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 Staigue Fort Project

An early version with Victoria Falls in the background. Who would put a waterfall behind a fortress?

A few years ago we were wandering around Ireland and came across Staigue Fort on a cold, cloudy day in late June. We took photos, climbed the stone walls, and marveled at how something could last so long without so much as a dollop of mortar.

Then one day it turned out the fort needed to be the setting for a collage. A 5K had just gone past our house and I shot dozens of pictures of runners knowing they’d rather run atop the fortress than down some city street.

Second version, with runners in the front going right instead of left…and more runners.

Memory, she said, is like a collage. We remember patches of things and cut and paste them into something like the past but different, more dreamlike. She says things like that, or at least that’s how I remember it.

Okay, what if the waterfall was in the middle of the fort and there was a sunset overhead?

And that’s how dreams are, weird collages of memories and hopes and fears.

Screw it… plain white background. People approach the wall from the void and run around the ancient fortress… Don’t miss the statue on the steps leading up the wall.

I cut up my photos and collate the mundane pieces into something more interesting to look at (hopes I). That process bleeds into life itself and the memories become more dreamlike. Didn’t I actually see a 5K going across the top of little known fort in Ireland?

Philadelphia Pants

Thousands and thousands…

Too many photos taking up too much room…

Awhile ago, my devices informed that I was running out of storage space and that if I didn’t do something about it, well, there’d be consequences. That ominously vague threat was enough to spur me to action. Action.

“What can I, a mere mortal lacking basic common sense do?” I asked.

“Not our problem!” my devices cried out in unison.

So, one day, while under the influence of god knows which substances (who can keep track these days?), I began the task of reviewing and deleting photographs. I take dozens of snapshots of a subject in the hopes that one will be a keeper. I discovered that hidden away in many thousands of unremarkable images, was often a single element that I could use elsewhere. So, meh photo, but one usable component.

Some quick math. I’ve had a digital camera since the early ’00s, when there still was a glimmer of hope for humankind. I estimate that I’ve taken at least 60,000 digital photos. Often, I delete images in camera. I immediately get rid of those that are blurry, out of focus, have a thumb blocking the subject, etc., and it’s safe to say that I’ve done that with about 10,000 photos over the years. Next, when I download them to my device, I further review and get rid of more…and I’d estimate that additional 10,000 have bit the digital dust in that manner. Then, when I’m editing, deciding which to share on which platform, I eliminate more, all of which left me still with about 32,000 photos and videos awaiting either destruction or salvation.

That’s a lot of photos, and I’m not really a very good photographer. Out of 32,000 images:

  • 1,000 are decent
  • 250 are pretty good
  • 100 are suitable for framing as an 8 x 10
  • 25 I’m proud of
  • One or two are good enough that I’d brag about

None of them, however, rise to the quality of the masters. Here, for instance, is my most liked photo on Flickr:

Classic Cars, Lake Placid, NY, 2014…not entirely certain, but my spouse might have taken this photo, not me.

Here’s a photo taken in NYC about ten years ago. A woman taking a shot of a woman striking a pose. I like shooting people who are shooting other people. So shoot me. Without describing why it is a so-so photo, this is a so-so photo.

So-so photo of beautiful woman posing, 2012

I zoomed, cropped, and converted to black and white, and still, nothing to write home about:

Close-up of beautiful posing woman, 2012

I ended up printing the above, and manually, with scissors and a hobby knife, cut out the background, leaving only the woman. Then, along with dozens of other photos, I cut and glued them together to make a collage:

Zoom-in of collage with beautiful posing woman.

I’ve gotten the photo library down below 22,000 and my devices have shut up for the time being. I’ve categorized those that remain into groups I can use for future collages: buildings, people, roads, animals, landscape, and so on. It’s something to do while the world outside continues to unravel.