“If one were to be a person of value that value could not be a condition subject to hazards of fortune. It had to be a quality that could not change. No matter what.”   -Cormac McCarthy, All The Pretty Horses

When I was a boy but about to be a man, when I was almost a teen, I started earning money and also feeding myself. I wasn’t smart about how I fed myself. It was an extravagance. Across the street and down a few city blocks where they had torn down the awful and plentiful steel mill–a mile’s length worth of hulking i-beam frames and steel coating and furnace of hell red bricks–they built a strip mall, which was a first for our town. And at the far end of the property and not officially connected to the strip mall they built a Pizza Hut. I had money in my pocket from mowing lawns of other poor people and I used that money to buy baked spagetti with meatballs. Sometimes I would splurge and play a game of Pac Man. They had the game situated under a glass top table so you could eat and play. The baked spaghetti and meatballs served in a treacherously hot boat dish with a compliment of toasted garlic butter bread was my preference. I became a regular. My work was to earn that meal again and again. It was an extravagance. Justified by my home life that didn’t offer regular meals except boxed macaroni with milk sauce made with water.

When I read that quote in Cormac McCarthy’s novel, the words of warning from an elder to John Grady Cole that maybe by virtue of fate’s delivery he would never be worth the worthy class such as herself, I thought of me as a boy earning money and wasting money to buy what were for my economy extravagant meals. If I would have had the character to save then maybe I would have become a wealthy man. If I had not been the boy that wasted his money I might have been a boy who was fated for fortune. But what worth are these questions. Like John Grady Cole I say, it is what it is.

As a man I was on the Rio Cocco river in northern Nicaragua. A long way from that old steel town Portsmouth, Ohio. In one of the remote villages I traveled through I met and photographed this child with her necklaces. Such an extravagance in this stolid place. Sometimes I like to look at my photos and imagine the people are so much different than me, so much more noble. But maybe they are just like me. Maybe they are neither great nor horrible. Maybe this girl is just looking for a little of what feels like everyone else has. Maybe her necklace is her spaghetti and meatballs.

  1. Tom Donini April 24, 2011

    Hey Philip
    Just stumbled on your blog.
    Wow. Moved by your writing and photos.

  2. admin April 26, 2011

    Tom! Oh my! I have spoken of you many, many, many a times in these past few years. My daughter Sofia and I actually took at journey to the old red house of yours in southern Ohio so I could show here where my life was changed so much for the good.

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