Sunday, December 29, 2013

Little school on the prairie

I was heading toward Devils Tower in eastern Wyoming when I chanced upon this beauty of a one room school house in the middle of the plains. The little edifice was all prairie geometry and plaster with a flag pole that pierced the forever sky.  At the moment that I set up to take the shot something went kaflooey, that's the technical term, with my go to lens, the inimitable 28-135.  The whirring death throes of its little motor caused unruly flare, foreground blur and a general softness that were downright aesthetic, one of the many happy accidents in a long photographic life.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Buffalo Jerky. Good

When I drive to and from California, and there have been four such occasions in the last thirteen months, I take blue highways through Navajo Nation and avoid a mind numbing stretch of I-40. Navajo country which covers a huge swath of northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona draws me for a host of reasons notably its empty vastness, its soaring skies and the isolation of the Navajo people in their nation within a nation. There I find a kind of peace and the occasional chuckle. 
To take full advantage of these big skies and monster vistas I suggest you click through to the physical blog page rather than limiting yourself to the email notice you receive. On the actual blog you'll get a much better presentation and have the opportunity to see the images full screen. Always a plus.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Postcards from my post

As my California safari wound down last August and I was Jonesing to get back home I crammed three legs of my long look back into a single day.  That’s not what I would recommend but, hey, Oakland, San Leandro and another trip to Fort Ord were left and we do what we have to do.

Fort Ord, you may recall, is where I spent the summer of 1960 in the deprivations of Basic Training in this man’s Army.  It’s also the location at which I took several hundred photographs in April about half of which I erased in a fit of, shall we say, stupidity. So Fort Ord would have to be the last event in my photo triathlon. I am, if nothing else, a highly trained triathlete.
All of the basic training barracks were located on a slight hill looking down on the rest of the base with a glimmer of the Pacific visible behind them.  Frankly, I didn't remember the sea of two story housing units or that they covered the entire hillside. C company of which I was a proud member is really the only one that I recall. Such was the single mindedness of my warriorly efforts. Either that or copious quantities of 3.2 percent beer.
This shot of the sneakers, the empty IPA and the military handout entitled "Starting a new job on the right foot" is darkly ironic.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Technicolor Memories

I was watching the season wrap-up of Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown when Tony, that’s what his friends call him, said something like, “I like to tell stories that interest me and I try not to repeat myself. And I figure that if the tale interests me there’s a good chance it will interest you.” That’s a very liberal paraphrase. In fact, it may bear no resemblance to what he actually said.

With the gist of that premise in mind I realized that I want to tell stories. In Spanish the word is historias. It may seem like a minor revelation but it gave me a long needed, seven years to be exact, understanding of why I do the blog in the first place. It even provides a little direction going forward. The best of my posts tell stories. Or the best ones tell the best stories. Something like that.
After Oakland we moved to San Leandro and in San Leandro we lived in two places. I think.  The first was an apartment that we shared with my mother’s older sister, Fern. My memories are sketchy but I do recall the sweet aroma some kind of pot roast that involved cooking sherry that my mother kept in the cupboard. Might have had a salty taste. Just guessing. I learned to swim in San Leandro when somebody said, “Jump in. You’ll figure it out.” Since I don’t remember any screams or thrashing sounds and haven’t been saddled with a lifelong fear of the water I guess the sink or swim lesson worked.

From the apartment, of which I have a fuzzy two level image, we moved further east to what I recall as a single family house. With advancing age, maybe eight as the fifties loomed, my arsenal of memories grows. Among them is one of the teacher who let me read books of my choosing and at my own pace. That was probably third grade. Because my reading was several grades ahead of my class it made a whole lot of sense and her allowing that freedom is one of my fondest school day images. Good for my self-esteem, too.

In the field behind my house I snuck my first smoke.  My buddy and I had a tree with a knot hole that hid a pack of Fatimas or Spuds quite handily. You’ve got to be seventy to remember those monikers. Who stole the cigarettes remains a mystery but I know it wasn’t me since Mom didn’t smoke.
Within walking distance, we didn’t have a car till I was in my mid-teens, were the barber shop, a café and a movie theater, the Bal.  All resided on East 14th Street near the corner of 148th Avenue in the still surviving commercial hub of our neighborhood. In that barber shop I got my first haircut that ended with hot shaving cream and a straight razor. I cannot tell you how grown up I felt. In the café I first had diner fare like hamburger steak with mashed potatoes, brown gravy, canned peas and sliced white bread. Hot turkey sandwiches, too.

But mostly I remember the Bal which would have screened its first movie when we lived there. I don't recall the theater’s grand opening but it had to have happened about that time. Maybe we watched She Wore a Yellow Ribbon at the Bal. I know we saw it in first release so it almost has to have been the there. Joanne Dru and the Duke in living color against the backdrop of Monument Valley in 1949. 

The Bal’s the most vivid touchstone of my San Leandro days. Maybe that’s because it the old auditorium is living a second life as a music venue lo these 65 years later. That it still stands, as does our old apartment house in Oakland, is somehow touching.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Take some black and whites and call me in the morning

All week I planned a post that would show a typical day for a certain gentleman living la vida loca in Antigua. But after a whole lot of fussing I find that I'm horribly uninspired by the images I was going to use to tell the story. I fear that I have contracted a particularly virulent form of jaundiced eye with a dose of writer’s block for good measure. Here's a little black and white for what ails me.