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San Francisco, CA
USA

530.409.7587

A monthly art collective featuring work inspired by a one sentence statement.

BIG SHOT | MAX HAWKINS

BIG SHOT

THE PINNACLE

Excerpt of post by MVP2008 to message board of daretoshare.com

I waited until around four-thirty to get that late afternoon sun. Morning sunlight works too but I find it’s a bit warm, it glows with that chamomile pink that whispers “promise”. I wanted something concrete and stark. The blue, cold golden that swears ‘achievement’. I’m lucky because my apartment’s window faces northwest, which catches a perfect angle this time of year - not head on, just cocked a bit to the side. I chose a high-contrast black and white filter to really pop the blacks. I wanted good versus evil. I wanted iconic. High aperture, 80 ISO, natch. For the first time, I taped a bit of white tissue paper over the flash. The idea came to me after going to see The Tempest at a repertory theatre. The tissue kept the light of the flash from oversaturating at the climax. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a more subtle, professional look to the photo.

I laid out on my new black leather sofa, naked from head to toe, legs kicked off the armrest. Fortunately, it’s one of those modern Danish couches with the low armrests, so the ends of my knees just tipped up into the back of the frame, and the soft focus actually created a serene balance to the hard lines at the front. I worked myself for about eight or nine minutes to get to that steely rigid look, cock in my right hand, camera in the left, holding focus. I’ve always been a straight arrow (not braggin), but I swear that day I looked like a Roman column before I popped.

I’ll admit, there was a bit of luck, but when is there not? At the Magic Moment, I shot out, my abs clenched, and my index finger tightened on the shutter release. Turns out, when you hold the shutter down on Nikon cameras they machine-gun twelve shots in a single second. I hung out for a few sloppy minutes on the couch before towelling off, watching the sun lazily drain behind the brownstones across the street. After I got the couch in order, I threw on some sweatpants and scanned my photos. I tapped through frame by frame, the evaluating the micromovements of my hand, my dick, my seed. It was like a little claymation movie, and I was the director. Everything appeared pretty good, pretty usable until I arrived at frame 9.

I need to get serious here, because I do believe that frame 9 is the greatest dick pic ever captured.

Think Tower of Pisa without the lean. Classical, yet timeless architecture, reaching toward the sky. Before it, the pavement courtyard of my upper and lower abs, the trimmed lawn of pubes at the base. The coup-de-grace, though, a perfect (I measured it) sphere of semen, frozen precisely in front of the sun, the rays lighting it like a fireball atop Mount Olympus. I swear, there is Truth in this dick pic. There is Humanity set against Eternity.

I haven’t even sent it to a girl yet. This one is too powerful and personal. I’ve decided to hold onto it for the right person. One day perhaps the whole world can see it, but for now, it’s a perfection that only the two of us can share.

 

THE AREA OF HIS EXPERTISE

When Angus Berger got married in 2007, at the age of 27, he made a sacred vow to his wife, Sam, that he would stop watching pornography, and he did. Angus had grown up as most teenage boys, first happening upon porn like a body in a river, then tentatively mapping the routes he could employ to collect it on the internet, and then finally as a young adult honing his nose to hound out any type he wanted, for any period of the day. The efficiency with which he could arouse and subsequently satisfy himself had grown in time to something very much like pride. Angus was pretty good at taekwondo, Excel, a cappella, and tying a double windsor, but exceptional at finding and enjoying erotica.

He decided to abandon the hobby three weeks before his wedding, mostly as an excuse to not broach the topic with his fiancee. Their tentative thrusts at sharing his pastime in years previous had ended with mutual ambivalence. To bring a pleasure so wholly his own into a marital union, he thought, would be a selfish thing - and was marriage not a release of selfish things?

His mind returned to this question thirteen months later, as he laid in his empty bathroom tub, naked from the waist down. The fan at the bottom of his laptop blew warm air onto the flesh of his thighs. The heat was a welcome contrast to the eggshell white porcelain freezing his bare ass. The self-imposed abstinence of his newly-married life had swelled to a persistent nagging thrum of dissatisfaction in the back of his mind. Though he hid the ache from his wife, he couldn’t shake a feeling of somehow being incomplete after shutting out his private talent. He felt a kinship with retired athletes, those old masters who now watched from the box seats, pensive, elsewhere.

His internet browser pointed to the home page for AmazeDate, a singles site he had seen advertised during the commercial break of a college basketball game. He signed up for the site as an impulsive compromise. Could he not walk down the street and see a dozen females pass by? Was he never to go to the beach or the swimming pool? These would all be ridiculous restrictions, and thus he decided: yes, he would maintain his vow to not watch pornography, and simply viewing real, clothed women on the internet was obviously not pornography.

He had set two rules for himself: only search for women more than two states away. Never correspond with any of the women he viewed. The rules were not only reasonable safeguards from ever encountering one of these women during a Sunday stroll through the neighborhood, but also, he was sure, the ethical thing to do within the bounds of married life. He soon allowed himself one exception - AmazeDate allowed people to send “Winks” to each other. Winks weren’t messages, just tiny compliments and, for Angus, an exciting reminder that these women were indeed real. One year into his site membership, Angus had maintained Wink Wars with three ladies: Ellen, 32, a single mom with two young kids, who had a blonde pixie cut and nose freckles and preferred low-neck plaid shirts; Riya, 25, who worked at a salon and painted triptych scenes on her long nails and insisted all partners be “420-friendly”; and Alma, 35, who had an adopted chihuahua named Ferrari, and who nestled Ferrari into the side of her large bosom in most of her selfies.

It was Alma that sent Angus into his tub, simultaneously cooking and chilling his nethers. Following their 100th Wink, Alma sent Angus a photo. She used her phone to take a point-of-view shot, the camera lens acting as her eyes, looking down over her body. She laid in bed. Her large chest was front and center, held in place by a black lace bra. Past her chest, out of focus, her bare brown stomach, black panties, legs stretched out to the edge. Peeking up over the right corner of the mattress, the blurry, bewildered face of a tiny dog.

You’re move.

Grammatical errors aside, Angus had never been more turned on. Two nights later, Angus locked himself in his bathroom, sat in an empty tub, turned his open laptop to face his erection, and took his first dick pic. When he exited the bathroom, there was no throng of adoring fans to greet him, but he couldn’t help but picture Michael Jordan stepping out onto the court to reclaim his championship ring.

 

RECOUNT: OF DICK PICS PAST

Sent to various women on AmazeDate:

* The first one, for Alma, in that empty bathtub. Lighting wasn’t phenomenal, and the laptop camera was grainy. It was for this reason, Angus decided, that she didn’t Wink back after that. But it was a start.

* In the gym bathroom after a hard workout, for Lindsay. The extra crunches helped his lower abs and hip bones really pop out and frame his sweaty, shiny piece.

* Dick surrounded by a pile of cash, for Melbie. He had just received his bonus from work, and used the influx of money to buy a professional grade dSLR camera. He then cashed out two-thousand dollars in twenties, and packed it around his upright member like a mound of fresh grass holding a sapling upright.

* On the toilet, for Sanna. He wasn’t proud of this one, but he was waiting for a connecting flight and decided to make the most of his time.

* Dick in front of the Eiffel Tower, for Estelle. Angus and his wife spent a summer holiday in an apartment with full view of the Parisian monument. He took an early-morning opportunity to capture his penis standing parallel to the tower while his wife shopped for fresh herbs at the weekend market.

* Dick in front of the Statue of Liberty, for Thuy. Business took him to the Downtown Marriott, where, as luck would have it, he was upgraded to a room from which he could view Lady Liberty. Although the statue was a speck in the distance, he appreciated the opportunity to work on his low aperture photography, as well as voice what he thought was a subtle political message.

* Not in front of the Washington Monument. A penis in front of the Washington Monument felt redundant.

* Dick painted black, for Black History Month.

* Dick at the beach, for Ana. Though his member was fully buried by a sandcastle that he had erected atop his pelvis, he still considered this a dick pic.

* A long-shutter shot of his dick lit by a lightning storm, for Salem.

* Neo-noir dick didn’t happen. He had everything set up, ready to pair hard light with high focus and a black and white filter to lend his dick a fog of mystery and tension. Unfortunately, Sam walked in as he set up the shot. In a panic, he insisted that the scene was a present for their upcoming anniversary, an excuse he later realized only amplified her repulsion and confusion.

* After she left him, the dick pics stopped.

* And started again a few weeks later. His first few attempts were basic and tentative. She had taken the dSLR with her when she left. There was also a small, simple shame in returning to the pursuit that preceded his separation, and he felt that the embarrassment was evident in those early photos. Whether it was a change in the lens quality or his rigidity, something about his penis looked humbled. In time, the hesitance faded and his output rapidly increased, along with his proficiency at lighting, focus, and editing. His confidence restored, he purchase a new pro-grade camera.

* The pinnacle; the greatest dick pic ever shot.

* He decided that it might be time to slow down after the fourth time he bought a ticket to an empty movie theater in order to take pictures of his dick blocking actors on the screen. His Winks enjoyed it, but the practice was expensive, dangerous, and he was uncertain whether the MPAA would pursue him for copyright infringement were the photos to circulate widely.

And thus, five years and three months from the frigid bathtub, Angus decided to take a hiatus from dick pics on AmazeDate.

 

ONE WEEK LATER or, KELLAR

Angus rolled to his side and pushed the thick goose-down comforter to his waist. When his mind couldn’t stop cycling at night, his thoughts manifested as a persistent, sticky tingle in his legs and arms. He knew from experience that stubbornly persisting to rest would end only in the slow-boil torture of a sleepless night. He smudged himself to the side of the bed and rose to his feet.

In the months since Sam left, he tried feeling resentful, but the pants were a loose fit. The shock of her surprise encounter had catalyzed their separation, but he knew in truth that over the four years of their marriage he had slowly retreated from her view. He let go of his porn habit out of love and fear; it was a willing surrender, but felt like loss nonetheless. And so it went in their marriage, the power of their union compelling each to person to sand down the edges that poked the other, so slowly they shrank to nubs.

He shambled into the kitchen and flipped the light on. The kitchen was narrow and well-maintained. He bought new cookware following the separation, an opportunity to finally match the kitchen’s modern, Nordic appliances to sleek steel utensils. He peered inside his refrigerator and pulled out a squat slab of filet mignon he had intended for the weekend. If insomnia is on the menu tonight, he thought, then fuck it, so is steak. Angus fired up a cast-iron pan.

As the pan warmed, he stared at the brick of meat lying on the wooden block. He stewed on what compromises Sam had made, if she had hid herself as he had. The thought unsettled him. The pan hissed. He lifted the filet, slapped it onto the hot iron. As the beef sizzled, he filled a glass with water, sipped, and drifted from one side of the kitchen to the other. His marriage had been a mug, he thought, and they had slowly sipped it dry. The right person, if there ever was such a woman, would fill their cup to the top, and keep pouring. The water would spill and cover the floor, and she’d keep pouring until the water reached the carpet. She would smash the glass.

He ate his steak at the kitchen counter. He opened his laptop beside the plate, and between bites he tapped from page to page. It occurred to him that he needed to order a crate of paper towels. As he began to input A-M-A for Amazon, his browser autocompleted to AmazeDate. He was on hiatus from dickpics, but fuck it, he thought for the second time that evening. Sometimes you have a reason, sometimes you have “fuck it.”

Perhaps he could attempt to date somebody from the site.

He slipped on the thought, disoriented for a moment. The idea was so completely feasible, and yet he had somehow tumbled past it in his compulsive acceleration of dick pics after the separation. He could actually use this site to meet a female.

He tabbed to the search field, and for the first time, entered ‘within 20 miles’. His hands pulsed with the sudden heat of the unfamiliar, as if he was an astronaut punching in for his first takeoff. Of course, he wasn’t just looking for somebody nearby. He entered a few more tags:

- Brown hair

- 5’0’’ to 5’4’’

- Likes Wu Tang Clan,

Ren and Stimpy,

Ken Burns,

and George Harrison

- Jewish? Yeah, why not. Jewish.

And thus he searched, improbably returning seven matches. Seven short-ish brunettes maybe watching a documentary instead of sleeping. When he had trolled AmazeDate for Winks, the results page was like a dessert menu, his imagination and appetite bouncing from one woman to the next. Tonight, he examined this cohort of brunettes, grouped and bounded by his whims and wondered. Would they shrink in his love, would he diminish in theirs?

He tapped on the first result. Her name was Kellar Cohen. At the top of her profile, a quote:

“The universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest.”

- Philip Jose Farmer, Venus on the Half Shell

Angus took a deep breath and a slow sip of water. Tapped Send a Message.

Sometimes you have a reason, he reminded himself. Sometimes you have fuck it.

 

THE BIG DAY

“We close at nine,” said the chalk-white barista, her eyes narrowed behind a slope of dark bangs.

“It’s three,” said Angus.

“Just thought you should know,” she replied, and stalked back to the iPod docked beside the espresso machine. Kellar had insisted that they meet at T., a tea house favorited by aging hipsters with the income to plunk down six dollars on a thimble of leaf-water. Angus ordered a heavy cream coffee and sat down at a small, central table. He dressed as he often did, gray T-shirt and dark, boot-cut jeans. He stirred his coffee, bit his lip, and dwelled on whether he should have worn a sweater. He scanned the room, checking for the third time that he hadn’t somehow missed her. There were only a few other people in the cafe this afternoon, hunched like wilted flowers over their laptops. Kellar said she’d be there at three, and that she would be late.

The idea of meeting this woman in the flesh still held a sliver of the preposterous, as if he were to meet a character out of a short story. To see her chewed nails, or hear her nervously drum her fingers against the table leg, or spy a green speck of her lunch salad still lodged in a molar, to see the forgetful, twittering humanity in her electrified him and terrified him at once. In her precious flaws, he would be reminded of his, and he would want to hide.

He lifted his dense black mug of coffee and slurped. Behind the cup, the door to the cafe opened. He pulled the mug away from his face, and there was Kellar Cohen. Her dark brown hair appeared hastily pulled up and and clasped; a few stray strands fell about her eyes and ears. She wore a casual burgundy tank-top, draped by silk scarf that twisted around her neck, a kaleidoscope of aqua and orange that spilled over her right shoulder. A ruffled milk-white skirt splashed down to her knees. Her left arm was covered by a sleeve tattoo, a prismatic collage of historical and cartoon figures, ancient symbols, and abstract patterns from shoulder to wrist. A round red Stimpy cheekily mooned from just above the crook of her elbow. She dragged a chair out from the table and sat down across from him. She had two moles on her chest. She had a small scar on her upper lip. She smiled and reached across the table.

“Kellar,” she said, with a tiny nod.

“Oh, Angus,” he said, and shook her hand. “Nice to meet you, you know?”

“Sure,” she said, and grinned. “Wait. Tell me your full name.”

“Angus Berger?”

Kellar leaned forward. “Seriously man? Angus Berger?” She swayed back in her chair and rapped the table with her knuckles. “I had to hear it. Tell me that’s not awesome.”

Angus shifted his weight, feeling lighter. “Ha, well. Thank my parents I guess. I got that reaction a lot back in school, but in the corporate world we kind of have to pretend dumb things aren’t dumb.”

“You take it pretty well. Medium well.” Kellar traced her middle finger in a circle on the table. “Have you met somebody like this before?”

“Through a - um, a site?” Angus’s cheeks warmed. “No. I just kind of got out of a relationship.” Kellar’s eyes smiled, as if confirming something in her head. “Have you?” asked Angus.

“Yeah, sure. Plenty. I choose them like bread. They all go stale eventually, but you can’t beat that first day, can you?”

Angus gently shook his head, fully unsure what she intended to imply about their meetup. “I see. And why do they all go stale?” he asked.

“Why, that impossible, impossible baggage we bring with us from the start.”

Some of her peach lipstick had flaked off of her bottom lip. He spied a tattoo on the inside of her bicep, a slice of white-frosted cake, underneath the notice: I like cake. Fuck you. He smirked. “Do you want to buy a tea? It’s only six bucks.”

She chuckled. “No. No, no. I work here,” said Kellar.

“You’re shitting me.”

“I’m a freelance animator, so that means during the day I serve tea to assholes.”

“I think all tea is for assholes,” said Angus.

Kellar tilted her head back and giggled. No salad stuck in her teeth. It occurred to him that he should have flossed before arriving. “You draw?” he said, hiding his mouth behind his mug.

“Yeah, I draw, though these days most of my contracts are for computer animation. Have a pen?”

He knew he didn’t, but he patted his pockets to pantomime an attempted search. “No,” Angus said.

“Oh, well I do.” A pen was already in her hand, as if formed from the air inside the cafe. She pulled a napkin out from below his coffee mug, flipped it, and began to sketch. Her eyes were calm, her effort bled through only in her slightly pursed lips. She ran the pen over the napkin in smooth, broad strokes. Every several lines, she brushed away the thin strands of hair that hung down into her eyes. A coy, thin smile dawned on her cheeks as she finished up. Pen down, she spun the napkin around and shoved it across the table.

On the napkin, an anxious looking male customer bought tea from the sour, slope-banged barista currently behind the counter. The barista scowled, a dark scribble emanating from her ink-blue hair. The customer wore a high-tech pair of computer glasses, toe shoes, and cargo shorts. The man’s wide eyes and the shaky action lines Kellar jabbed around his head suggested he was trembling with excitement. Under the scene, she wrote, OK GLASS, RECORD CONVERSATION WITH FEMALE.

“Aha,” said Angus. “So that’s why she was so shitty when I got this coffee?”

“No, she’s shitty because her hippie parents named her Margarine. But she pronounces it Margar-een.

“I don’t think I’m in a position to judge.”

“Oh right. Right, right. No, your name is awesome. I have judged it so.” She loosened the scarf around her neck, adjusted her seat, and glanced at the ceiling, briefly shutting one eye. Angus tried to decide whether that was a wink. He set that aside. “So what is it you do, Angus Berger?”

“I work in PR.”

“Liar.”

“It’s true.”

“No, I mean, your job is to lie,” said Kellar.

Angus snickered. “I’m more of a horse whisperer. If you’re riding a horse, and that horse goes apeshit and stampedes into the forest, would you rather I calm you down or calm the horse down? That’s basically my job. The rider is what you think about my company, the horse is what you feel. So every day I talk to horses.”

“That’s very pretty, Angus, but two things,” said Kellar. “First of all, horses don’t go apeshit, they go horseshit.”

“Point taken.”

“And second, if I were riding a horse and my horse went horseshit because you kicked my horse in the ass, then yes I’m going to want an explanation.”

“Oh, well you never admit you kicked them in the ass,” said Angus. “You convince them the horse is just excited for our upgrade, coming later this year.”

“Such, such horseshit.” Kellar crossed her arms and play-sulked through an amused grin. “Is that how you feel? Like a rider on a runaway horse?”

Angus shrugged his shoulders. “Isn’t it that way for everybody? You trot to the office, you trot home, everyone prances in a little circle, but if Seabiscuit decides to buck, then the best you can do is pretend its a part of the show. I have no idea why I do what I’m doing half the time.”

“Why did you order that coffee?”

“Because tea is garbage,” said Angus.

“Then why are you at a tea house?”

“To meet you.”

“And why do you want to meet me?” asked Kellar Cohen.

 

KELLAR, CONT.

Because she’s god damn magic, thought Angus Berger, once again finding himself in a locked bathroom. He leaned on the white porcelain sink and rocked back and forth on his palms. After ninety minutes of conversation with Kellar, Angus had excused himself to the bathroom to privately confront the blooming, whirring halo that had started to coalesce about her. She was pretty, yes, and adorned with a lucid sincerity that made his world feel larger, calmer.

“Don’t get a tattoo,” she said. “They freaking hurt like hell. The only reason I keep getting them is because I collide with some truth I can’t shake. Or won’t. It’s like I believe it so hard, that I can’t stop thinking about it until I yank it out of my brain and stick it on some other part.”

“You must really like cake.”

“I love cake. Fuck you.”

He lifted himself up, sat on the sink, and stared at his knees. He wanted to know her and know her, and this is what petrified him: because in this moment, he would trade away his fullness for the chance. Perhaps this is how Kellar’s men went stale, he speculated; either they crumbled as they passed through her atmosphere or she saw them in full view and was repulsed.

His phone buzzed his left thigh. He should snap one more dick pic, he thought. Whip it out, send it to her, and leave through the back door. Show her the only truth he really had in him, the one she would have found anyway in time.

Angus hopped down from the sink, clasped his hands behind his back, and stretched his shoulders. He walked to the door of the bathroom and rested his head on the heavy wood. Unfastened the top button on his jeans. Gripped the zipper and pulled down. Grieved. For the first time, the idea of sending a hasty, impulsive dick pic felt profane. To expose and retreat was antithetical to Kellar. No: he should send her a dick pic and walk back to the table. Angus bit the inside of his lip and thumped his head on the door. He savored the possibility that he had just formed the most imbecilic thought of his life, and anyone else’s.

His left thigh buzzed a second time. He dug into his left pocket and pulled out his phone. Angus had received two messages from Kellar Cohen:

 

SENT AT FOUR FIFTY ONE P.M.

“What are you waiting for?”

 

SENT AT FOUR FIFTY SIX P.M.

A photo. Cold, golden light diffused through thin cream cloth, painting a soft majesty on the form below. Two pale pink thighs slanted in from the edge of the frame, composing a wide V. Where they met, a shade darker, the perfect asymmetry of her labia.

In the dim of T.’s locked bathroom, a phone lit Angus Berger’s face with heavenly truth. He spun, boundless, flawless, wholly into her. In that moment, and in all others, she was infinite.

Kellar Cohen sent him a twat shot.

 

MAX HAWKINS