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Category: Wreckage

Solar Culture Gallery – Waves Crash In

Opening Saturday 8 October 2016

6-9 PM

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I am showing these three new photographs in the gallery. They were used as the album art for the cover of my new music CD, Waves Crash In. All three were taken at the Salton Sea. That is a George Jones LP sitting on the table where it had been left by last owners of the abandoned trailer (Bombay Beach).

Come see the show if you are in town!

Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701

This is the front cover of Waves Crash In:

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The official announcement for the album is here (showing all album art and CD design).

Waves Crash In is available for purchase right now from Amazon.com here.

Digital distribution is being handled by bandcamp.com where the album is available here (along with my previous three albums).

For more information, contact Mark Hahn at markhahnpublishing@gmail.com.

All images and content copyrighted 2016 by Mark Hahn with all rights reserved.

Solar Culture Gallery – Man With a Suitcase

Opening Saturday 11 June 2016

6-9 PM

I am showing these three new photographs in the gallery. They were used as the album art for the cover of my upcoming music CD, Man With a Suitcase. The first two are from Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea and the third from an abandoned motel in Wilcox, AZ.

Come see the show if you are in town!

Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701

For more information, contact Mark Hahn at markhahnpublishing@gmail.com.

All images and content copyrighted 2016 by Mark Hahn with all rights reserved.

Finding a Home – Gleeson, AZ

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Gleeson, AZ is an old mining town just east of Tombstone. You take Gleeson Rd. and head east out of Tombstone toward Elfrida. Around halfway there, you turn left on North High Lonesome Rd. This is where you find the remains of the old town. On the hillside to the east, you can see the abandoned ruins of the Copper Belle Mine. At it’s high point, the town supported a population of 500 people, but the copper played out by the late 1930’s. The town was slowly abandoned. Ruins dot the landscape, but you can drive right up onto the mine if you have a four wheel drive vehicle.

Somewhere north of Tombstone, we had stopped at a gas station. Waiting inside the convenience store, there was a couple dressed in a combination of desert goth and prospecting costume. They didn’t talk to anyone and they both looked almost one hundred years old. I wondered what life they thought they were living and whether it was a delusion or an aspiration. In the end, I shrugged and figured it was none of my business what they were doing, just that it seemed a miracle that they had found each other and were out here making a life together in this godforsaken wasteland.

Driving through the remains of Gleeson, we followed the dirt road that led in the general direction of the mine. On our way, we passed this old trailer home. Kim asked if I wanted to stop and photograph it. Part of me felt that I’ve already been inside too many old trailers already, but I shrugged, why not? The wind howled as we walked toward the trailer. I looked up on the hill and thought it must have been a beautiful sight to see the old mine first thing  in the morning. I imagined what it would feel like living in this small trailer back when it was new. I’ve never been “house proud” and living out here had a certain charm that people in gated communities probably could never get.

Unlike many of the abandoned places we go into, this trailer had no feeling of having harbored past domestic horrors. There didn’t seem to be a single bad ghost lingering anywhere. It felt like home and I felt like I was suddenly in my element when I started photographing it. It brought on a nice calm within me.

While shooting these photographs, I realized that after my father died when I was a teen, that I had lost all my feeling of having a home. The instability his death caused inside me  and the chaos it threw me into made me question the stability of everything. Sometimes I feel that when I look at anything, that I am witnessing the process of entropy tearing everything apart – nothing can last and anything that alluded to permanence was just an illusion. No one else seems to be aware of it like I am. I guess being in someplace like this trailer strips the illusions away for me and I just enjoy finding beauty in what is there. With these interior shots, I very much wanted to capture the feeling of permanence while recognizing that even when it doesn’t last, that there is somehow important to appreciate in the temporary respite from being alone when you are somewhere safe with someone you care about.

Later in the day, when Kim and I parked to get tacos in a little familiar restaurant in Wilcox, I stopped and looked at the listings in a real estate office’s window. There was a little house on more than five acres of land selling for only $54,000. Wow, that seemed like an incredible deal. Kim looked at the listing, said she’d move there. It’s a good dream. Things haven’t been easy lately and I’ve been feeling the need to get away. The idea of getting a tiny house in the middle of nowhere on some land and then putting up a couple of steel buildings – one for an art studio and another for music studio seemed like a dream come true. I again thought about that weird couple at the convenience store and laughed inside. Maybe that will be us someday.

The next morning, we stopped at a thrift store in Wilcox and Kim bought me a beat up old Stella guitar. Whatever I end up, I intend on taking this guitar with me.

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea – Solar Culture Gallery

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Opening Saturday 27 February 2016

6-9 PM

My Photos on display:

Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701

These photos were taken in the near ghost town of Bombay Beach on the western shores of the Salton Sea in California. While a dike was built to protect this section of the town from flooding, it is being ravaged by time and neglect just as decisively as the homes and trailers that have been devoured by the sea outside the protection of the dike.

My girlfriend and I made a quick stop here a couple weeks ago on our way to LA to pick up her artwork from the gallery where she had a solo show. Swinging past the Salton Sea was not that far out of our way and it was a nice detour into memories of going here together a few years back. It was nice to find that things hadn’t changed.

We had already been in all these trailers and small deserted houses, but very little had been touched. The same things where still sitting on the deserted tables collecting dust. The same chairs and sofas sat in silent rooms, only now perhaps splitting open a little farther at the seams.

There is something peaceful in this desolation. Even though there is an almost endless stream of tourists and gawkers driving through to experience the ruin and desperation, the few remaining locals seem to take it in stride. None even paid us any mind while we quietly entered the abandoned homes — some with tax documents tacked on the door stating the back taxes that could be paid to take ownership of these properties. One particularly intact trainer sitting on a nice lot could be had for only $7,000. It made me think.

What would it be like to tell everyone to go fuck themselves, plunk down $7,000 and just move in? I’d guess that on a quiet day, my new neighbors would come by to talk, if only out of curiosity to find out why the hell anyone would move here. Maybe they’d understand that you just get fed up with all the bullshit of life and get to a point where you don’t want to be bothered by anything. Maybe they’d be of the same mind. Maybe you’d stop smelling the dead fish and putrid algae blooms after a few weeks.

People buy lottery tickets so they can dream their way out of their current life. I have too much of an understanding of statistics to buy into those dreams, but the dream of moving to Bombay Beach is a plausible fantasy that I can briefly entertain for at least an afternoon. Sometimes anything can look good when seen in the right light.

For more information, contact Mark Hahn at markhahn2000@gmail.com.

All images and content copyrighted 2016 by Mark Hahn with all rights reserved.

Twilight Falling On the Salton Sea

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Born from a 1905 engineering accident which ended up flooding what was then a long time dry lake bed, the Salton Sea is the largest inland body of water in all of California.  As beautiful as it looks at first glance, the high salinity and accumulation of agricultural toxins, has slowly made it inhospitable to most fish and migratory birds. The salinity increases each year due to the sea being a land locked body of water with no outflow whatsoever. The sea lies more than 200 ft. below sea level. The high salinity coupled with periodic algae blooms has resulted in repeated mass fish die offs. The smell from the sea assault you from more than a mile away from its putrid shores.

Driving into Desert Shores, you are confronted with many abandoned and vandalized homes and businesses. The town was founded in the 1950’s as part of the recreational development boom around the sea. During this time, the California Department of Fish and Game actively attempted to stock the sea with game fish. Vacation properties were offered for modest prices and snapped up by nearby Southern Californians. Hollywood big-wigs – such as the Marx Brothers, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Guy Lombardo and the Beach Boys docked their boats there and frequented the growing number of posh yacht clubs springing up around the sea. The highly publicized Salton Sea 500 was a world class speed boat racing event that drew huge crowds.

Thousands of lots were sold by speculators, mainly to other speculators, but unfortunately, for those that bought into the dream, the underlying ecological instability of the sea soon became apparent. By the late 1960’s, the sea began to stink from algae blooms that were driven largely by the fertilizer runoff. This sent huge rotting mats of algae onto the beaches. In the late 1970’s, large scale flooding wiped out many seaside businesses. Bombay Beach, across from Desert Shores, was especially hard hit during the years of flooding where a dike was built to protect portions of the town while those with properties outside the dike were destined to be destroyed during the next wave of flooding. In the early 1980’s, the avian and fish populations began dying off in biblical proportions.

Other than thrill seekers driving sand-rails, dirt bikes and quads across the apocalyptic landscape while playing some form of a Mad Max fantasy game of survival, the only other tourists seem to be photographers out in search of “ruin porn.” There is very few places in the USA as devastated and inhospitable as the broken communities around the Salton Sea. Everyone can find whatever aspect of human existence they want in this landscape and these ruins. What makes the Salton Sea’s failure unique is that at its root, it was built on greed, speculation and the search for luxury and leisure. This doesn’t make the hopelessness and desperation felt by many of those who cling to their belief in the sea any less real, but it is a far cry from big business or big government taking advantage of the less fortunate – this boom was built on the human nature to get something for nothing while denying the laws of nature.

Driving into Desert Shores at sunset on a Friday night, you see small groups of children playing in front of piles of building debris. A few parents can be seen sanding away in the shadow, congregated in groups while drinking beer together. These are the hardcore remnants of those who moved here expecting to find a paradise in the desert. Even before you get out of your vehicle, the year round stench of the sea hits you. The Bible describes Hell and Satan’s lair as smelling of Sulphur (brimstone) and dead fish. This is exactly what the breeze coming off the Salton Sea smells like today. It put me into a visceral state of distress. The shores are crusty with dried alkali salt deposits covered with great depths of dead fish, tortured and severed fish heads and white bleached fish vertebrae instead of sand. Local children can be seen running along the shore seemingly unaware of the repulsiveness of the scene.

At the heart of Desert Shores stands the remains of the Marina Mobile Estates Clubhouse – now completely trashed and wide open for explorers and vandals to enter. Behind the clubhouse is a marina and harbor. An old fishing barge is scuttled along the shore of the harbor. Scattered all along the jetty are corroded and salt encrusted remains of docks and hoists. The sun was setting over this scene on our backs and I was mesmerized by the beautiful light. I quickly scrambled across the millions of dead fish parts and ignored the stench while taking these photos. Then in a matter of minutes, the light was gone and it was just bleak and disgusting and I felt the need to flee before I threw up from revulsion.

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Back by the parking lot, the Desert Shores Fire Department shows off their shiny fire truck. It even looked as if it ran. I imagined that anyone with homeowner’s insurance would hope that their home burned to the ground and wasn’t saved by the volunteer fire department. The payout would maybe be enough to grab your family and flee this godforsaken place. But after thinking about my own life and how often I wistfully thought about how freeing it would be if everything I owned was burned up, I realized that my initial elatedness is always followed by thoughts of things that I would be worried about losing. I guess when you are somewhere, there are always good things to hold onto and the people living here seem to find peace in the hopelessness and desolation.

Digital Sales – My New CD Available Now

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While physical CDs will not be available for another two weeks, digital pre-sales are available now from bandcamp.com now (https://markhahn.bandcamp.com/)! For the first week of pre-sales, I am giving my friends here and on facebook a 50% off discount on anything sold through bandcamp — just enter discount code “friends” to get the discount. I also want to thank everyone who has been supporting my creative endeavors up until now and wish everyone a Happy New Year!

PS  I did the cover photography and layout.

Photography and Spatial Memory

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We lose the memories of many specific moments that shape us into the people we become. There are too many details to hold onto so we’re left with the incompleteness of abstract emotions that have been imprinted in our mind through experience. As a photographer, rediscovering the spaces of these imprints can be meaningful exploration – shedding light into who we are and how we’ve gotten to wherever we ended up.

Exploring abandoned domestic spaces lets us construct temporary structures that allow us to experience some of our orphaned emotional memories that have nothing else to attach themselves to. To a certain degree, we all share the same common basic human needs and live in similar domestic environments designed to meet those needs. Viewing these spaces as they fall into varying degrees of ruin can trigger memory based deja vu. It doesn’t matter that the space is not technically our own, in fact the response can be even more powerful because it isn’t our own. Sometimes the possible is much more exciting or troubling than what has actually happened. The connections we uncover often broaden our emotional responses.

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If we can imagine that we have been somewhere in our past, even though it is not from our literal past, the feelings stirred up can be veryy real. Feelings are what count most in life, not the explicit objects we associate them with. If we can allow ourselves to feel our past memories while standing in a found-space we can sometimes sew together the discontinuities that have been left within ourselves. Without a mirror to reflect and fortify the self-image that we have created in life, we can sometimes feel ourselves as just who we are – including all the pain, the satisfaction and the insecurities. It is the spark of existence that makes us who we are, not the objects we surround ourselves with or the accomplishments we stack up and brag about over our lifetime.

Art photography can give us a doorway into discovering our abstract internal spaces. It’s another way of connecting with what is already there within us. Unlike the other arts though, photography is limited by reality. Reality is our artist’s medium – we create our work from what is real and discoverable. One of my photography professors started out his class saying, “If nothing else, after taking this course, you will come out possessing another way of seeing.” This is the true gift of photography. When you are really successful, others can see something new and personal through your work as well.

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Trespassing into the wreckage of other people’s past lives often puts you in touch with the residue of all our collective pasts. None of us is really as special as we feel. The act of trespassing into someone’s abandoned home is of course legally questionable, but probably more problematic in an ethical sense since in essence, we are acting as thieves — appropriating what at one time was inside someone else’s personal boundaries and using it for our own creative purposes. Legal issues aside, I believe as long as the original occupants are not identified or exploited, that appropriating scenes from their abandoned spaces to use as a vehicle of expression of my own emotional memories is not terribly problematic.

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Many things cannot be created from scratch, they need to be discovered. When you trespass into the unknown, you are already on hyper-alert. You don’t know what or who you will encounter when you turn a blind corner. You can make you feel both fear and excitement. Fear of the unknown in the form of danger and excitement in the endless possibility of discovery.

Excitement and happiness are easily understand, but fear is an ancient emotion residing in the amygdala – hidden somewhere in the deepest and most primitive part of our brain. Fear ties our earliest memories and emotions to the present moment. At the edge of a fight-or-flight reaction we take in our surroundings differently than under normal circumstances. We move quickly through a space, sizing up our surroundings. Certain things trigger an emotional response. Pow! Snap! You catch it in your viewfinder.

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Literal objects trigger expected memories. For me, when I see an old pack of Chesterfields lying on the ground in some abandoned place I remember that my grandfather smoked them. It is a predictable response. Sometimes though, when I run across the right combination of elements – perhaps a special light playing of wood paneling in an abandoned kitchen, I can momentarily imagine what it felt like to be with him. I can hear his voice and smell the bacon cooking from when he made me breakfast in the morning. I can’t predict these memory triggers since they are so abstract in nature, but the memories and emotions that come from them can be so immediate and direct that the triggers must be set somewhere in the depths of my mind.

Memories lie deeper than the scraps of paper that we collect – more than the two dimensional photos and birthday cards that we save and accidentally leave in the houses we vacate. Memories are inscribed into our minds in multidimensional space with complex connections that even we cannot decipher. Lists and dates are just simple data points. The wholeness of memory is experienced through indescribable emotions, triggered by the unexpected. Depending on our ability to let go and open our eyes, we can find meaning in many different places.

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Going Back For More

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It seems we always have to go back for the things we’ve forgotten. A pack of cigarettes, the mixer so we can drink the booze or the bits of candy that makes this life sweeter. Memories sit on dusty shelves in places we sometimes forget exist. The documents of life lie in piles on the floor, pouring out of boxes that were haphazardly packed away long ago. Sometime we forget that it’s us that gets to pick what we buy. What we pull off the self. So much in life we just do without recognizing the choices we have, even if they are limited.

This is the One Stop Market and Liquor Store located between Winkleman and Hayden. I photographed this abandoned convenience store several years ago and wrote an essay on the subject back then (Road to Ruin). We were passing by the site again recently and decided it’d be nice to just check out what had become of it. Just an informal visit – one lens, no tripod.

One of the side doors was unlocked and open. Things had changed. Things had been taken. The roof had fallen down. It was still the same place though. We thought of where we were at when we came the first time. All the things that had changed and had stayed the same. It’s amazing how we attach memories to things that are not ours. Things we pass through. Places we have been.

The One Stop Market is one of these. Sifting through the stuff left behind, looking for the things that have been lost and forgotten. Sometimes you find things you don’t want to find. It’s better to just keep moving. There are other things to see. Candy is better than booze and coffee better than cigarettes. It’s all there somewhere.

Miami After Dark

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The hills around Miami Arizona are owned by the Freeport McMoRan mining corporation. In a way, everything is this town is owned by this company. Without it, there are no homes, no shops, no restaurants or bars. Copper prices are soaring and the mine is chewing up the earth around Miami at an incredible pace. Men are working down in the hole 16 hours a day. Earth is being moved in the amount of mega tons a day. Miami is a boom-town.

New fences with plenty of razor-wire have been erected around the mining company’s property. Security trucks can be seen creeping along the dirt roads crisscrossing the hillsides. The gaurds pause to wonder what two photographers on the top of the hill are doing. We’ve trespassed here before, but not this time. When there’s money involved, things get serious. I don’t want to end up in jail.

Down below, you hear the laughter of all the drinking locals. When you’ve worked as hard as many of these men have, you have a lot of steam to blow off. It all starts out as fun. It’s not until later that the trouble begins. You can read all about it in the Copper County News. Petty violence is a weekly part of the rough life lived in Miami.

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Unlucky at Cards

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It was maybe five years ago when I called my sister and told her that I no longer thought I was lucky. At that moment, I really questioned why I had ever felt lucky in the first place, other than when bad stuff happened, I always thought, “Wow, I’m really lucky this didn’t end up worse.” When I looked back at my life though, I saw so much stuff from my past dragging me down that I either had to chalk it up to bad luck or just take the blame myself for all the bad decisions I had made along the way. There is no escape from some things you do. Life can also just be really hard. I haven’t let it break me though. Mostly, I have to take the blame for most things that I have gotten myself into – if not directly, at least, from lack of trying.

I was always a troubled kid, but when my dad died, I more or less lost all my grounding. I was just a teenage. Looking back, I think I had to try and become my own father for myself somehow. There was just no one else to step in and take his place. I made years of bad decisions. Maybe I wished there was someone out there that would have materialized to rescue me from myself. Maybe it was just a cry for help. Who knows how kids think about things — especially when they’re not thinking. Maybe I just had to prove to myself that there was no one that would come to my rescue. It doesn’t really matter what the reasons are anymore.

Between drugs and the early AIDS epidemic, I knew a lot of people who died when I was young. A friend that I had gone though this time period with once told me, when we met up later in life, that he used to feel lucky that he wasn’t one of the ones who died, but now, in our fifties, he questioned whether they were really the lucky ones. Maybe it would have been better to have just died young — that was the punk attitude we both shared in our youth. Somehow we both made it out though. In spite of all the difficulties, there are plenty of good things I’m glad I stuck around for.

In a desperate relationship with a suicidal girl, I used to have to talk her through all her fits by saying, “Yeah, we can kill ourselves any day, but who knows, there might be something tomorrow that makes it worthwhile to stick around for.” You really never know, no matter how bad things are, there is always something that can make tomorrow worth living for. I’ve had many great tomorrows mixed in with all the other stuff, now perhaps more than ever.

The relationship ended badly. I asked her once after it was all over why she hated me so much. She replied, “If it wasn’t for you, I would have killed myself already. Now it’s too late.” I didn’t know how to respond to this. Maybe she was right. Maybe she was unlucky that she met me. Maybe it was unfair of me to try so hard to help her get through. Maybe I was just doing for her what I had hoped someone would do for me. Everyone has to make their own decisions in life.

My sister told me that the way she saw it, by getting this girl through her own hell, that it is also what got me through my own. That was an interesting thought. Did I subconsciously know this? Who knows. I certainly couldn’t save her without getting myself though. Maybe I don’t have to think about this anymore. It’s been over for a long time. Maybe it’s just part of who I am.

When I was twenty, there was a period where I was perpetually strung out on speed. I almost never slept. I was trying to amass a meaningful body of artwork to leave behind if I somehow didn’t make it — speed jive. I was pretty much alone and throwing myself into my art and writing to keep me going. For some reason, I felt like I had something to offer, even if no one else recognized it. In the end, I probably just wanted to feel like I mattered.

There was a liquor store somewhere near Woodward and McNichols in Detroit. Two gay friends had an apartment on Moss near Woodward, just down the street. This had always been a bad neighborhood. Really bad. I showed up at my friends’ apartment trying to come down off a lot of speed and said, “Let’s get drunk tonight.” I hadn’t slept in days. I figured if I drank enough booze and smoked enough weed, I might be able to get to sleep.

After walking into the liquor store with them, I started counting out the money in my pocket. I was pretty poor — living off Social Security checks from my father’s death benefits. When I saw how broke I was, I had to figure out what was going to get us more drunk. My friends were both on Welfare and didn’t have any cash to pitch in at all — they did have weed though.

While I was trying to do the math and figure out which was a better deal, the pint of 190 proof Everclear or the fifth of 80 proof no name vodka, a fortune teller interrupted me. I couldn’t tell if she was Gypsy or Mexican, but her English was no good. She had an intimidating presence as she demanded, “Let me read your cards.” I smiled and tried to tell her politely that I didn’t want my cards read. Then she tried to bully me into getting my cards read. I guess she needed the money. I still tried to be nice.

I was trying to get her to understand that I couldn’t pay her to read my cards and I looked her in the eyes to make some personal connection, but she seemed to take this as a challenge or an act of mockery. She started telling me all kinds of crazy horrible stuff. Then she started talking in tongues and chanting. It made me feel really anxious. I just wanted to get out of there. I bought a pack of cigarettes and the Everclear.

The cashier told me that the fortune teller had put a really bad curse on me. I asked her what, but she looked over at the fortune teller and seemed afraid to tell me anymore. I tried to tell myself that somehow I could shake it off. Somehow my luck would cancel out the curse, but in my heart I felt like I would never be able to shake it. Who knows. Maybe I never did.

It might have been the bad speed or the lack of sleep, but I instantly felt like I was going out of my mind. My friends were mad at me that I got the Everclear – it tastes like poison no matter what you mix it with. But it was cheap. We all started fighting about petty things. We went back to their apartment and drank the Everclear and smoked some of their weed. It didn’t make any of us feel any better. Tim said there were going to be people at Bookies later that he wanted to see and that we should go too. I said I’d drive. Anything to get out of there.

After we got in the car, I turned down some alley so we could swing back around to Woodward. Someone in the car gasped as my headlights lit up an object in a wheel barrel behind the abandoned building across from my friend’s apartment. I stopped briefly to see what it was. It was a dead guy. He had been shot in the face and his brains had all splattered out the back of his head. He was laying face down in the wheelbarrow. Someone left him like this in the dark alley. Somehow, what sticks in my mind most was how his pants leg had fallen back and exposed his white leg. It shown in the headlights. I shuddered.

Given the neighborhood, it shouldn’t have surprised any of us that much, but you never expect to stumble on a dead guy no matter where you’re at. Also, given our level of shock, it was hard to know if the sounds we heard behind us were gunshots or a car backfiring, but we didn’t stick around to find out. I gunned my Impala and took off through the alley. A large car was instantly chasing us. He flashed his lights at us and was in hot pursuit. He tried to ram us repeatedly. I drove like a maniac through the streets of Detroit.

Detroit was already a dying city. Half the houses in the neighborhood were abandoned. Police were scarce, but I was hoping we found one. I ran every red light and ignored every stop sign. We raced through the ghettos for almost a half hour. Who knows how long. I don’t know how I didn’t crash my car. My driving and the Chevy’s 327 engine somehow got us out of this danger. Maybe we were just lucky. Somehow we had lost the car behind us and were suddenly right in front of Bookies. I don’t know how we got there. When we got out of the car I was shaking. The whole thing felt like it was a dream, only I knew it wasn’t. This was no longer a party. Maybe it was how the first day of a curse feels. Maybe it was just a hint of things to come. The drinks at Bookies also tasted like more poison.

I told a friend at Bookies what had happened and he bought me a few more drinks. Then I got blackout drunk. I don’t remember how I got home, but I did — I guess I was just lucky.

Junkies, drunks and addicts are often the most superstitious people of all. It’s like they have to ascribe all their bad luck on everything outside themselves — as if everything is beyond their control. Also, it puts the junkie in a position to think that if they can just uncover the underlying logic of hex avoidance techniques that they can remain junkies without suffering any of the bad consequences of their choices.

Drugstore Cowboy shows a great example of this junkie logic in Bob’s (played by Matt Dillon) fear of a hat on the bed and bad luck associated with dogs. Was it really the dog or the hat on the bed that did Bob and his friends in or was it just their reckless and lawless junkie lifestyle? I’d say the latter, but as a movie viewer, I choose to suspend belief and think, “If it only hadn’t been for the hat on the bed and all the other superstitious screw-ups, everything would have worked out just fine!” Everyone want to hang their hat on luck and superstition!

Random numbers provide more endless opportunities for superstitious speculation as well — as if everything of importance could be divined from the numbers we stumble across everyday. The amount of change we get back when we buy cigarettes and gum, the final cost when we fill up our car. So many numbers — if only we could correlate them all to our own reality!

But what happens when we get a bad omen in the numbers that come up? A superstitious optimist tries to find alternate combinations that can be derived from the base numbers. If you’re assigned a locker at the train station with the unlucky number of 146 for instance, by adding up the digits you can find the lucky number 11 within it (etc.) — then all is good. Or is it? We have to get by somehow. In the case of the fortune teller’s curse on me, I was at a disadvantage because I didn’t even know the nature of the curse, just that it was supposed to be really bad. There were no tricks to turning this around.

A few years later, the suicidal girl took me for a surprise Tarot reading on my birthday. I didn’t about the plan until I was sitting across from the card reader. I instantly remembered the Detroit fortune teller and got really uncomfortable. It was a tense reading and not very positive. Basically it boiled down to me being told that I had to survive until I was thirty and that things would get better then. I was turning twenty three when the reading was done. What do you do with information like? It was almost like a second curse — even if it was somewhat accurate in describing how things worked out.

I had just gotten gallery representation in Chicago and had high hopes of where this would go — now I had a reading that told me that my real life wasn’t going to even begin for at least six years no matter what I did. Nothing mattered. Why try? I could try to buck the cards just like I tried to ignore the Gypsy’s curse, but the words were said, they were somewhere inside me. I did try at some level, but wondered if the subconsciously if I worked to shoot myself in the foot so the curse and reading would come true.

From Aristotle’s causality to Newton’s clockwork world — with Christianity sandwiched in the middle — Western thought has always been dominated by the drive to figure out what makes things tick. Superstitions (and religion no doubt as well) are just an attempt to put order onto  the seeming disorder of our lives when in reality, the bulk of this comes from the places we put ourselves in. There was no reason I had to be strung out on speed, buying cheap booze in an inner city liquor store in Detroit. I shouldn’t have even crossed paths with that Gypsy fortune teller. I shouldn’t have been driving down that dark alley and I never should have gotten involved with that suicidal girl. These are just a few examples of the thousands and thousands of other things that I did to put myself at risk and luck had nothing to do with the bad outcomes.

Sure, there was nothing I could have done to have changed the fact that my dad was killed by a drunk driver, but the drunk driver could have changed that! Most bad things that happen are a direct result of the choices we all make or the situations we put ourselves into.

I was amazed at how the simple act of getting sober changed things for the better. Life was still hard, but it no longer seemed to be based on luck unless you consider bad choices leading to bad luck. Now I have a pretty clear understanding about what goes wrong and why. Waiting for my luck to change is not where I put my hopes.

A lot of things just aren’t in the cards, they come from the choices we make everyday. Bad choices we’ve made in the past may follow us even into today, but the choices we make today are what take us into tomorrow. I may not feel lucky anymore, but in a sense, I’m happy I don’t feel I need to rely on luck.