Zoom Out (or "A Zen Lozenge") (or "That is a Lot of Zeds")


I'm down at Shahada Circle late on a muggy afternoon. I call it Shahada Circle because in the middle is a mildly tacky statue of the Islamic shahada in blocky Arabic calligraphy, surrounded by half-hearted little fountains that gurgle the scummy water more than they spit it.

There's a guy on the sidewalk that rings the circle. He's wearing a thobe and a skullcap and sitting on a folding stool, staring at the sea while the breeze fills up the loose fabric at the bottom of his thobe like it's a windsock. He looks like he's sucking on a zen lozenge, all at one with the motion of the ocean and the drone of the traffic and the creeping shadows.

I want a zen lozenge too. They taste like a childhood-and-retirement swirly cone, or maybe a Hakuna Matata shake, minus the meerkat hair.

A long time ago me and Thomas sat on a bridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the dying sunlight of a breezy evening in May. The air was salty and the waves were reaching up the beach with their foamy fingers and we were spitting sunflower seeds and watching them flutter off the bridge to land somewhere we couldn't see. I don't remember what we talked about while we hunched in our hoodies in the burnt yellow hue of a dwindling day. We were 16 and we were sucking on zen lozenges, and it tasted like possibility and big blue sky and open highways.

I guess I photographed the guy in the skullcap on the stool because, just by sitting there and watching the sun skate across the sky, he made me feel a little younger and a little freer, or maybe a little older and a little more content. I'm not sure which. My camera zoomed in and I zoomed out, sort of pulling away from the moment and glimpsing for a second or two the panorama of existence from a height where the cares that consume us from one day to the next just look like tiny sunflower seed shells flitting on the wind way up above the big, broad, sparkling sea.