leopard, hey?’ Serge makes conversation with Ken, while Jack and Sylvie go for seconds.

‘No,’ Ken says softly. ‘Unfortunately, not today. Great elephants though.’

‘We had three. Check this one out.’ Serge pulls out the camera.

‘Yes, you showed me earlier, I believe.’

‘I got a bunch,’ Serge says, clicking through more photos. ‘He was really posing, but this one’s the best.’

‘Yes,’ Ken says, studying the photo. ‘Pity it isn’t quite full frame, but decent light and composition. You might have stopped down for better depth of field,’ he adds, ‘but it’s a pretty nice shot. I guess you were shooting on automatic.’

‘Yeah, whatever, I think I got it,’ Serge says, while his face says: fuck you jealous American. ‘Pity you didn’t see it. It was awesome.’

‘Nature’s all timing and patience. I guess, I wasn’t there this time, and you were. Thanks for sharing,’ Ken adds getting up. ‘I simply must have some more of that sambol. Addicted to spice.’

trunk

Jack is just getting back. ‘You were showing pictures to Ken? Of your leopard today?’

‘Yes. The one your jeep didn’t see.’

‘Did Ken give you any advice?’

‘Advice? He didn’t even have a camera.’

‘His gear is coming tomorrow. It was delayed in Delhi. This was just a fun relaxing safari I suggested before we start work tomorrow.’

‘What work?’

‘Ken is going to shoot leopards and sloth bears in Yala for the next three weeks. Camp inside, shoot from hides, etc. It’s his third time here. He’s one of the world’s best best.’

‘Nature photographers? You’re joking.’

‘Specializes in big cats. He was the first person to ever photograph mating snow leopards in Afghanistan, and he had that famous shot of jaguars hunting tapirs in Brazil. He practically lived with a pack of lion in the Ngorongoro crater for six weeks in 2004 documenting cannibalism and hyena predation during the drought. He’s a bit of a legend, really.’

Sylvie comes back with a plate of food. ‘Did you show the man the great picture you took?’ she asks Serge, after smiling at Jack. ‘Of the leopard?’

‘Yes,’ Serge answers, looking towards the buffet. ‘I did.’

 By EM Vireo

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