It was another time. Another place. Another place in time perhaps, and I was an eager 21 year old taking summer film classes at NYU. It was still a time where you couldn't walk through the park without being propositioned by any number of drug dealers. "Smoke, smoke..." No thanks, I don't need to overpay for an undersized bag of pot which is more oregano and pubic hair than marijuana.
But I had a dream. I wanted to be the white Spike Lee. Or maybe the black Martin Scorcese (I have no idea what that means). I wanted to do for film what Mac Davis did for music (I have no idea what that means either. If I had more time and it wasn't getting so close to midnight, maybe I'd come up with a better line. Or maybe not...).
The second half of that summer I took a cinematography class. I didn't mention to anybody that I was color blind, but why let a little detail like that get in the way of art? The name of my professor is long forgotten, but the one thing that I bet nobody has forgotten was that he was Russian.
All the Russian film profs were the same. They were these tough, loud dudes who wouldn't hesitate to tell you that your work was shit. That's actually not so different than any other film professor (it's their job for crying out loud), but when some guy who got his hands calloused in the fields of the Ukraine is shouting at you with that Cold War accent, it really makes an impression.
So one of our assignments was to head out into the wilds of NYC and take photographs of things. Anything, as long as it had some kind of cinematic value (or something like that). I don't exactly remember what the point of it was, but I was happy to borrow someone's K-1000 (I don't even remember who I borrowed it from) and went up to Times Square. Among other things I caught on film were a Three Card Monte scam in action, and a Three Card Monte scam being busted by the police. But one of my shots was of a steam chimney in the middle of the street. I guess that's what those are called. You know, the yellow (or is it orange?) and white striped things where the steam comes out of the ground? Well, it was a picture of one of those, and a car driving by. I didn't think much of it when I showed it to my professor, and was expecting to be on the receiving end of a Bolshevik berating.
He said, "Good. Steam always good."
I wonder what he'd think of this offering:
Maybe the next time I go home I'll dig up those pictures and see if they still have legs nearly 19 years later.