13 June 2007

He played a boy without a home, torn with no tomorrow, reaching out to touch someone, a stranger in the shadows

Not sure how I feel about today's post. The first three shots are from Star drive-in at Christiansburg. I took a few more photos over there, but I haven't really looked through them. I decided to tack on the final shot of Roanoke because I like it. After taking the Roanoke shot, a drunk guy came up to me and asked me for some change; he ended up telling me that I had a lot of pain and hurt inside but that I also had a lot of love, and that if I poured that love out to the world good things would happen. He told me that his name was William, but that everyone called him Chester. Chester then scratched his initials into a Budweiser bottle opener that he had supposedly found up the street and gave it to me as a token of our friendship.

That's about it for text tonight. I will add that I first learned of Phil Ochs through James Allen McPherson's foreword to Breece Pancake's collected stories. Breece Pancake is one of my favorite writers, and according to McPherson he was a fan of Ochs. McPherson includes part of the song "Jim Dean of Indiana" in his foreword. This ties in to tonight's post in a roundabout way because every time I see James Dean I think not only of the tragedy surrounding him but also of Phil Ochs and Breece Pancake, who both took their own lives at relatively young ages--Phil Ochs on April 9, 1976 and Breece Pancake three years later (April 8, 1979; coincidentally, the day my ex-wife was born). Here are the lyrics to "Jim Dean of Indiana" and the opening paragraph of Pancake's "Trilobites."

It was on an Indiana farm in the middle of the country
Growin' in the fields of grain, Jim Dean of Indiana
His mother died when he was a boy, his father was a stranger
Marcus Winslow took him in, nobody seemed to want him
The hired man sang like a storm, sometimes he'd beat him
'Cause he would never do the chores, he was lost in dreaming

He never seemed to find a play with the flatlands and the farmers
So he had to leave one day, he said to be an actor
Once he'd come back to the farm with starlets from the stages
They locked themselves inside his room, the people turned their faces

A neighbor ran from the movie house, chickens they were scattered
He swore he saw upon the screen, Jim Dean of Indiana
He played a boy without a home, torn with no tomorrow
Reaching out to touch someone, a stranger in the shadow

The Winslows left for the movie town, they drove across the country
They hoped that he would stay around and they hoped he would be friendly
He talked to them for half an hour but he was busy racing
He left for the Grapevine Road, they left for Indiana

Then Marcus heard on the radio that a movie star was dying
He turned the tuner way down low, so Hortense could go on sleeping
It was not until they reached the farm where the hired man was waiting
The wind rushed silent through the grain, it was just as they had told him

They buried him just down the road, a mile from the farm house
That is where I placed a flower for Jim Dean of Indiana.

from "Trilobites"

I open the truck’s door, step onto the brick side street. I look at Company Hill again, all sort of worn down and round. A long time ago it was real craggy and stood like an island in the Teays River. It took over a million years to make that smooth little hill, and I’ve looked all over it for trilobites. I think how it has always been there and always will be, at least for as long as it matters. The air is smoky with summertime. A bunch of starlings swim over me. I was born in this country and I have never very much wanted to leave. I remember Pop’s dead eyes looking at me. They were real dry, and that took something out of me.


Karen said...

This set isn't bad, but it also isn't as good as the other photos you've been posting recently. Normally, each time you post, there is at least one photo that I can just sit and stare at...that I want to keep coming back to in order to figure out why I like it. None of the photos in this set leave me with that feeling.

What this set does do though, is remind me of Laura's question about splitting your photos down the center. It isn't as blatant with these, but the last three do have definite dividing lines.

mark burnette said...

I'm not sure about the splitting down the middle thing. I tend to compose each shot individually as I see something that interests me. I wanted the rails in the final shot to begin in the foreground and show the curve extending back. I liked the black and yellow track switch things in the corner. I didn't really compose it around white smokestacks. In the second, I wanted part of the screen door and the movie screen in the same shot. It's not directly down the middle, but there's not much else I could have done with it and still got the door and the screen in the shot. With the third shot, I did intentionally split it down the middle, mostly because i thought it looked nice that way. I also like splitting the American flag in half. I'm not sure there's any deep-seated psychological reason i split some photos down the middle. I tend to compose each image as I see it and some end up having a dividing line. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't. One photographer coming to mind who routinely splits images is Shelby Adams. One of his shots of a country funeral with a wall dividing the shot (and two rooms) is a great shot. I don't have any where the split works that well.

Karen said...

I googled Shelby Adams; you're right, the funeral photo is pretty awesome.

The splitting photos thing is probably at least partially me trying to project my mental organizational habits on your photos. I have the tendency to group things, so I look for patterns. It works wonderfully for math, but I sometimes unconsciously overemphasize patterns in other areas.

Karen said...

Am I going crazy, or did you change the order of these photos? I would have sworn that the photo that is currently last used to be first.

mark burnette said...

i did change the order; i didn't like it before, but i'm happier with it now. i like the screen door image better than the others.

Karen said...

The more I look at the screen door photo, the more it grows on me.