Hey, Mom, Dad, look at me!
How many times did you shout that growing up? Look at me, I’m running fast! Look at me, I’m riding a bike! Look at me, I scored the winning point!
Shouted first to your parents, later to the world. As we get older, our shout for attention is more nuanced, but I suspect that much of our existence can be reduced to this one thing.
I am here. See me.
They say that the traditional Zulu greeting “sawubona” translates to, “I see you.” I like the sound of that, the idea that I see you and value you as a person. However, if every stranger I met said, “I see you,” with all that implies, the fascination would quickly fade.
Besides, I’m not ready to say that to everyone I meet. It sounds exhausting. And, if I am being honest, there are some people that . . . well, let’s just say that if this was the standard greeting in Texas, when I said, “I see you,” for some folks, it would mean, “I see you, and if I had the option, I’d be somewhere else right now.”
Honesty sucks, don’t it?
So, as it turns out, I’m good with the standard “Hey.” If it was good for Andy and Barney and Opie and Gomer, it’s good enough for me. Let everyone go along with their illusions intact. That’s civilization right there. Don’t poke the bear.
When someone asks, “How are you?” I typically answer, “Vertical.” Clever, huh? It short-circuits the ritual, forces the other person out of the perfunctory conversational tennis and gives them an opening to actually engage on a human level.
But when I break it down, I realize that what I’m really saying is, “Look at me.” I’m not just another customer, another walking stiff, another cog in the machine. I’m not going to play along. hit my mark and say my lines. It’s a reverse sawubona.
For the record, when it comes to the checkout line, I’m also good with not interacting at all. It’s not like I compulsively force everyone I encounter to acknowledge my humanity. But, if you ask the question, I’ll force you to either make it real or ignore me completely.
Yeah, I’m a pain in the ass. I’ve learned to live with it.
So, where was I? Oh yes, getting more people to look at me. Or rather, to look at my photographs.
It started with The Water Works and my grand scheme to eke revenue from my photography addiction. I talked Sean McCann into letting me display some of my spec photos in the lobby by the entrance to the bar. By then, I had polished my mounting and matting skills. I put the black-and-white prints in wood frames, and instead of hanging them by a wire, I mounted them on the wall with four wood screws. Nobody was going to walk away with those photos!
I don’t recall if I ever retrieved them. They might be hanging there still in the abandoned building.
One day I happened to be walking along downtown and noticed this place that had prints displayed in the windows and interior walls. I don’t recall the nature of the establishment. I don’t think it was a gallery, just some business that had art hanging up.
I went home, grabbed my meager portfolio, and returned. Somehow, I talked them into giving a few of my prized prints some space on the wall. They stayed there for a few years. Might still be there. I don’t know, because after 20 years living in one spot, I left town. Left the state. Left it all behind and spent 10 years following high-tech money.