The last days of the Hollywood Diner

The Hollywood is an empty tin can diner in Baltimore, under I-83 at the southwest corner of the farmer’s market. I’m guessing that it most recently shuttered in 2017, having closed and moved several times over the years. Long ago, it provided a memorable setting for several scenes of the movie “Diner.” I snipped it from the downtown Baltimore landscape and moved it to an open field in Santa Ynez, CA, and filled it with people from Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. I hope it’s doing well.

Every day, a world-weary waitress with her hair piled into a bun, serves the best coffee you can get and keeps your cup filled to the brim. People meet there, make their plans, forge relationships, start ventures, say goodbyes, and fall in love. No one falls out of love at the Hollywood Diner. It’s never happened and it never will. Once, a couple tried to break up in the corner booth, but the bearclaw pastry and the hash browns convinced them that it was best, perhaps, to give it another go. On a snowy winter day in someone’s memory, twins were conceived in the other corner booth.

The owners are a mysterious bunch. Is it an old married couple, he a veteran of some foreign war, she a correspondent who still posts anonymously? Or is it a consortium composed of American, Japanese, and Brazilian interests, a partnership forged in the interest of money laundering? Or is it a publicly held trust? It’s hard to tell. The staff are rumored to be paid in their choice of cannabis greenhouse shares, crypto, or exotic conscientiously-sourced chocolate, though most enjoy the work so much they’d do it for free. That’s what they say.


The yellow typewriter

Doorway and objects, Athens 2014

This morning I came across this image from 2014 and I can’t stop staring at it. I don’t know if it’s even a good photo, but it does have an odd hold on my attention. Everything in this image is subservient to the typewriter curiously perched on a shelf that fits it perfectly. The door, slightly ajar, points to it. The spout on the watering can is aimed directly at it. But what’s the damned typewriter doing there? What’s its purpose? While we’re at it, what is the purpose of anything? What is the purpose of people?

It makes no sense. The watering can, the urn with twigs, one of which twines out to above the slightly open door, the objects on the wall, the writing, the sign on the door, and the goddamn yellow typewriter.

The edge of the Pacific garbage patch, 2019

This swing set is stationed on a beach near San Clemente. Sand, rocks, the gentle surf, a fence to keep people out or in. I can’t take my eyes off the garbage. There’s the plastic cup in front of the fence and then there’s the Starbucks cup by the one potential swinger. Was it there when they arrived? Will it be there when they leave? I see garbage everywhere. We the people of the planet earth excel at making and distributing garbage. We’re also experts at melting ice.

Words and water tower

Sometimes we take the train to or from New York and I aim my camera out the window. As the train works its way through North Philadelphia, I snap photo after photo of the past, the once vibrant manufacturing housed in now abandoned factory buildings. Some have been converted to apartments, but most serve as canvases for graffiti artists and targets for rock throwers. Philadelphia Pants lived in two of these North Philadelphia buildings. One at Tenth & Berks from 1960-1980, and another at Nineteenth & Allegheny from 1987-1989. There were other homes in South Philadelphia and Center City. Listen carefully and you can still hear the echos of sewing machines and the hiss of steam presses.