I took my daughter into pre-school on Friday morning. For once, I wasn’t late. What a relief.
One step down the industrial-carpeted hallway, and I was hit in the face with the smell of puke. Vomit. Throw-up. Call it what you will.
The odor was intense, like a kung fu stuntman awaiting a high-wire scene. My goodness, was it unpleasant. And, of course, a horrible omen.
By nightfall, she was projectile vomiting, my daughter. Fever too, though mild. I was wiping sick off the concrete floors for almost an hour, all together.
Normally, this would not be such a big deal. Kids take ill all the time, and pre-schools are notorious germ factories. All parents know that.
But now is not a normal time. Ebola panic is everywhere, and I’m getting on a plane on Wednesday. The moment she began to evacuate her stomach, the old-fashioned way, I had visions of myself retching into a barf bag, on a Southwest flight, while the pilot re-routed us to the nearest airport.
Once a virus comes in the house, you’re really just waiting for it to get on with things. The waiting. It’s miserable. Compound that with fear of sparking a riot in the airport, as your fellow citizens rush away from you as quickly as their chubby, sweat-pants-wearing legs can carry them…
Like I said, not good.
Thankfully, if you can say such a thing at such a time, I got hit with the bug yesterday. Sunday. It was efficient, like Harvey Keitel’s cleaner in “Pulp Fiction.” No wasted effort. I started to feel bad in the late morning, was stuck in bed within the hour, had two quick puke sessions, and was asleep at my normal bedtime.
I woke up today, weakened, but otherwise OK. No appetite, true, but no fever. To be clear, I am not suggesting I have Ebola. Just the opposite. But it’s insane that we’re living in a world where a simple stomach bug can set off that kind of fear.
Fear of death. Fear of misery. Fear of leaving this world, to be forgotten. Forever.
(Sorry. Didn’t mean to freak you out. We’re all going to be OK.)
But it did get me thinking about all those nameless people dying in West Africa. They don’t stand a chance, those guys. You eat a piece of bushmeat, and the next thing you know, your eyes are bleeding and you go to the local shaman for help? Are we really living in 2014?
Sometimes, I wonder.
We all die, and then they have to put us somewhere. A cemetery, most likely. But who even knows who goes where, once your immediate family submits to the ravages of time. I once photographed a gravestone from 1776 that was smack dab in the middle of a suburban front yard in Jersey. (You never know how things will end up, centuries hence.)
But I wasn’t thinking those things as I perused “Ad Infinitum,” a new book put out by Kris Vervaeke. In fact, the only thing I was thinking was, “What the fuck is going on here?” (And “Thank god my son’s asthma attack, ten minutes ago, because he inhaled a bunch of garage dust swept up by the plumber, at his grandma’s house, wasn’t serious.)
On first viewing, this book was perfectly obscure. Page upon page of pictures of Chinese-looking people, faded away. Creepy business. Were the portraits bleached? Photoshop? Who are they? Why are there so many of them? (Insert random billion chinese-people joke here.)
No. Seriously. There was no text. No titles. Nothing.
For once, I’ll admit I skipped and flipped. Because there were so many of them. The monotony. All those portraits. (Ad infinitum.)
I couldn’t find anything at all. I turned it upside down. I flipped from the back. What?
Finally, I noticed that the page numbers were interrupted. They ran up, and then started over again. A clue?
I sourced out the point of interruption, and found a one page statement that explained what was going on. Honestly, I was a shade disappointed. Sure, it was good to hear the backstory. Clarifying.
These are portraits from headstones in a cemetery in Hong Kong. They have been separated from their owners’ names, out of respect, but also to create the sense of disorientation that hit me so squarely. They are faded, and destroyed, because they have been subject to the elements. Worn down by the undefeated prize fighter extraordinaire: Time.
I was only-a-little-sad to learn the truth, simply because I thought I was looking at the first book I’ve seen yet that had the guts to tell nothing at all. No hints. Which would have eventually pissed me off, and maybe I wouldn’t have reviewed the book? Tough call.
But this one has a haunting quality to it that seemed perfect in the run-up to Halloween. And ideal for me to dive into on a sick day, home, watching pointless movies on cable. Waiting to get better, so that I can just be some anonymous dude at the airport on Wednesday. Arousing no suspicion at all.
Bottom Line: Creepy and obscure portraits from a Hong Kong cemetery
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