About Five Minutes


I was in the middle of ingressing Mars to Virgo when she texted from downstairs, asking, by chance, if I would be able to make some copies of the old photo before he left to drive to the high school reunion tomorrow.

“I can try,” I typed back, “But really trying to finish up the calendar first though.”

“Well, can’t argue w/ that”, she replied.

I had at least three or four more hours of work to go (plus some unknown number of dozens or hundreds of hours, potentially, for everything that came after, that it was best to try and avoid thinking about). And while I was trying to be protective of this time, and this deadline, and the inertia with which it was seemingly coming together, I also could use a break, and what better way to stretch from a long exhaustive trek through a hundred and fifty points of astronomical data and gridlines than by testing out how quickly it would take to digitize and print out one photo. It seemed like a lot of work and hassle — at least at first. In the midst of all that other work.

I walked down into the main house from the studio, thinking about how I had these big tabloid sheets, that I could print sidewise and then cut in half. Or the roll sheet feed, perhaps? The quality would work, but the curved of the paper had been a hassle lately — the paper was perhaps too old.

“How long before dinner is ready?” I asked as I took the vintage photo of interest from the kitchen table, slipped it back in its protective sleeve, uncertain still quite what paper I could print it on.

“About five minutes,” my father replied.

My estimation of how long this was going to take, I wondered, was it even accurate?

I had perhaps already exerted enough time just thinking about why I shouldn’t be doing it, or what the potential problems were going to be, without actually encountering any of them. I pulled the camera in my bag, and then the lens, changing out to the zoom lens with the macro. I moved a grand total two boxes off of the table in the garage, dusting off the single piece of foam-core that serves as the base, first with oddly sufficient blowing from my lungs, then my hand wiping across, then a surprisingly clean white towel laying on the workbench, altogether each layer of dust an indicator of how long now this other project had backburned itself into a geologically re-discoverable concept.

The camera slipped onto the light table tripod after I rotated the gimbal mount 90 degrees. One of the two light bulbs burned out just as I turned it on, so I had to go back into the house for a replacement. I then focused, rotating the lights to minimize the glare at the torn edges, took a grand total of two images, switched the lights off, slipped the photo back into the sheet, and carried it back upstairs.

It would have been less than five minutes if I hadn’t spent the next three minutes cursing about how I couldn’t find any card readers until I found it hiding underneath a sheet of paper.

Color correction, one click.

Rotation, cropping, resizing, three more clicks.

Two clicks to print.

The ink was heavy on the thing tabloid sheet, but as it dries, all that black and white, the print now nearly twice as large. And even though he was in the dark, and two creases had marked his dark silhouette with an X, sure enough, that was him, playing bass at some venue my mom had heard about.

My father walked back in, as I sat down to dinner, shocked, I guess, by the quality and the speed. Oddly enough, it was better than the original.




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