Meet a very unusual man in the street…
By Joe Eskenazi
Financial District workers stream past Carl Christensen on their way to the office, shoulder to shoulder, four or five abreast. Montgomery Avenue teems like a river full of salmon headed upstream to spawn – but while there may be Starbucks and spreadsheets in the workers’ near future, there will be no spawning.
Christensen, however, does not move. As heads bob by at double-time he is conspicuous via his stillness. Well, that and the fact he’s pointing a digital camera at the rapidly retreating workers mid-sections, below head level and just above the hips. Since I have a notebook in my back pocket and it’s ostensibly my job to ask people just what the hell they’re doing I ask Carl just what the hell he’s doing. Given a million years and one day, I would not have guessed what his response would be.
Christensen, 63, is an extremely tall and thin man with a wrinkled shirt and tie and a fuller brush mustache and electric, long white hair that gives him the appearance of the rumpled love child of Albert Einstein and Albus Dumbledore.
He’s a retired cabdriver (which explains why he can film everyone else scuttling of to work). As for why he’s pointing a camera at places on the body that’d get you sucker punched at the Hotsy Totsy tavern, that’s a little less intuitive.
Christensen told me he takes his videos of San Franciscans hurrying to the office and transforms them into video teleidoscopes – that’s like a kaleidoscope without the colored glass. This is not the sort of thing you hear every day, so I asked him to send me a DVD of his work.
I was surprised when he actually did. I was more surprised when I found it to be utterly and totally mesmerizing.