But it had been a very weird and interesting 15-year run. 1990 to 2004. . . . . Like most things in my life, it started out as an accident. My original idea in 1989 was to print up 50 copies and give ’em out to my friends as Christmas presents. It never occurred to me that I’d end up printing up 2,000 copies every year for the next 15 years. And the thing would practically become a full-time job.
My partner and co-publisher, the great B.N. Duncan, fancied himself as kind of a scientist or professor. He viewed himself as an anthropologist studying this strange and exotic subculture: The Streets. He had his little notepad that he always kept in his breast pocket. And after taking a photo he’d jot down the time and date and location, and maybe a quote from the specimen, um, er, I mean subject. “AHH, AHH, that’s very interesting what you say,” Duncan would say. “AHH, mind if I take a couple more shots?”
Myself, I looked at myself sort of like a documentary film-maker. And I was documenting every facet of my life in whatever medium happened to be available. Photos, writing, comics, music.
Probably one of the most interesting things about the Telegraph Street Calendar was that Duncan and I were part of the street scene ourselves. Almost everything else you read about the homeless street scene is written by some journalist or sociologist, viewing the streets from an outsider perspective. We were insiders, so you got more of an unedited and unfiltered view than what you normally get.
We had a little vending table in front of Cody’s Books where we hawked our wares. And we became almost like a homeless Chamber of Commerce. Whenever a new homeless person would hit the scene, they’d often check in with us first. To sort of get the lowdown as to where the scene was at. And to many people on the scene it became almost a cherished rite-of-passage to get their photos featured in the Calendar (I used to joke: “The two major complaints we got were: ‘Why don’t you put me in your calendar?’ and ‘Why did you put me in your calendar?'”). Many street people lack a sense of belonging to anything. But being represented in the calendar gave them a sense of belonging — of being an accepted member in good standing — of the legendary Telegraph Avenue street scene.
When we started the thing in 1989 I was 33 and still on the cusp of being a young man. By the time we ended it in 2004, I was 48 and on the verge of being an old man. So it’s like I wasted the prime years of my life working on the damn thing. Of course I would have just wasted it on something else if I hadn’t gotten so fascinated and immersed in the Calendar project.