Ike’s Underground

As most of you that come regularly to this site know, once a week (usually on Fridays) I go to the Charlottesville Downtown Mall—a restored historic district and pedestrian mall—to do street photography—I call it ”Photo-wandering”—my wife Joanie calls it “Adventuring.”

There’s this incredibly cool vintage clothing store in a basement on the Mall called Ike’s Underground. (Check out this link: www.ikesunderground.com)

I’ve been in there several times in the last year and it’s always an adventure (I wonder if Ike has ever considered calling it “Ike’s Underground Adventure?”) wandering the cluttered aisle (there’s only one down the middle), poking into the shelves, looking into the display cases, peering into the shadows—there’s a lot of shadows—which adds to the mystery.

It’s a wonderfully GREEN place and as you regulars know I’m a very GREEN guy. I encourage all of you to become or be more GREEN because GREEN is good for the world and this wasteful, polluting, abusive species called “us.”

I really believe, ultimately, GREEN is about love and respect—for the planet, each other and especially the generations that follow who no doubt will spend a lot of time and money cleaning up after us. If this commentary somehow survives and is being read a hundred years from now—all I can say is I’m really sorry guys.

I was in Ike’s place—a few months ago—seeking a beret—not just any beret but a beret with a history and a heritage—maybe even a bloodline (don’t ask me to explain that last one—I just thought it was a cool phrase).

Ike wandered and poked around that last time but no beret—he was appropriately sympathetic—I’m sure he could see how brutally crushed my spirit was.

When I was a few decades younger I didn’t need any affectations or accessories like a beret—as cool as it is. I had a good head of hair and the head under it was pretty good-looking (I’ve got the pictures to prove it)…

Excuse me—my wife is yelling at me about something—be right back…

(Just imagine 10 minutes has passed)

OK I’m back. It’s one of my household chores to water the vegetables we have growing in containers on the deck. Forgot to do it this morning. They were looking pretty sad out there in all this heat. I hope I got the water to them in time—people talk you know—I could be accused of cucumber abuse.

Anyway—back to Ike’s.

I left that day (a few months ago) under a cloud of disappointment. I monitored myself for signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and major clinical depression for a few weeks but my thoughts and behavior pretty much followed their usual strange but harmless patterns.

Yesterday I was only having a so-so afternoon of shooting. Like most male photographers I like taking pictures of young attractive women—and NO it didn’t start when I got old. I am NOT a dirty old man, thank you—maybe a little scruffy, could use a little dusting perhaps…

But I digress. Oh—before I go back underground—I should mention I have recently made a really cool discovery. I have started photographing women’s backs (it’s a lot more interesting than you might think!). I have learned that women are much less likely to punch you out photographing their backs than when you stick a zoom lens in their faces. It’s true—I swear it.  I shot all afternoon yesterday and when I was finished,  it was fantastic being able to walk back to my car without a bloody nose.

Digressed again—sorry. I wander around Ike’s shop a bit—Ike emerges from wherever it was he emerged from. I explain my quest, do a little guilt trip on him regarding the last time I was in there (the crushing disappointment, sleepless nights and all that) and he says once again he has no beret. I start tearing up and mumbling about existential despair and teetering on the abyss—you know—the same thing you do when told there will be no beret for you today.

But he has this funky old (British?) seaman’s cap. The bill is missing; it’s dirty but on the plus side it already has the moth-holes in so there’s no need to wait for those. He gives it to me–a freebie!

I put it on—it’s a perfect fit. I look in a mirror and I am really impressed—I mean this guy looking back at me is Joe Mega-cool. I tell Ike I think my street credibility just shot up two standard deviations from the mean. He studies me a minute and says he can tell my testosterone level has gone up at least 3 percent in the last sixty seconds. I mean—this is Ike talking—it’s got to be true!

Things start changing immediately. Ike has these really cute girls working there—(up on the street level, he’s got this sidewalk merchandise display—people stop and look, maybe buy something or go downstairs) and they’re having a good time—I mean they’re working for and hanging out with Ike—what’s not to enjoy?

I learn they’re Roller Derby girls—how cool is that? They’re fine with me photographing them—front and back. I get some good studies. It’s the cap—I know it’s the cap—has to be the cap. It’s kinda like that old western “The Man or the Gun? where a ordinary guy finds an unusual gun and becomes the fastest draw in the west.

So—I get to go home with a nose that is not broken and some great shots of cute Derby girls.

Is it the photographer or the cap?

Who cares?

Want to know more about these derby girls?   Go to: www.charlottesvillederbydames.com

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