Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Miss Shoplifting

[Play music video below at end of post before reading for soundtrack experience.]

Even though I have a mild crush on the cop up the street, I know it can never be. First off, he reminds me of Father Karras from The Exorcist and I refuse to pursue someone based on my love of a possessed priest in one of my favorite movies.

Secondly, no matter how “chummy” (as my Mom would say) we become, I know he’s packing heat and could slap a pair of handcuffs on me…and not in that sexy ball-and-gag way. In short, cops will always make me just a little uneasy.

This is because I’m an outlaw. A bandito. A troublemaker. If a sign reads, “No Trespassing” I consider it a playful dare. If a light is red and no one is around, of course I go...of course. If a bottle of pills says, “Don’t mix with alcohol,” I think the establishment is trying to deny me of a perfectly good high.

Growing up in South Jersey, I shoplifted during most of my teen years, as a hobby. My friend Vicki Franceschini and I worked as a team and were pretty damn good. (Well, frankly, I considered myself a far better thief than Vicki. Vicki was always so obvious – looking this way and that, acting cagey.)

Vicky and I being troublemakers in NYC circa 1988, right before we snuck
into 40th anniversary
of Atlantic Records concert at Madison Square Garden
and had one of the best nights of our lives.

I preferred the casual technique. I’d steal earrings while talking to the woman behind the jewelry counter, sometimes even gesturing with the earrings before I’d slip them into my “never-ending sleeve.” I figured the obvious approach would always win out. I mean, who is bold enough to steal from under your nose, right?

My never-ending sleeve was attached to my favorite London Fog trench coat. It was too big for me so my sleeve acted as a vacuum cleaner, sucking up lipstick, underwear, hats, scarves, toiletries…I could even fit a few books up there.

Stealing books led me to my first my mother. She picked up my coat from the living room couch one afternoon and it unloaded itself, mainly with brand new books. It was tough to explain away. (Go ahead. Think of something, quick.) Oh, the look my Catholic mother gave me. That moment of utter silence. God-awful. (Though you’d think someone would give me some credit for stealing books and not a glass pipe but nooo.)

The second bust was pure carelessness on my behalf. I stole a pair of shoes from a little shoe store in a mini-mall the old fashioned way: put on the new shoes, place your old ones in the box then put it back on the shelf. Slither out the door. (This was before the days of sensors, etc.)

Well, I made it out just fine but made one tragic mistake. Because I was high at the time, I had the munchies. I saw a Little Caesar’s a few doors down and just had to get me some of that Crazy Bread (damn, I loved that magical mystical bread.) Waiting in line, I turned around and saw two of the shoe store managers walking up and down in the sidewalk, peering in the windows.

I dropped to the floor, which made the Little Caesar’s staff a little suspicious. I mumbled something about “feeling faint” but it was no use. The shoe store managers marched into Little Caesar’s and took me back to the scene of the crime. Again, that moment of silence. What do you say? Some things in life are hard to explain away.

Vicky and I being proper Jersey burnouts circa 1987

I don’t steal anymore. Besides, I never stole from people, per se. I was always the “steal but could not rob” type. But ah, what a good, ol’ fashioned high! After a fruitful session, Vicky and I would toss the booty on her waterbed and just lay on it all, like overfed teen animals.

Now, I try to do something rule-breaking or trouble-making at least once a week, just to satisfy the punk in me. But it’s so much tamer. Sure, I’ll still make a prank phone call for some late-night kicks. And just a few months ago, I knocked on my friend’s door and ran away, simply because I could. I’ll proclaim loudly, “You sir, are a jackass!” to a friend or stranger (works best with British accent), just to see the look of surprise in their eyes. And I've been known to lift up my shirt on occasions for no particular reason except shock value.

And if I’m ever around a sign where you can rearrange letters, I’m like a kid in a candy store.

The sign at the restaurant up the street last summer read:


The first time, I had to act quickly since there were patrons in the restaurant, who upon leaving would read the simple:


When Ruby visited, we spent a little more time on it and added some gore value:


The final installment was my favorite because it left something to the imagination:


Breaking rules is fun and good for you. We should break as many as possible. Say outrageous things in crowded places. Make a public nuisance of yourself. Get naked, whenever. While you’re on the phone with someone annoying, do a blowjob gesture. They’ll never see it. Stop being so good. What are you trying win some good contest?

This world and the people in it are meant to be toyed with. Why would God have invented water balloons or thumbtacks? The next time someone says, “You can’t sit there” sit there anyway, grind your ass repeatedly into the seat and gleefully sing, “Oh I can, I can! Look at me! I can do anything!”

Because you can do anything. Don’t let them tell you differently.

Vicky and I breaking into her parent's "liquor room." They put a padlock on the door because of our previous break-ins but they forgot about the window. Their mistake. Looks like that's Amaretto we're drinking. Blech.

You too can get the rush Vicky and I did, back in the day, when she’d jump in my car, new jeans sticking out of her coat, yelling “Drive! Now!” Screeeeech…

When my good friend Scott leaves his grandparents house, they always say, “Drive fast, take chances.” Now, that’s a little wrong. I realize that. But the concept of "wrong" often gets in the way of a perfectly good time.

Don’t let them rob you of all the cheap highs out there. There's nothing but your own standards holding you back from true freedom.

This post is dedicated to the biggest troublemaker I've ever known, my dear friend, Vicki Franceschini (left, me to the right) who died suddenly in February, 1992 at 23 years of age. May she never rest completely in's just not her style.

(Listen to loudly for inspiration...and thanks to Ruby and The Other Beth for all of their bright ideas.)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Semi-Scandalous Day at the Beach (in Pictures, Mostly)

Feeling a little under the weather last Sunday, I decided not to forgo surfing and shoot some photos of The Brothers on their long boards instead. I quickly realized that shooting surfers is not only difficult but slightly boring.

But here are two prerequisite shots of Kurt and Kyle surfing anyway:

See? Not very thrilling. I mean, both guys are great surfers. I'm just not a surf photographer.

So I lay on the beach, basking in the new Spring sunlight and thought about an idea I have for a new series of photographs:

It's a scandalous idea, you see. I would exploit all the young surfer boys I hang out with by taking risque photographs of them. Not porn, per se...just a little edgy. It would make a great coffee table book! Mad wealth would ensue!

I mean, listen - we've had it up to here (finger to neck gesture) with photos of hot, young chicks from a male's point of view. When do you see young men from a woman's point of view? A woman who, in some cases, is twice their age? Ah, just scandalous enough to work, Beth Mann.

But where to begin, where to begin?

As I roused from my sun-drenched semi-sleep, the answer was undressing right before my eyes. His name was....I don't know. But there he was. My first model, as if a sign from above!

He quickly noticed as I began snapping shots of him and didn't seem to mind at all. Au contraire. I think he put on his shirt and took it off about four times.

I shall call him Mr. January (for my calendar series, soon after the coffee table book is published.)

Now, some may say this is a little distasteful. My God, I could be their mother! But guess what? I'm not. I'm not their mother. And at 42 years of age, I care less and less what people think. I'm not bedding these guys (and if I was, then what?), I'm just appreciating them in their steamy prime as I pine away at the Jersey shore. Is that so wrong? Wait. Don't answer. Cuz look! I'm not caring again!

The look of me not caring.

Then I decided to take a few of my friend Eric the next day. Eric is the most poetic surfer of the bunch. He's a musician and really into death and Gothic romance. He's got a delicate, sweet quality to him that I just adore. He was tough to photograph because he's a little shy. But I think we're on to something. This was just a warm-up. I think I want to put him in a bathtub with a boa constrictor or something.

You see, I'm a bit of a pariah down here. In a traditional suburban area, where a woman of my age is either unhappily married with four kids or divorced, raising said four kids on her own, or dead from a meth overdose, I often stand alone, like a 42-year-old single unicorn.

Sure, I hang out with married couples sometimes and usually want to stick my head in a bucket. Most seem so resigned, so discontent. The few that seem happy, well, I desperately long to have what they have...but I don't have it right now.

So I surf, a lot. And these are the boys I surf with - young, silly, strong, daring, awkward at times, just trying to find themselves.

Clint, the oldest Brother

Since I'm not much of a people lover, these young guys have been a real salve to my aching misanthropy and a boon to my spirits. I see them struggle to find themselves, their voice. They are still vulnerable and open and surprisingly gentle, for all of the testosterone coursing through their veins.

They open up their lives to me, without all the decades worth of protective guise and bullshit we layer upon ourselves. Simply put, they make the whole human process seems a little more dear to me. I like watching them unravel like pretty little manly flowers.

And I plan on making a scandalous calendar called, um...The Boys of Summer. No, Girl Gone Wild or I Gotta Get out of Jersey before they Arrest Me!


Just click here to purchase.

Thanks to Joe for his suggestion.