Sometime over the past few months I found myself looking at a blog, “Mad Thirsty”, an honest and striking creation, in photography and small cap text, of Jesse Somera, a Los Angeles based model and photographer, who documents some of his world online.
Some titles of posts:
photos of two jobs, party&bullshit and the most maddening man i’ve ever met
basically me just fanning out on remi, getting weird at a random party and having fun
all the behind the scene shots from the mentos commercial i did
There were models, long-haired and long legged girls, skateboarders and stylists, lofts full of junk food, late nights in the clubs, and a trip to Nigeria with a bed full of cash and people with automatic weapons.
Drawn in I was by lost youth, aimless and gorgeous, sullen and bored, making out and barfing up.
Sometime over the past few months, a time when I was otherwise watching my mother progress into death, I had another distraction online, the exact opposite of her illness, a ride into the night with models on their way to Malibu or dancing in the club.
On Wednesday, I made a plan to meet up with Jesse in Little Tokyo. I didn’t know what to expect.
The day was hot. I parked in a concrete lot under ground, and walked to an alley of sushi bars and cafes. I sat down in one café, by the window, and sent a message to him.
I had brought my camera but then wondered if this might provoke anger. He makes his living getting photographed. So was this a violation?
I imagined him skateboarding up to the café as he did in his Mentos commercial. Would he sit across from me and stare into his phone as we talked? Would he look at other people passing by while we conversed? Would he explode in anger if I asked him how he liked: modeling, Los Angeles, his family, his ex-girlfriend, his career?
When he showed up, he had walked 20 minutes in the heat, but his face was dry and he was cool, dressed in a gray Rag and Bone sweatshirt, and gray sweat pants. He lightly embraced me and we sat down. He drank an unsweetened ice green tea I had bought for him.
Across from me, now, was a green-eyed young man, handsome, with a touch of Asiatic to him: a flat nose, small ears, wide set eyes, and a long, lean body remarkably broad on top, as if he had rowed on the surfboard for many hours a day in the Pacific near his hometown of Ventura, CA. But the rest of him was lean, and his hands were large, and when we talked, he had his full attention on me, and he never wavered. He was intense and polite. He rested his chin atop one of his large hands, expressive hands, hands that could also be the hands of a hand model.
We talked about movies, Terrence Malick and Michelangelo Antonioni; he told me about his favorite photographer Alasdair McLellan; we compared Pentax, Fuji, digital and film; we went around about his relationships, his loft, his ex-girlfirend, his dreams.
He asked me, naturally, that assassinating question for which I have no present answer: What do you do for a living?
He had gravitas, bearing and self-assurance. And his aura, boyish, contained sad, subtle, quiet, masculine rage that sometimes erupts, under the surface, in people with great gifts, be they artistic, physical or intellectual.
He had described himself, in his blog, of not being very good at certain things that I judged him to be very good at. And in his self-doubt I saw my own.
My self-torture silently screams: Bad at math, not a real man, no career, aimless, petty, childish, vindictive, self-pitying, suicidal.
His self-description, in the blog, of not always measuring up, this is the way I have seen my whole life, of imagining that I was destined to become someone admired, or read or watched or loved. He too was on that kick, a drug of perfectionism that knows no cure.
His writing, his photographs and his beauty brought me to meet him, but I think I was in search of something lost in myself, that aching desire to return to youth and dive into a paid profession rewarding, creative and thrilling.
It is obvious to me, now, that I will never have a mentor. There will be no father figure to sponsor me. There will be no boss to bring me along. And maybe that is good.
And I went down to meet Jesse Somera, strangely imagining that we were contemporaries in some alien way, the 25-year-old and the 52-year-old, two artists trying to work and get recognition.
Maybe I will end up like my mother, on my deathbed, enraged that I hadn’t yet begun to realize my life.
Or maybe I have been living the dream all along, as lucky as Jesse Somera, the beautiful and talented boy I met the other day in Little Tokyo.
The trick is to realize it before it’s too late.