The Automatic Door

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Medical Building, Santa Monica. November 2014

These chairs are just inside the entrance of a medical building in Santa Monica. No doctor’s waiting room, no medical offices, just the hallway to the elevator lobby. Nothing really to wait for, and yet there they are. I guess if you are exhausted from the 6 step climb from the street and need to take a breather before venturing down the hallway, this is for you. Or if you need to catch the bus and don’t want to wait on the street these are more comfy than the hard metal bench. I dunno, but I liked the reflections and the motion blur of the door as it closes.

Testing, 1, 2, 3

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St. John’s Medical Center, Santa Monica. July 2014

I have a couple of health issues that require regular blood tests every year or so. Nothing serious, just routine monitoring. I usually just have the blood drawn at the doctor who is requesting the test, but for some reason, I had to go to St. John’s for this particular test. I don’t exactly recall what it was, but I found myself in the well-lit waiting room and discovered this photo. Yes, that’s the tip of my finger sneaking in the top left corner; darn iPhone and its microscopic camera. Some might say it ruins what would otherwise be a splendid work of art, a commentary on the philosophical aspect of waiting. I could spend an hour trying to Photoshop it out, or just leave it as an organic part of the image, a bit of authenticity. More a commentary on my fat fingers. I’ve been taking pictures for more than 50 years and still can’t keep my damn fingers away from the lens. So much to remember.

Active Barbers

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Active Barbers, Santa Monica. April 2014

In one of my first posts, I mentioned Steven the Barber. I met him at Lincoln Barbers in 2012. He gave a great haircut, and when I wanted to splurge a little, an old-fashioned hot towel shave. A month after Jake’s passing, with the conclusion of the shloshim, the 30 day mourning period, I went to see Steven. During that 30 days it is customary not to shave or cut your hair, so by that time, I had a full beard. While we were talking he asked about Jake, who he knew and whose hair he had cut on a few occasions. When I told him what had happened and that Jake was 24 years old, he got very quiet and murmured, “that’s how old I am.” We spent the rest of the time in near silence other than him mumbling, “We’re gonna make Ed Colman look like a million bucks.” He took great care while shaving me, and when I went to pay him, he refused to take any money. “This one’s on me”, he said. It was a small kindness that had a great impact at the time.

A few months later, Steven left Lincoln and with a partner, opened his own shop on Wilshire, Active Barbers. As soon as he opened, I went for a haircut to support him. I guess I could be called a charter customer. I wouldn’t get my hair cut any where else. We always talk about his business, his progress, how he is doing. He has an interesting history, not the most sterling from what I can surmise, and he has made a successful life for himself in spite of a difficult beginning. If you look closely, you can see him in the mirror. The shop rarely looks like this now, it is always busy.

The Auto Club

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Auto Club, Santa Monica. August 2013

I love the Auto Club. The people who work there are always pleasant and courteous. They will help plan your trip. They have the coolest maps, and as an inveterate reader of maps, I always take them on my journeys. You can buy Mexican auto insurance. They will bring you a new battery for your car if it dies on the street. They will come and tow your car if it breaks down on the road. You get a swell magazine every month. And most importantly, you can do your Department of Motor Vehicles business there in comfort and convenience. That alone is worth the cost of membership. That doesn’t mean you won’t wait. In fact, you usually have to wait twice. Once in the line to check in and once at your designated area like DMV, Insurance, Travel. etc.

In this photo you can see three distinct waiting areas beginning with the chair in the foreground and stretching back to the check-in line. I was there getting auto insurance for a trip to Ensenada, Mexico. We have been going to Las Rosas, a lovely little resort on the coast just north of that city, for 25 years. Jake accompanied us on many of our trips from an early age on up to teenagehood. He wasn’t coming with us this time, just a little getaway for the two of us. We have never needed the insurance, but always feel better about having it. We haven’t been back to Las Rosas since.

5th Floor Elevator Lobby

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Medical Building, Santa Monica. July 2013

I spotted these two chairs outside an elevator in my oral surgeon’s building. What struck me as odd was why do you need such comfy chairs to wait for the elevator? Actually, why chairs at all? Are the elevators really so slow that you might want to sit down for the minute or so it takes for the doors to open, or did the designers of this building know that it would take far longer? At least there aren’t any magazines on the table. That would bode ill for anyone in a hurry. Is the elevator ride so exhausting that you will have to sit a moment to catch your breath before venturing down the hall to your appointment? It’s only the 5th floor. Someone sat there long enough to drink their water. But for how long? Just another ‘Waiting Room’ mystery.

Down to the Car Wash (Bomp-dee-bomp-dee-bomp)

20 years ago, one of my neighbors initiated a campaign to plant street trees in our neighborhood. He chose a variety that spits tiny droplets of sap, dead leaves, and twigs throughout the year, and a multitude of little yellow flowers during the spring. I can usually wait about a month or so before our cars are too disgusting to stand, so it’s down to the car wash. This collage includes 4 different establishments. The one with the two dogs waiting for their car was my go-to when I worked in Santa Monica. I could stop on my way in, get a quick once over and still get there by 9. Now, my regular hookup is Handy J’s at the intersection of Washington Blvd. and Washington Place.

When you bring your car in for cleaning, you fully expect to wait, and these four places have similar but different vibes in their areas. Handy J’s has an outdoor barbecue restaurant on the corner owned by the same folks that run HJ’s. They grill on a large charcoal barbecue and the smell of tri-tip and ribs wafts across the lot, borne on the perpetual on-shore air from the ocean to the west. Santa Monica has free wi-fi, little bistro tables, and if you are hungry, a McDonald’s right across the street. Millennium is one block away and in a pinch I might go there, but HJ’s does a better job and I get coupons. Now that we all have our mobile phones, it doesn’t much matter where we are, we are always in our own little worlds. In years past, you might strike up a conversation with your fellow waiter, but there isn’t much conversation anymore; we are all too busy peering at our 5-inch screens.

The Open Door

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Surgery Center, Santa Monica. June 2013

By now, I was on the lookout for waiting rooms, waiting benches, waiting stools, waiting lines, any place that had been designated, however vaguely, as a “waiting area”, my iPhone at the ready. I had it pre-set to one of the black and white combinations that I was using. Often these photos were taken surreptitiously, no more than a quick glance at the screen and a touch of the shutter button. Many times I would only take one photo. Sometimes I had the luxury of several, choosing the best when I had the leisure to look at them on the large screen of my computer. After my initial appointment with the oral surgeon of the last post, I was walking down the hallway toward the elevator when I passed this doorway and was immediately captivated by the image. I wondered what the woman was doing. Was she talking to someone? Was she getting something out of her purse on the chair next to her?  Was she a patient or was she waiting for someone else? As I didn’t want to be discovered taking pictures, I snapped this one photo; I didn’t linger to peer in to answer the questions. I preferred to leave them unanswered to be asked and answered by the viewer.

The Whole Tooth

 

In June, we celebrated my wife’s birthday at a very upscale restaurant in Santa Monica with my mother and Jake. At the beginning of the meal, I bit into a piece of olive bread and a pit hidden inside cracked one of my teeth. It was the beginning of a two-year adventure attempting to get compensation for the damage, a story for another time. The very next day, I visited my dentist (the photo on the left) for an evaluation, and waited in one of those chairs. He determined that the damage was so extensive I needed the tooth extracted and an implant put in. He referred me to an oral surgeon (the photo on the right) and I had the surgery a few days later.  Six months later I had a titanium insert screwed into my jaw and a shiny new crown. Note how many more patients the surgeon anticipates than the dentist. This is one of the first pictures that has another person in the shot. I also took a photo of the empty room, and the presence of the person lends a different import, so I amended my “rules” to include rooms occupied and unoccupied.

Back to UCLA

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UCLA Medical Office, Santa Monica. May 2013

This is the waiting room at the UCLA Santa Monica medical center pictured in the 12 Chairs post. This room was so large, it had 4 or 5 different areas with different decors and furnishings in the same room. There was something about the shapes and arrangement of these chairs that inspired me to shoot a second photo of the same room two months apart. There was an area with a coffee and tea maker, microwave oven, and a soda machine; I guess the powers that be at UCLA knew you might have to camp out for a while when they set up the  room. At other times when we visited, there were families with children picnicking at the tables, people working on computers, doing their homework, a regular mecca of activity. This was in the “empty room” phase so I had to work to get a picture without people. We would visit a few more times before Jake decided to abandon the UCLA system in favor of USC. As a former Bruin UES elementary student, I was aghast, but he preferred the doctor.