By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
There was a girl my age who lived in the corner house at the end of the street and who went to the same high school as I did. She had a remarkable body and a very bad complexion. To solve some of the social problems caused by her acne, she reportedly gave sexual favors to the jocks and the more popular guys at Taft High. Late in the afternoon when school was out I would see all these guys milling around her house and lining up at the front door. There was Gary H., the quarterback, and Barry A., the big overweight linesman. I would endlessly imagine what these guys got to do with her. I pictured them in all possible combinations.
Once while we were waiting at the corner for the school bus, she glanced over at me and made an obscene gesture: Her arms at right angles to her body, she began pumping them in and out. It confused me and I had no idea how to respond to her. But I took it as a sign and later that day I got up my nerve and walked down to her house. I was worried that in order to have sex I might have to kiss her. All I could picture were her blackheads and enlarged pores, a troubling image and an omen of a bad performance. But it was too late; I was already knocking on her front door. When she opened it, she was taller and more imposing than I had remembered. She was wearing a flower-print dress that lent her an unexpected air of modesty as well as maturity. She stared at me for a few seconds, like she didn’t know who I was. Then a strange smile or smirk appeared on her face. “What do you want?” I just stood there feeling the blood drain from my face into my hands that were dangling at my sides. I couldn’t begin to find the words.Four-Poster Bed, Woodland Hills (1999)
It’s Wednesday, the middle of the week, and everyone is taking the day off. Men and women return home from work early, bringing carloads of friends with them. The streets are lined with black SUVs, Cadillacs and Corvettes. There’s no place to park.
It looks like an interracial block party, with Latinos and African-Americans wheeling suitcases filled with sexy costumes up driveways and into back yards. Deliverymen, saleswomen, and neighbors who have lost their dogs or who need a cup of sugar come to the door and are invited in for lunch. There’s nothing like a good, hot lunch in the middle of the day, pasta with sausage and peppers and chicken and plenty of sauce. The television is on, but the volume is turned way down. In the back yard, the automatic pool sweeper drifts around the pool making a swishing noise, almost like a muffled rain bird: sh sh sh sh. The pool looks like a blue oasis sparkling in the heat. People sit around in small clusters and joke, make small talk and eat. Slowly they lose their inhibitions. A young woman leans over and asks if her breath smells; a man stands up and casually takes off his clothes. Someone is nibbling on someone else’s neck.
What could be better? A lazy afternoon in the suburbs with all the time in the world to enjoy the small things and to spend a day in another’s arms. A day that is punctuated not by noisy children and errands but by the urges and fantasies of the people gathered together here. They raid the refrigerator and put whipped cream, butter and even mustard on each other’s naked bodies. They rub one another into a frenzy. They crowd into the master bedrooms and spill out onto the kitchen floors and onto the patios and into the pools that look just like our neighbors’ pools, like our pool, and do the stuff of daydreams.
It’s a day when no one turns away from another, when tentative glances and awkward first moves are met with passionate approval. Everyone is seen, and held, and longed for. One’s clumsy body knows exactly what to do. It is a day when betrayals are overlooked or are mutually forgiven.
But at the end of it all, these people do not retire to the living room to watch their favorite TV programs together. Nor do they go upstairs to bed. Instead they pack up their high heels, fancy underwear and sweaty T-shirts, and they carry them to their cars. They pat the backs and kiss the cheeks of those who earlier in the day were such intense lovers. Exhausted, they drive across the Valley to their apartments.
Excerpted fromThe Valley by Larry Sultan, a catalog to be published next month by Scalo. Copyright 2004, Larry Sultan. Fifty-three large-scale color photographs are on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through August 1.
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