Portraits, Downtown LA 2011-2015
Digital photography of
Friends and Family
Friends and Family 1993-1999
Film photography of my friends and family
Friendly Ranch Colorado 2017
iPod Photography of Friendly Ranch
Polaroids of Sarah Kate 1998-2000
SX-70 Polaroids: My 20th century muse
Home and Away: Walsall vs. LA 1998-2000
SX-70 Polaroids: Born in Walsall, live and die in LA
Bangkok Ladyboys 1996
Film photography of transsexuals in swimsuits
Me and (Coachella) 2003 Selfies
Compact digital self-portrait photography
→Fernet Saved My Life
Anecdotal benefits of bitters
Filmmaker, photographer, designer

Fernet Saved My Life
Anecdotal benefits of bitters.

My friend Paulo had acid reflux for at least several years and nothing would ever fix it, certainly not antacids or traditional remedies. Every night his throat would burn. I offered him Fernet Branca and it was fixed within minutes. Paulo now always has Fernet Branca with him, which is especially surprising since I’ve never met anybody with a greater aversion to anything alcoholic. Whereas Fernet makes me feel tipsy, Paulo maintains that he has never felt drunk from the stuff. I’m not a drinker myself either, and I hate the taste of Fernet of any kind; it tastes like a a mixture of Pennzoil, vapor-rub, and jagermeister. 

My bicycle, Venice CA, 2023

Paulo's Dad, who is in his 80's, had food poisoning which had lasted a week, refusing to budge, even after visiting doctors, who couldn't fix it for him. His whole family was worried since he was dehydrated and physically not able to continue much longer. I was on the telephone with Paulo discussing it, and I told him to give him Fernet Branca, and he said that his dad refused. Being a little frustrated that his dad was in pain for no reason, I raised my voice in frustration at Paulo telling him that he had to be a little more convincing with his dad. I understand now that Paulo's dad heard me practically shouting on the phone across the room, and his dad decided to drink the Fernet. He completely recovered in minutes, and now he always has Fernet Branca in the house.

My daughter, Venice CA, 2023

I knew that it would help, because that's exactly how I found out about Fernet. My client, an 80+ year old man, who had fought on Omaha Beach on D-day, gave me Fernet Branca when I myself had an entire week of food-poisoning which wouldn't budge. Fernet Branca had fixed it in minutes, and since then I always have a bottle of it. I told my own Dad who was himself a worldly man, and he had heard of it before but never quite believed it when his friends had told him that they had to drink some every night for their health. It has so far reduced my fevers, calmed down headaches, stopped food-poisoning in its tracks, and now as my age advances, it reduces my bloated stomach.

Monday morning, Venice CA, 2023

I gave a bottle of Fernet to each of the two doormen in our loft building. One of them is named Yao, and he was a refugee from Togo, in Africa. He told me that he and his wife recognized the taste which was extremely similar to a traditional medicine drink, black in color (“made from a tree”) that cures everything, and that he had witnessed it curing cancer in one of his friends. Yao’s wife requested that there is always a bottle of Fernet in the house for emergencies, and they apparently now have a source for their universal medicine from the old country. Fernet contains camphor, (the main element of vapor-rubs), which comes from various trees, as well as cinnamon, which is technically tree bark. Therefore it is reasonable to say that Fernet also comes from a tree.

Dolphins in the backyard again, Venice CA, 2023

Historically, Fernet Branca was still legal during prohibition; it was sold by pharmacists as medicine. In the 70's, Bill Cosby did an entire long-form sketch for his comedy record about how he tried everything to get rid of the worst food-poisoning in his life, caused by eating what appeared to him like a cooked sparrow with head attached, which his wife said made his burps, “smell like he was dying inside.” “When I drank the Fernet Branca the bird saw what was coming and ran” he said, in his sketch. Sean Penn has said that Fernet has treated him to the best sh*ts of his life. Fernet is the national drink of Argentina, and it might be the official drink of San Francisco; it’s also mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night; it’s even drunk by Batman’s butler, Albert.

A surfer fortuitously photobombed this picture of an especially attractive beach path.

Most of the ingredients that are either known or rumored to be in Fernet have been used as medicine since at least medieval times. I read about a similar-sounding medicine from the middle ages in Europe, that was ‘black in color and extremely bitter.’ It was used for all ailments, and remarkably even as a poultice for wounds. This, I have tested on myself, on quite severe wounds; yes, I’ve used Fernet on wounds, and sure enough it does fight infection (as well as inflammation it seems to me) like nothing else I've ever experienced, and with longer periods of time without redressing. It also seems to stain dead tissue, but not healthy tissue. I’m not a qualified doctor or nurse; it’s just my own speculation based on observation. Just as my observation is that Fernet stains plastic, and is something you don’t want to get on your clothes.

It was Tony Alva, one of the pioneers of modern skateboarding. Santa Monica CA, 2023

Fernet Branca, according to some, controls the world’s Saffron (most expensive food in the world by weight) market, because they consume so much of it to produce their drink. It contains frankincense and myrrh, two of the three wise mens' gifts to Jesus, which would suggest two things: first, that they could have been as valuable as gold; and second, that they would have been considered useful enough to be given to the King of Kings, perhaps when he had food-poisoning, or in case he needed to fight an infection, or maybe even to bring down a fever; if not by themselves, but as part of a recipe, we may never know.

Santa Monica Pier Arcade, 2023

Saffron contains safrole, which curiously is used to make ecstasy. Apparently, the recipe of Fernet had to be changed somewhat to reduce ‘opioid levels’ though Vera has told me that they had an ‘original recipe’ version on the shelf of the liquor store. I definitely want to try it, but whenever we need to buy a bottle, it is only for medicinal purposes, and I’m not as inclined to experiment with new ways of doing things, when I’m in immediate need of medication. Other ingredients rumored to be in Fernet Branca are, “fermented beets, mushrooms, rhubarb, absinthe, orange peel, codeine, wormwood, [recently found to kill 98% of cancer cells] quinine, [which allowed the conquering of Africa due to its efficacy against malaria] coca leaf, cinchona bark, sage, ginger-like spices such as galanga and zedoary.” As an alcoholic product, Fernet is not compelled in any way to divulge their actual ingredients.

The beginning or the end of the bicycle path, depending on how wealthy you are. Malibu CA, 2023

The world’s number one medication for diabetics is called Metformin, and it was originally was based on a chemical found in a Lilac, which is of course, a purple flower. In cocktails, Fernet can sometimes replace Angostura bitters, which is a member of the greater family of ‘bitters’ (though just a dash is used in cocktails compared to Fernet). It too, however, contains exotic ingredients such as Gentia, a root of a purple/lilac-colored flower, used since antiquity for its healing properties, currently used by herbalists to treat, “digestive problems, fever, hypertension, muscle spasms, parasitic worms, wounds, cancer, sinusitis, and malaria.”

Particularly picturesque clouds, from Malibu to Marina Del Rey, 2023

Bitters as a group clearly need more attention. The pharmaceutical companies obviously pay attention to them when we do not, and profit by our ignorance. Just like all powerful cults, their lies are wrapped around a core of truth, and that truth is this: medicines do exist. However, they may strongly resemble foods that we should be eating, using wisdom that we have long forgotten as a culture. Medicines can be ‘synthesized’ or cultivated versions of naturally occurring chemicals of plants, animals, bacteria, or mold, like antibiotics, but sometimes they are just plain harvested. Just as orange-flavored beverages are unlikely to match an orange nutritionally, or even orange juice (disclosure: I personally don’t thrive on either one) it is sensible to presume that the same could be true of medication.

Glorious heavy metal machinery and unsung heroes of the beach. Venice CA, 2023

Bromelain is used in a medication in the burn-units of European hospitals. Bromelain is a protein from the core of a pineapple. When my ex-girlfriend Amy had sunstroke from over-exposure to the sun (though I told her she’d had enough sun when we were lying on the beach together). I painted her bright red skin with a core of a pineapple. It was just like painting her lobster-red skin back to white - the effect was instant. Once I covered her whole body, she was back to normal, and her delirium was gone, or at least back to um.. baseline levels (just kidding, Amy) ;-) It was a gamble, as sun-stroke can be extremely dangerous, but Amy was just as confident that it would do the trick; she had already fixed life-long issues using only nutrition, issues for which no doctor had been able to help with either medication or surgery.

Same playground, bigger toys. Venice CA, 2023

According to some, medical errors are the third leading cause for death in the US. The odds aren’t good, but instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I would like to learn from ‘big-pharm.’ They are smarter than us in many ways: most of us don’t wear lab coats and conduct experiments and clinical trials; we do not conduct double-blind tests, we don’t control all the variables, nor do we stare at test-tubes and vials, and through microscopes, as they so often do. Even so, ‘scientists’ do not synthesize medication using only the lint in their pocket; they are forced to use what is available in nature. All ‘synthetic’ medications, no matter what they are, have a natural source or origin, which may well be a lot healthier for us in their natural state, or even in a delicious cocktail, than the synthesized version in a pill.