Number One Camera - Nina Gordon (mp3)
I got a scanner for Christmas. Best Buy ran out of the complete series collections of The Wire, so my wife got me the second thing down on the list. It took several days before the Christmas air cleared and offered me the opportunity, but I finally got a chance to spend the evening scanning some pictures from my past.
It's not human nature to want to look at collections of pictures that involve us in no way. Sure, we all have those experiences, those pictures, so beyond the realm of everyday life that people are curious, maybe even truly interested.
When I went to Kenya, for instance. Folks at least acted interested in seeing those pictures. Most of 'em probably had genuine curiosity. But hell, I had to go half-way around the world to get those pictures. I had to squat over a big hole in a tiny shack in order to take a dump. I worked for those pictures, dammit! Look at 'em! Look!!!
Generally, however, pictures are a personal thing, a private thing. They may be worth 1,000 words to us, but they're hardly worth a haiku to everyone else.
If you've spent any time on Facebook, you'd be inclined to disagree. But you can look through 45 thumbnail pictures on Facebook in the time it takes you to turn a page in a traditional photo album. Everything's faster in Computerland. We don't mind being polite or curious for a few minutes. Just don't sit us on your couch with some lemonade and a big fat 200-page album of Kodaks. (See: Fletch, Sally Ann Cavenaugh.) Further, when are we notified that a friend posted pictures? When we're tagged in them. Because everyone wants to see pictures someone else took when we're in them.
[For the record, "Always Something There to Remind Me" takes me instantly back to my elementary school playground one afternoon in the sixth grade when I played said song to a girl named Lindie. We'd been "going together" for, like, a whole month or something, and I recorded this song on the radio that night and made her sit there and listen to this damn song the next day. As if playing it might reunite us or, hell, I don't even know if I had a purpose other than to make sure she knew she shouldn'ta gone and done dat. We hadn't even gone past the hand-holding stage. And yes, it's possible to be simultaneously embarrassed by an act yet also be so in the moment that you also feel it was totally justified and appropriate.]
High school and college was like a great '70s or '80s TV miniseries. You knew you had to be there for every episode, and you couldn't miss it, because it wasn't coming around again, and it might never come out on VHS. If you missed it, you missed it, probably forever. Unlike a regular series, you couldn't hope to catch up next season or after a few episodes.
Adult life more often feels like it's a long-running series, like M*A*S*H or Law + Order, and if you miss one episode, you'll catch up with it tomorrow and will miss nary a plot point. Or, you can always record it on your DVR. While having children helps minimize this problem -- every moment with my own children has the potential to feel transcendent, even more amazing at times than my own childhood -- those little rugrats come with their own complicated production costs.
Happy New Year. And as the great and all-wise Pee Wee Herman would say: Take a picture -- it'll last longer.
"Number One Camera" is from Nina's first solo album, Tonight and the Rest of My Life, available on iTunes or Amazon.com's mp3 site.