[Estimated reading time: 3 minutes]

Photographs are like portals to worlds that don't quite exist. They are static snapshots of an endlessly-moving world, an impossibility that can leave us pondering reality.

Let's say you're sitting in your quiet living room and someone hands you a photograph of Robin Williams. It's an image that was immortalized on a particular day, possibly a Wednesday. Robin just had lunch, and you can actually see a few tiny crumbs in his beard, possibly from a Reuben sandwich. There are a million factors that went into the creation of that photo, just like thousands of hours of work go into a two-hour movie. But the most important things about Robin Williams never really made it.

Just think of what the photographer experienced. Robin would have been loud, funny, quirky, probably doing an impression of someone or other scant seconds before the shutter flickered open and closed. The photographer will have experienced Robin Williams in a way that is impossible to convey with a photograph.

Robin Williams is like the ocean, in that regard. If you were looking upon a photo of the ocean, no matter how sharp the lens or high the megapixel count, you'd be missing out on the constant hum of the ocean, the wet air as it caresses your face, the odd sand particle that impacts your cheek, the smell of low tide.

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Beach Bum

[Estimated reading time: 26 minutes]

Today's class is a small one, but it's everyone I know, people who live and work in the Camp. People who want to learn. I show the tourniquet technique, explain the medicine behind it, and they practice on each other. It's the weekly First Aid course and some of my "students" have been around since the beginning.

Since I found myself stumbling, disbelieving, through Venice Beach, just six short months ago, when I came back from Iraq and realized that Venice Beach had turned into a real-life shit-hole. Six months since I was stabbed by junkies looking for an easy target.

Maron, one of my attackers from that first day, is now helping out Angela with the tourniquet application.

I finish up the class, collect the supplies, the students help straighten out the multipurpose room for the next class. We do two minutes of meditation and then everyone scatters. Maron and Angela head off in the direction of the kitchens and I wonder if there's something between them. She's a runaway and he's a former low-level dealer. Together, they seem kind of at peace. I smile and head for the water.

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[Estimated reading time: 9 minutes]

"Squids are super-intelligent, they feel pain, and appear to be conscious. That's what we've recently learned. I read that in 'Nature'," he adds, with a smirk.

I look down at the white ring of flesh at the end of my fork, a piece of calamari from a salad. Jesus, this was a conscious being? I put down the fork and fight an impulse to vomit.

He reaches over and snags a piece with tentacles and chews it loudly. "Yum, the consciousness makes it soooo gooood."

I don't wait around to hear the rest, I stand up and walk out of that restaurant, walk out of that life.

Nate, my now-ex boyfriend, doesn't even stand up, doesn't say a thing. I walk out and he is silent, continues to eat the calamari.

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