The Santa Monica Sears and Roebuck has been on the corner of Colorado and 4th street for as long as I can remember. It used to span 4th street, with the Automotive center on the east side and the main building on the west. There is a little booth at the top of the building where a parking attendant used to sit and direct cars to the vacant spots. In its heyday, Sears was the place, the store was modern and you could get most anything there.
Not much of that glory has faded. The automotive center was demolished to make room for the Santa Monica terminal of the newly extended Expo line, the parking guy in the sky is long gone, and the whole store seems a worn and a little seedy. I still like going there for the Craftsman tools in the basement, but little else.
Now Land’s End has an outpost in the store itself, and I was there getting some Dockers Khakis, the only brand that actually fits me. I had ordered them online, and while I was waiting for someone to fetch them, I browsed the shirt section just to kill the time. They had the well-made pique polos on sale so I got a few. After completing the sale, I was directed to this string of chairs. If you order online for in-store pickup, this is where you will wait while they fetch your merchandise. It was only a few moments before a courteous employee emerged from the stainless steel clad door with my pants, sealed in a plastic bag and tagged with my order info. Fairly painless, the pants were on sale online, and I didn’t have to pay for shipping. Such a deal.
Waiting is a transitory activity. While you are in the waiting room, you look for things to help pass the time. Magazines, your iPhone, conversation, meditation. Whatever you find to do, it isn’t really why you are there. Wouldn’t you rather be sitting on your couch reading National Geographic? Sitting at your desk checking your emails? But no, you are here filling the minutes, trying to turn that non-time into something vaguely productive. How long you will remain is a fluid interval. It might be five minutes. It might be half an hour. I once waited for a doctor for more than an hour. And that was before the iPhone.
Finally, your name is called and you leave the limbo of waiting for whatever it is you have been waiting for. Here, one lucky soul has escaped and is on his way to fulfillment. Others here aren’t so fortunate.
This photo appeared on my friend W’s Facebook page a few weeks ago. He is an accomplished photographer as you can see from the dynamic composition and critical framing. Knowing my penchant for waiting room photos, he tagged me in the post. I think it is a great shot, and in fact, it gave me inspiration to begin photographing myself in the waiting room situations. Stay tuned for some of these selfeets, coming soon.
All these images are from the St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica. Most of them were taken during a visit there in January of 2015. As previously noted, hospitals are rife with waiting areas of all sizes and comfort levels, and varying degrees of aesthetic value. I think the top left is my favorite. It perfectly encapsulates the essence of what is it to wait.
Doesn’t this look like a lovely living room? All that’s missing is a fireplace and some floor lamps. Well, it’s a primary waiting room in a hospital. Look at all the reading material, the TV, the comfy couches and chairs. There is even free wi-fi. Yep, you’re going to be here a while.
We were there for a minor medical issue, and I had the chance to prowl around looking for waiting areas to photograph. We were there at night, so the usually bustling hospital had the lonely deserted air most do when the crowds of people leave. Hospitals have been some of the most productive places in this project because of the abundance of waiting spaces, large, medium, and small. As previously noted, there is a lot of waiting surrounding the medical profession. Too many sick people and not enough doctors.
As you might have gathered by now, we engage in food quests of one form or another. One of the objects of such a quest has been the definitive pastrami, (or corned beef) sandwich. The gold standard, in my opinion, is Katz’s in New York City. In Los Angeles, there are scores nay, hundreds of variations on this deli icon. However, there are only a few that remotely approach my ideal of the perfect sandwich.
Food writers routinely compile lists of the ‘best New York style pastrami’ sandwich and the two that make this list consistently are Langer’s and Brent’s. Not often mentioned is Nate N’ Al’s in Beverly Hills, for years our go-to stop. Factor’s Deli used to be very good but has declined in years. Canter’s on Fairfax also makes these lists with regularity, but they are not my favorite. A new player in the LA pastrami scene is Wexler’s in the Grand Central Market. They cure their own meat and lox, and the sandwich is pretty darn good.
A couple of years ago, on our way out to Desert Hot Springs for a much-needed escape, we stopped at Langer’s for the first time. Fortunately, we arrived after the crowds that normally fill the waiting line outside had dissipated. Its reputation is well deserved. Aside from the smoky goodness of the meat, their speciality is the twice-baked rye bread with a fabulous crunchy crust. The old-school deli ambience only adds to the experience and the french fries are delicious too. We have eaten there several times since and it never disappoints.
The following year, we stopped at Brent’s just because they have been so lauded, and were sorely disappointed. The meat was rubbery and indistinctly flavored, and the bread so soft, the sandwich disintegrated halfway through. It has been suggested we try again, but once was enough. On our food quests, one strike and you’re out.
Sherman’s is our local framing shop. We have been getting art framed there for more than 20 years. As Jake progressed through his art education, we had a number of his early works framed there, through his photographic career, right up to the last picture he created a few months before his death.
I took this photo while we waited for our guy, Andy to help us with that last piece of Jake’s, a beautiful pastel he made while he was in Palm Springs. It is a large work, and we floated it inside a magnificent black Italian wood frame, like in a shadow box. As usual, Sherman’s did a spectacular job matching the texture of the matte inside and perfectly displaying this wonderful picture.
Our most recent trip was to get a portrait of Jake framed. Taken by my Mom’s friend Penny years ago, it is a fabulous picture of Jake with his camera at my Dad’s studio. Look at it closely; it perfectly captures who Jake was, his authentic self. We found a gorgeous hand-made Italian frame and they did a masterful job with the matting and framing. It hangs in our hallway next to Jake’s last pastel.
I visit my dermatologist about once a year. I have a lot of moles and occasionally one begins to look suspicious, so it’s off to the skin doctor. She carves the offending spot out and sends it off for analysis. So far, everything comes back negative or “pre cancerous”. I’m still not clear on what that means, but she always smiles at me and says to come back when I have grown something new for her.
Most of her business is cosmetic, I suspect, due to all the beauty magazines, and Botox brochures in her waiting room. The staff is extremely friendly and conciliatory, offering tea to all the patients while they wait. This photo of her waiting room always reminds me of a space ship for some reason. I don’t know why, but it does.
I received this photo in my email today from a friend. A talented Director of Photography I have known for years. It speaks for itself. I didn’t convert into black and white because I love the 70’s avocado green of the couch. He didn’t send any other information along with the picture.
It has always been my hope that others begin to participate in the Waiting Room Project, that’s why I call it a project – an ongoing documentation of these ‘non-places’ and by extension, the documentation of our lives.
Thank you Marty, you are the very first guest poster. I have had others send me photos and I will scour my emails to find them and share.
I have been to many chiropractors over the years. The best was Dr. Lowell Cripe, more than 30 years ago. He was a huge bear of a man with the most gentle hands. He would touch your spine with eyes closed, feeling for any out of place vertebrae. Then he would wrap you up and … crack, you were miraculously straightened. He was a true healer. Sadly, he passed away and his partner took over the practice. Dr. B__ wasn’t nearly as good and we moved on.
Chiropractors came and went, some effective, some less so. Several years ago, we found Dr. Bob in Santa Monica. He is also a healer, and big enough to apply sufficient torque to my stiff and reluctant spine to move it. Dr. Bob was struck by lightning a few years ago while on the beach, and initially was pronounced dead. His daughter brought him back to life with CPR, and after several months recuperation, he was back at work. He favors Hawaiian shirts (as do I) and usually can put me back together.
His waiting room has the usual assortment of magazines along with several Gary Larsen books and a few other publications of similarly twisted humor. It makes the short wait go by quickly. Fortunately, I haven’t had to visit Dr. Bob for many months.