Wordsmiths and Shutterbugs

Local paper Word San Diego invited me to their 3rd Annual Anti-Social Writers Party. I was told the $10 cover at the door was to keep the publication running. I threw in the cash and $15 for a T-shirt. I've yet to see another issue of Word. The publication ran interesting features geared toward the writing community, though I found the columns by editor/publisher David Boyne inconsistent. In one issue he wrote about his life in New York, which was interesting, while in another issue his column was a contrived series of questions and non sequiturs.

I enjoyed talking with the Word contributors. They were funny, self-deprecating. The few times I approached Boyne, though, he was bragging about what a great writer he was.

I was embarrassed when I ran into Ken, a guy who threw an Oscar party I went to last year, and I couldn't place him. Ken read his poetry at the Word party, which was entertaining. Other poets were invited to read. One lady in her 70s, who everyone called "Trish the Dish," read a piece about having Ernest Hemingway over for dinner -- "Papa, smoke that cigar out on the porch." The crowd laughed. In her poem, she admitted to Hemingway that she wasn't a fan, and she read, "Papa's such a grizzly bear of a man, I'd have to give him my bedroom with the king size bed. God knows I wouldn't want to sleep with him. The beard. The snoring... C'mon, all that macho bravura!"

A guy named Eber asked literary trivia questions. He asked one about Catch-22, my favorite novel. It was a question about "where" the character Yossarian was from, but I didn't know if Eber meant the name of another book the character appeared in, the name of the military outfit, or the fact that he was in a mental hospital. It was the book he was looking for.

Trish captivated the crowd with her poem, but after her reading people started chatting. It seemed rude, but then, this was a party, not a poetry reading.

Ken and I talked about movies. He told me about a screenplay he had written that was getting interest. When I told Ken that he sounded as if he had had a lot of wine, he told me an amusing story about once having had too much to drink and poking a cop in the chest.

A musician named Steph Johnson performed. I've seen her play at several parties and clubs. She told me that the photographer Henry Diltz took the picture for her new CD cover. Johnson's roommate Heather is a photographer, and I asked if she was mad that she didn't get the job. Johnson laughed. "I didn't think I'd be able to get [Diltz]. I called and asked, and he said yes."

After two glasses of "two-buck Chuck" wine, I was buzzed. I had given blood at the Blood Bank that day and decided to take it easy. But then Eber invited people back to his girlfriend's house. When we got there, more wine was poured. I thought another glass wouldn't hurt. I was wrong. I sat at the piano and played the five songs I know ("Chopsticks" and the Pink Panther theme being two of them).

I forgot where I left my camera and tape recorder, and my notes were getting sloppy, so Bonnie, one of the contributing editors of Word, drove me home.

* * *

In January, I attended the opening of the Graham Nash photo exhibit at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. As I walked in, I noticed a local brew called Tijuana Morena was providing free beer, so I tried a glass. It was tasty, but I didn't go back for seconds.Whenever I took pictures at the event, people asked about my camera. It was that kind of crowd.

A friend of mine wanted to meet Graham Nash (the Hollies singer and Crosby, Stills, & Nash member), so he paid the $35 to get a year's membership in MoPA. Nash was there, and he mingled with the crowd.

One woman introduced her son and a few other kids to Nash and mentioned them being in a band. Nash asked the kids what music they listened to. One replied, "Ah...a lot." Nash said they should listen to the Beatles. When the drummer mentioned that he sang, Nash said, "I don't know how you can do that! I don't know how people can play and sing at the same time. That's why I don't sing much when I'm playing guitar. It's hard."

Nash used to shoot album cover photos, and I asked him how he felt about cover art not being the art form it used to be. He said, "Do you look at CD covers? You used to smoke a joint and just stare at [album covers]." When someone handed him an old album, I said, "Wow, look at all that hair you had back then." He replied, "You know what? I actually dye my hair white like this." Everyone laughed. I told him I liked the album cover for Deja Vu. He said, "That would never be done now. It cost 68 cents an album, and that was for albums that were selling for two dollars. Each photo had to be glued on the cover by hand."

I told Nash that I liked the album covers Henry Diltz, CSN&Y's long-time tour photographer, had shot. He said, "Oh yeah, [Diltz and I] always talk about photography when we get together."

I said to my friend, "Look at this crowd. It looks like ten guys here could've been in his band." Lots of long, gray ponytails.

Nash signed autographs for the crowd and answered questions, even if they weren't related to his photography. I heard someone say something about David Crosby and asked Nash if he took photos of Crosby because of his mustache. "Well, he's an icon. Everyone recognizes him." I said, "I can't believe a guy that looked like that is who Melissa Etheridge wanted to have a kid with. I hope her kid doesn't look like him." Nash laughed and said, "Yeah, especially since it's a girl."

I talked with Candice Eley, an assistant at the museum. She takes concert photographs but didn't have a camera with her. (I guess because Nash wasn't onstage.) I asked Eley what she thought of Nash's photographs. She said, "It's...personal. You can tell that the people he's shooting are more than just subjects. There's a relationship there, and it comes through in each of his photos."

Nash's photographs included musician friends, self-portraits, and several interesting shots of non-famous people, such as one of a Latina child at a taco stand with an Uzi behind her.

MoPA director Arthur Ollman told me, "Graham was thrilled to see his work in [this] context, and many in the crowd were excited to see a side of him they never suspected. One of our friends said he thought the photographs were so good that Nash should quit his day job."

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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