Weird Image Wednesday [150429]

Sometimes it really does depend on how you look at things.

I exhibited this photo a number of times in my shows and I always used the version on the left because I liked the way the paw prints looked in relief. It was shot by holding a twin lens reflex camera out in front of me, directly above the subject with the film plane parallel to the sidewalk. So really, this photo can go either way and still be right way around.

Paw prints on sidewalk.

Paw prints on sidewalk.

Fifteen Minutes Three Songs

There have been many songs in my life that have meant a great deal to me. Three standouts that come to mind are songs that changed the way I thought about music in some way.

The first song is “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” by Bob Dylan. I think I heard this for the first time when I was about 10. The one thought that popped into my head when I first heard it and is also always what comes to mind when I look back is, “Am I really supposed to be listening to this?” I remember not wanting my parents to hear me listening to the song and I suppose the reason was the lines about “everybody must get stoned.” Looking back I ask myself why did I think this? How did I even know what getting stoned was? I had certainly never gotten stoned. I suppose that it brought about a turning point in what I thought music could be like because of the blatant lyrics and the raucous style of the arrangement.

This easily leads me to my next milestone song, “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones. Never in my life was there music that I was more ready for someone to event and start playing and recording than the Ramones brand of irreverent punk. For years I had been asking the question to myself, “Why doesn’t someone just record some mindless, loud, fast guitar playing and just use chords with no lead playing?” Okay, well the question was something to that effect – sure you get the idea. Then one day I was over at my friend Warren’s house and he said, “You’ve got to hear this, man.” I picked up the album and looked at those four troublemakers on the cover and was hooked even before I heard the first mis-timed count off or buzz saw chords. There it was. The world was changing. Music was changing. I had changed.

Not too many years later, something from another part of the world caught my ear and would end up playing just as important a part as those first two. It was “Awungilobolele” by Udokotela Shange Namajaha from an album called “The Indestructible Beat of Soweto.” The rhythms and instrumentation of this song and the others on the album changed what I thought about the concept of popular music forever. The realism and sincerity and earthiness of the songs suddenly made almost everything I had ever heard on the radio become meaningless and took my on a journey of musical discovery that I continue to this day.

Fo(u)nd memories

Reared at the confluence of two ditches

We lived there for nine years. I don’t see the house. I barely see the yard. My mind always goes straight to the tree lined ditch that separated our yard from the garden and field behind us. Over time the very look of the ditch evolved. It began as an intimidating scary place filled with mysterious plants and creatures. It ended up as a place that held no fear or mystery — it became my domain.

Writing this makes me think of those times and places in new and symbolic ways that I have never considered. Safety and comfort in the line that separates the house and the yard from the garden. Hiding out someplace where no one but me cared to spend any time.

My mind goes back to that ditch and the big open place where it met the drainage from the yard and the garden. On one side of the intersection was a “cliff”, all of two feet high. Diagonally across was a smooth narrow rise tightly squeezed between two trees. I rode my bike flying off the cliff and turning up the rise just in time to avoid hitting the trees. I looped around and crossed the ditch using the sturdy mock suspension bridge that my dad and I had built and flew and rose again. I would just serpentine my way through this circuit all afternoon, jumping and climbing and riding. Looking back now it feels like the only freedom I knew and I never grew tired of it.

I hated working in the garden as a kid. It was torture to me. Whenever I worked in the garden, I felt like I was being punished. And sometimes I was. Unfortunately my dad had a great knack for taking the fun out of situations that could have easily been enjoyable. It was a philosophy of threaten first — enjoy and thank…never.

After my parents split up, it was a long time before I turned the soil again. The one funny thing was that I always kept a compost pile — no garden but a compost pile and I had this really nice hoe that somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew would come in handy some day.

Then one day I just realized that I knew all this stuff about gardening. I didn’t even know or think about the fact that I knew this. I just started planting more and more things — flowers, shrubs, trees, vegetables. What once had seemed like torture was now something I couldn’t stop doing. And I knew just what to do. Things don’t always turn out just like I want but there is always a lot of learning from mistakes involved in gardening — just like any other worthwhile task.

I used to hate working in the garden because of the way my father made me work there. Now that he is gone, I work in the garden to be with my father. The garden is where I can always find him. Standing beside me, guiding me as I plant and pull weeds and check the plants to make sure they are doing okay.

So now I have my own house, which does not represent pain to me. I have my own garden which is not a  place of imprisonment and punishment. The old house and garden fade away, the image in my mind dims and blurs and is not missed or longed for. The new versions are clear and beautiful and fresh to me every day. Instead my mind now goes back to the one place that was mine back then. It was the place that no one else gave a second thought to. When I was very young it scared me but as I grew older I tamed it on my own terms and it became a place to rest and hide and feel safe and above all, have fun and be free.

Weird Image Wednesday [150408]

Hummingbird Moth hovering around my Salvia. The first time I saw one of these, it seemed like it was a hummingbird but there was just something strange about it. Later I learned what it was. It’s called a hummingbird moth and that is exactly what I was inclined to call it when I first saw it.


Do you want to help record images of your neighborhood?

Recruiting Photographers:

Primary qualifications are interest & enthusiasm

The neighborhood photo blog idea is something that’s been in my mind for a while. I’ve participated in and organized several neighborhood photo shows where photographers of various levels of experience shot in certain parts of town for a set time. Then we would hold an exhibit. Over time I grew to like organizing and promoting other people’s work as much as showing my own. I found I had the knack for it and I can be pretty good at wrangling creative people. I still shoot photos all the time but I enjoying helping other photographers more now.

I believe in the power of places, whether in their natural state or developed by humans, to stimulate ideas, create feelings and invoke memories of personal and shared experience. The main thoroughfare in my neighborhood is a brick paved boulevard lined with vintage lampposts, trees and older building and homes. The modern is there as well, but there is enough of the old left to create what to me is a comforting atmosphere. One of the reasons I live there is that I like the frame of mind that I’m put into as I make my way home. Without over analyzing it, I’ll just say that it feels like home to me. It evokes memories of various times and places from throughout my life and helps provide continuity and context as I learn to embrace life’s never ending changes.

I want my online documentary site to be a place where anyone with a desire to record for posterity those aspects of their local environs that provide comfort now and yet may someday disappear. It can also be used as a place to share things we like about our world without any thought to whether or how long it will stick around. Ideally, it can even be a place where we all learn something about other places, times and cultures, exploring and sharing the differences and similarities that weave together to form this rich and wondrous world in which we all share an existence.

The site has places for images, writings, participant galleries and a forum to discuss the how and why of what we are doing. It is all set up and ready to go at I am a lover of people’s photos and a recognizer that many things can be said with images whether or not the person creating them even realizes it. I welcome participation on any level — from a single photo to an entire gallery. Please contact me by leaving a message on this page if you would like to participate. I look forward to hearing from you.

Where I live, there aren't many evenings  when I can get a shot like this at 10pm and so I wanted to record it.

Where I live, there aren’t many evenings when I can get a shot like this at 10pm and so I wanted to record it.

Looking forward to weeding?

I know some people really don’t like weeding. I’m not overly enamored with it myself — it’s one of the ways my dad used to torture me when I was growing up (making me do it, not using weeds on me). But, like so many other aspects of gardening that I hated as a kid, now I at least don’t mind it. The satisfaction of seeing a freshly weeded garden with only the things you want to be growing there in the ground is worth the trouble. I enjoy getting up close and personal with my plants. I like doing it by hand and certainly don’t believe that in the human versus weed dance it’s necessary to call in the full force of the chemical industry to aid us. Weed often and catch them small. They’ll come right out.


Spring Garden Update (2015 – Part One)

Home Garden

I started my second round of spring planting this weekend. It began on what was a beautiful afternoon at the nursery and the place was hopping with what I’m sure were many like minded gardeners. We all hovered back and forth around the large selection of available tomato and pepper plants (many other plants also) looking for our favorite varieties. I ended up coming home with nine tomato plants and seven pepper plants, along with a couple of new items for my herb bed. That’s a slightly larger number than I usually plant but I have a good feeling about this spring. I managed to get seven of the tomatoes planted that afternoon – six in one of my 4×4 foot raised beds and one in a large pot. I’m still not sure where to put the other two. I added fresh compost and a little bit of guano and dried molasses to the soil and fed then all with some seaweed and liquid molasses afterwards. That night we got a little rain and I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve managed to get rain right after planting.

Community Garden

In our community garden at work we have twice as many plots in use as we did this last year. Although we have some way to go before we reach full capacity, for now I think I’ll manage to live with one hundred percent growth. We are waiting to hear about a matching funds grant that we applied for which will enable us to set up 17 more plots to have available for anyone who wants to join. Up until now, we gardeners have all been building our own raised beds at our expense. Last year I had  one bed and this year I have two. I’m using one of them just for corn. After my success last year with just a few plants (and planted on a whim, at that), I’ve decided to give it a more serious try this time around to see if I can raise enough to give away to those in need.

Weird Image Wednesday

Some might not appreciate what a sign of changing times this is.

I saw these US postage stamps and thought, “out of all those people at Woodstock, I bet there was someone in that audience listening to him play the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and thinking that this guy ought to be on a stamp!” Unfortunately, after searching several Post Offices, I was unable to come up with any of the Janis Joplin stamps I saw one day a few weeks before and foolishly did not buy right on the spot.

Sunrise from the bottom of the sea anyone?

Sunrise from the bottom of the sea anyone?

More Wednesday weirdness lives here: Weird Image Wednesday. Hope to see you there.