I threw open the window, took 8 or 10 pictures, then got back into bed and fell back asleep.
Articles posted by Bill Hayes
Someone stole my warm winter gloves–tossed behind me onto a snowbank–right as I was taking this picture and talking to this woman, an artist from Berlin. A cabbie saw a guy pocket them and flee. The street was empty by the time I turned around, not two minutes later. Fuck ’em. At least I got a picture.
I just put up a selection of my park bench pictures–a series that has come together by chance. When I’m out taking pictures, I look for ones that require no set up, where people are already posed, in a sense: standing in a doorway, leaning against a wall, hanging out on a stoop, sitting on a park bench. “Can I take your picture?” I say. Then all I have to do is “click.”
If you see a man in a top hat walking down the street, you have to take his picture.
(Originally published in the NY Times)
I went for a walk the other night. Someone said it was supposed to rain, but the skies looked clear to me. I headed up Eighth Avenue, crossed over at 23rd Street and at 10th Avenue saw a stairwell going up and took it. I was on the High Line. That much I’d expected. What I had not anticipated was how crowded it would be, like being stuck on a moving sidewalk at an airport. But the night was too nice to begrudge anyone anything, particularly a chance to experience beauty.
So I imagined I was a tourist too, headed for a distant gate to board a plane to a place I’ve never been.
Somewhere along the way, I lost my hat. I didn’t realize this until I had exited the park at 30th Street, by which point I couldn’t imagine going back up to retrace my steps. I chose to take the lowlife route home, in the shadow of the High Line, instead.
“What makes Iago evil? some people ask. I never ask.”
What makes Didion a diva? I ask instead.
In lieu, that is, of the classic opening line from Joan Didion’s 1970 novel Play It As It Lays, the kind of tone-setting, attention-getting sentence with which all of her books begin.
I am thinking of early Didion in particular: the Pulp Fiction Didion of Run River and of the screenplay for Panic in Needle Park (as opposed to the woman responsible for Redford and Pfeiffer’s “Up Close and Personal”). The New Journalism Didion who drank “gin-and-hot-water to blunt the pain and took Dexedrine to blunt the gin” to finish Slouching Towards Bethlehem and who included in The White Album a document from her own report as a psychiatric patient, as evidence of a “not inappropriate response to the summer of 1968.” The Lady Didion in the jacket photo for A Book of Common Prayer, with a gardenia in her hair (borrowed from Billie Holiday), or the Undercover Didion photographed for Salvador, hidden behind big, black sunglasses (picked up from Jackie Kennedy Onassis).
But I am also thinking of the Didion who reemerged in 1997 with The Last Thing He Wanted. “Her first novel in 12 years!” the promotional ads proclaimed, suggesting a triumph of Didionesque resolve over Didionesque ennui. The Diva Didion who came back on top (like Judy at Carnegie Hall or Callas at the Met) with a bestseller, due, in no small part, to her loyal gay following.
What makes Didion a diva? Why do gay men worship her? I send my question out upon the Internet and pour myself a gin-and-hot water.Celine, Diva Didion, Joan Didion, Joan Didion and gay men, Joan Didion Celine ad
(A piece from almost 20 years ago: Originally published in The New York Times Magazine – July 1996)
I would steal an hour of Steve’s sleep if I could. I would slip beneath his eyelids and yank it right out of him. He would feel nothing. Nor would I — neither remorse nor shame. One hour of perfect unconsciousness: one clean, soundless dive, deeper and deeper, as far as my lungs would take me. I would come up for air before he woke. Instead, I lie motionless, sewn to the sheets by the smallest demons, watching his silhouette against the bedroom blinds. Fondness becomes hostility. How does he do this for eight hours? I listen to his tranquil breathing, furious that he sleeps while I cannot.
Finally, at 3 A.M., I snip the threads, discard my carcass at bedside and leave it behind in disgust. Time for the insomniac to make his rounds. I creep into the next room, where I feel a thrilling freedom from my own body. I am naked, but not cold; neither thirsty nor hungry; I can smell nothing. My eyesight is shot; I cannot face the TV, work or read. The plug is out of the socket, the circadian clock stopped, and I roam the apartment of my own power, on my own theory of time, occupying a fragile space between dreaming and functioning.
Originally published in The New York Times Magazine, July 1995
Here we are, in this car, at this moment, at this place we hoped never to be. I don’t know which of us seems more lost and defeated. His seat belt buckled, Steve stares out the window. I think to myself wearily, we haven’t even gotten home yet and we’ve already moved to a new place. We are itinerants, our old lives wiped out, the future stretching no more than a few miles. We have new identities, new language, new names. He is planning for the next stop. I am in charge of driving.
I cannot help retracing our steps, frantically searching for something of intense personal value, lost within a space of a few minutes, a few city blocks. We walked from the parking garage, through the heavy office doors and into the waiting room, where we stopped for a moment. A nurse brought us into a tiny, overheated room, and we waited anxiously, as if stuck in a broken-down elevator, for the door to open.
We had led our lives this way for four years: on a grim treasure hunt across his body, following the natural history of HIV disease, with one clue leading to another. From AZT to ddC to 3TC. T-cell count to T-cell count. From the symptom-free period to early signs of immune-system breakdown. All the while, treading in the safety zone of the not-yet-sick and dodging an actual AIDS diagnosis. Now, the hunt was over. We knew time was probably up.
The doctor appeared and began leafing through Steve’s file nonchalantly, as if she were looking for a telephone number. He peeked over her shoulder. “So, am I in the land of AIDS?” He said it playfully, covering for fear, as if he were guessing at a riddle.
With a childlike sense of denial that seemed rational at the time, I furiously prayed to my dead friend Carol to stop time and magically raise the T-cell numbers. My daydream was interrupted by the doctor. She was speaking very, very slowly. “You…are…in the land…of AIDS….”