Sunday, May 27, 2007

100 years old and a Basket of Bread Sticks as Deep as a Well

I just finished shooting a story on golfers who are 100 yerars old and still playing. I went to Chico, Palm Springs and Portland and with all three subjects I found them to be pretty similar. They each palyed at the same kind of run down course and all expected to be treated like royalty at the club. The drove their carts on the greens, failed to stop as other players were about to hit and barked out good natured orders to all around them. "Give me a cart, give me a club, I want a different jacket" rang out acoss little wooden sheds that served as pro shops at these clubs. I found it charming and endearing. Everyone at the clubs knew who they were and seemed happy to oblige.

The day after I graduated from college I jumped on a plane and flew to Sun City, Arizona to begin a documentary project on the largest retirement commiunity in the world. The plan was to spend a year photographing the seniors and then publish a book on the project. It was going to be like a cross between Robert Frank's The Americns and Bruce Davidoin's Subway. It was going to make my career. I would join Magnum and be huge.

I ended up renting a room from a 70 year old man who wore leather skin tight pants, had a house full of driftwood furniture
and smoked pot constantly. I got a job serving lunch at Olive Garden and quickly figured out what a terrible mistake I had made by coming to Arizona. I was 22 years old and the youngest person in a 20 mile radius by at least 40 years. I stopped taking pictures all together.

Then there were the bread baskets. At lunch at Olive Garden you could order a pasta dish for five bucks and get as much salad and warm breadsticks as you wanted. The seniors were lined up out the door when the doors opened at 1130. Back and forth I would to the kitchen to refil that damn basket. They wouldn't touch the pasta but would go to town on the free salad and bread. And right before they asked for the check they would order another round of bread and salad and then ask for foil to wrap up it all up to go. On a good day I would walk with $20 bucks in tips. Like the 100 year old golfers I photographed this week they wanted to be treated like kings and queens. They had seen it all, lived through it all and now was their turn to be taken care of.

20 years ago at the restaurant I found them to be cheap myopic and ungrateful. This week they were liberated and at the end of a long life finally did not care what other people thought about them.

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