Joe Kind: A Guy

by Joe Kind | 2/18/16 7:42pm

My name is Joe Kind. I’m a guy. I love FoCo desserts and long walks on the beach. People say I’m really shy when they first meet me, but once they get to know me they realize how much fun I am!

One Saturday afternoon, in my sophomore year of high school, I took a long walk in the Presidio, a national park tucked in the very northwest corner of San Francisco. I like to think of the Presidio as my urban oasis. Winding, two-lane streets, perfectly paved, weaving through forests of eucalyptus trees and native plants. Conservation sites adorning the many running and biking trails, leading to parks and plazas and marshlands and beaches. Everything leads to the Golden Gate Bridge like a maze. I practically grew up there. Leisurely activities are integrated so intimately with parks and with purposeful public policy. Yet hints of teenage escapades and secret rendezvous are visible in the corners of the eye. Where there are rules, there are rebels.

That afternoon, I had come home from a tough basketball practice in Marin, tired and hungry. After a shower, a filling lunch and some quality R&R, I began to feel restless. I shifted around on my bed, with my warm laptop heating the palms of my hands. I was well ahead on my homework, and I had nothing to do, so I decided to get out of the house.

I fumbled around my room, messy and dark under thick blue curtains, and saw a Kodak disposable camera in my open nightstand drawer. The top drawer, stuffed with too many papers and pamphlets and who knows what else, was never really used, but almost always open. I took the camera, grabbed my iPod and headphones, my wallet, my phone, my keys and a bag of pretzels from the kitchen, and I headed out.

It was a classic San Francisco sunny day, when the sun is only just warm enough. That familiar optical illusion frequent in the spring and fall, the bright light and crisp and clear air make it look like it should have been warmer than it was. Those from the Bay Area probably know what I mean. But it felt so nice to be outside that shorts and a zip-up fleece sufficed.

I did not have a specific place or trail in mind other than the nature in the Presidio. That’s the best part about the national park — there are so many places to go, yet they all blend together so seamlessly.

I spent a good three hours walking through the Presidio that day, disposable camera in hand. I meandered along concrete streets and gravel trails, finding beauty in the blends of nature and machine. I photographed my Vans sneakers on the tan gravel, I photographed bikers and buses framed by sweeping trees and winding roads. I photographed cargo ships passing slowly through the San Francisco bay. Focus, click, rewind — and one less photo to take. I soon realized how much every photo counted.

I probably looked ridiculous, in my Vans and cargo shorts, crunching my upper body for a piece of disposable and flashing plastic. I am not very artistic — my sister inheretited most of those genes — but I have my “artsy” moments, perhaps. One of these days National Geographic will be calling me, I’m sure.

My eyes hurt from all the squints into the corner of the Kodak camera, in attempts to set up my perfect shot. My left index finger was sore from jamming into the shutter. Let alone my calves and poorly supported feet. I made it all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge and back. I walked close to six miles that day. I got lost in it all, I guess.

Out of curiosity, I promptly developed the photos at my nearby Walgreens. I was pleased with the results, but let the photos rest in their envelope, sitting in my nightstand of oblivion for two long years.

I remember packing for my freshman fall and coming across the photos, still in their envelope. One last look through my upper nightstand drawer. I threw them in my backpack without thinking much of it.

After Trips, in the swirls of excitement of finally being here, I opened my backpack and found my photos. I threw them into my top desk drawer and didn’t touch them. The new desk drawer of death.

Flash forward past the honeymoon phase of that first fall. The San Francisco Giants are on their way to winning their second World Series in three years. My Facebook is unnecessarily distracting. Trying to focus on my work, sitting in front of my blank walls in my room, I opened my drawer. Restlessly, sitting back in my desk chair, I held the photos in my hands and dropped what I was doing (nothing productive). The blank wall in front of me, yearning for attention that freshman fall like all the other first-year dorm walls, turned into a masterpiece of wannabe artsy photos from home. The one photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, with the blurry peace sign that was my free hand, was the giveaway for visitors.

For a long time, these photos were the only things on my wall. I didn’t need anything else. But over time I have added bits and pieces of cards from friends and family, as a reminder of the places and people that shape me. Birthday cards, postcards from friends abroad, notes and drawings from supervisors and peers, two of the same Halloween card my grandma sent me two different years here. I have two posters, Christmas lights and a California flag. But I didn’t get any Valentine’s Day cards.