The Reckless Eyeball

This is Matt Ingram.

In 1951 Matt Ingram drove his old car to a neighbor’s house to see about borrowing a trailer. The neighbor didn’t answer the door, so Ingram went and looked out in the field to see if the neighbor was there, but all he saw were some kids. So, he left and borrowed a trailer from someone else.

Matt spent 2 years in jail for looking at those kids.

Well, really for looking at one kid. Willa Jean Boswell, a 17 year old girl saw Ingram driving on the road and was frightened when he looked at her. She ran to the field, told her brothers, who told their dad, who told the police, and they arrested Ingram for assault with intent to rape.

That’s it. No other relevant details. No one contested or offered that there was more to the story. The entire court accepted that Matt, who had not been in, or caused, any trouble previously, never got closer to Willa Mae than 75 feet. He never spoke a word to her, never even made any sudden or aggressive movements, just a look, and the jury convicted him. He was sentenced to 2 years on the chain gang.

A series of appeals and a whole lotta pressure from… the Soviet Union, eventually brought his case to the North Carolina Supreme Court where his conviction was overturned.

That process took around two years… which Matt spent in jail.

For a look.

Or maybe rather, because he had a look.

Mr. Ingram wasn’t trying to have a look, he was just doing his thing. He was working and being himself- which is in some way the root of what makes that look “a look”. There is some form of innate coolness. Not posing. Not trying. Just being. All business.

Thing is, Ingram’s look wasn’t all that unique. He was by all accounts- normal.

For a Black man.

At that time all sorts of other folks, who were in fact trying, worked this look. In fact, that look was being imitated and replicated all over movie screens and billboards because there was, and still is, something in there, that is undeniably cool.

But cool is only safe for some.

And if that cool is innate, the sort that just is, then what do you do if you are Black? In order to be safe should someone not be themself? Tone it down? Tuck it in? Reel it back? Take what others imitate and monetize and push it down to make white people feel safe? To a lot of people, those who just wanted to get on with life, the answer was “yes”.

It was the sort of thing that when white folks do it, they are popular and get to be in movies but when Black people do it…

It was just after Ingram’s case was won, and received worldwide media attention, that a group of White men decided not to take their case to court when a Black kid named Emmet Till was accused of having that same look.

We have, in so many ways, come a long way. That was 70 years ago. So many people have marched, and worked, and changed since then.

But then I think about backwards hats and hoodies and I have to wonder.

And man, when I look at old pictures of Matt Ingram,

I can still see that cool. Plain as day.

The Coolest Possible Answer to the Question, “What Do You Do?”

What is the coolest possible answer to the question, “What do you do?”

Fighter pilot. Hands down winner. Race care driver and rock star will always be the best answer at a bar, unless someone else chimes in with “fighter pilot”.

Processed with Snapseed.

I would go on to argue that this is the coolest possible answer NOT because of the movie Top Gun, but rather Top Gun exists as a movie only because fighter pilot was already the coolest possible thing anyone could be.

Now the coolest jet to ever take flight, is the SR-71 Blackbird. Again, no contest.

Processed with Snapseed.

Not only has this plane flown higher and faster than any other plane ever built, but it looks like something right out of the Dark Knight Batman movies… only scarier.

Make note that I said the coolest jet. I did so because the coolest plane is up for debate. My vote has always gone for the P-38 Lightning.

Processed with Snapseed.

Something silly was going on over at Lockheed (the company that designed both the SR-71 and the P-38) back in the day and they produced a series of planes that look more at home on the pages of comic books than at an air port.

Which is where I saw them.

Processed with Snapseed.

March Field Air Museum is the kind of place where the 12 year old me gets very angry at the current me, for never becoming a fighter pilot. I am now much older than 12. The adult me no longer cares for cartoons, doesn’t really get into make believe, but I still very much want to fly in a fighter plane.

Soooo badly want to fly in a fighter plane..

Processed with Snapseed.

There was this old TV show called Amazing Stories  where I watched a tale of a gunner trapped in the a ball turret of bomber whose landing gear was stuck. I loved that show. It aired in 1985 and touching this turret brought it right back like yesterday.

That show was awesome.

Processed with Snapseed.

I have never been a big fan of death. Wait, maybe death isn’t my real issue but more so killing. Death is inevitable, killing is almost always avoidable and bad. But if looping, spinning, great graphics or design, and even explosions (missiles and bombs, not planes) could all be in play without the actual killing… I’d die for that job.

Processed with Snapseed.

And also- I touched a MIG.

Eat your heart out Maverick. I touched a MIG.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Eat Your Hipster Hearts Out: Dad’s stuff

My father has never been hip. I have not asked him if he was ever cool, but I’m guessing he would happily agree with me. Hip isn’t high on his priority list.

Growing up with him I never saw him doing the cool things, saying cool words, or even paying attention to anyone everyone else said was cool. We lived in a place that we all knew wasn’t cool (Utah) and while in this backwater we didn’t even do the only thing people did there that was considered cool (ski).

rugsrailImagine my surprise when years later I began seeing the cool kids of the coolest place (Brooklyn) doing things I used to see my dad do. I was, and to some extent still am, confounded. To make matters worse, The cool kids were not just doing things my dad did but they were for the most part doing it poorly.

Not everyone (Hollister Hovey does taxidermy right) but I saw dudes buying axes who have never, nor will ever, chop wood. I was confused.

stagmountsI had been away from my Dad’s home for longer than I thought and was struck by the volume and variety of objects in his home that meant something to me, and even more struck that the quality of his collection was even better than I remembered.

throneHis collection of Native American rugs were not purchased but rather they were either inherited or bartered. I remember artisans from New Mexico and Arizona who didn’t speak Spanish or English weaving rugs that would make any Urban Outfitter designers swoon.

kachinaThe antlers on the wall were shot and mounted by either my father or one of his friends. The lattice throne was brought back from Berlin back in the 60’s, kachinas and baskets from off the reservation, and Michelangelo’s Moses from Italy.

statuary

Dad spent hours sitting in the same room as the television completely ignoring whatever was on. He was engraving on tusks of mastodon or walrus, powder horns (either cow or buffalo), and now he even has wild boar tusks. A ship carved into an imitation whale tooth makes sense, but looking at it now, the plains warrior scrimshawed onto a walrus tusk-not so much. It didn’t seem odd to me when he did it back in the 80’s.

scrimshaw

While Dad’s flintlock normally hangs on the wall of his living room, it has also shot an elk.

Recently.

flinthawkhornWandering the loft I touched the objects and experienced tactile nostalgia. I remember the times years ago when those things were part of my environment, and like all things in youth I took them for granted. Now that I am older than Dad was when he created or collected these things, I recognize their value independent of my memories but mostly appreciate them through my appreciation of him.

I look up to him and strangely enough I look up to his things.

His things represent experiences, places, and all the various aspects of him. They are him. They are him so much that as long as he lives he does not collect things as much as he earns them. For instance the the objects from Samoa do not come from my youth but from his old age.

He tells me the staff and fan were gifts. They are symbols or talismans representing speech giving, talking, or pontificating. If you have met my father this makes sense. I don’t need to know anything about Samoa or her traditions to believe my Dad. Not because I trust his expertise in this South Pacific nation, but rather I know for a fact that were he to ever earn anything, it would be for talking.

I appreciate things that are earned. Especially things with a good story. That stick is inherently both.

samoaclose

Those things are cool. They are real in so many ways. They have not only aesthetic value-which I’m glad people are recently appreciating-but more so they meaning. Not a fad. Not an a crafted image. No irony.

Actual cool.

You can’t have a collection this cool without some it it rubbing off on you. Or maybe its more likely that the objects got some of the cool as it rubbed off from him.

Maybe he was cool all along, just not hip.opafisher