Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

12/13/2021 Simple is My Way   Leave a comment

Many people have asked me why I don’t write about religion very often. Whether it’s Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, or any other, I don’t see the need. I don’t need an organization of millions to tell me; good is good, evil is evil, and bad is bad. Don’t do bad, don’t be evil, and do good. Is there any human being out there that doesn’t get that? I don’t think so. Even evil people know they’re doing evil and that they should be doing good, but they just choose not to. I also don’t see the need to be required to turn over a portion of my hard-earned wages so organizations can build gigantic, extravagant cathedrals, mosques, and temples in which to worship. To me it’s a no-brainer. If there is a God (I’m not a believer) and he’s everywhere, I can speak to him or her anytime I want. No church, no congregation, no donations, no preaching, and no stupid rituals . . . just simple communication.

In my humble opinion “simple” is the way to live your life. Believe what you will, keep it a private matter between you and your God (if’s that what you believe), and live your life. I have one philosophy and that is “Always do the right thing no matter the consequences”. None of this “do onto others as they would do unto you” nonsense. I don’t want to do unto anyone and I don’t want anyone doing unto me.

In the mid-60s I spent two wonderful years in the Republic of South Korea thanks to travel plans from Uncle Sam. I became immersed in their culture, their religions, and their people. I learned a lot. One of my habits on my off time was to travel through the countryside and explore. I’d hike between the minefields to reach the mountains and then just walk for miles.

It was on one of these walks that I had my eyes opened somewhat. I was probably four miles from the nearest hut, in the mountains near a place called Blue Lancer Valley. It was bright and sunny, and I hadn’t seen another human being or animal for most of the day. I was taking pictures and enjoying my time not being in the Army for a few hours. I walked around the bend in the trail along this mountainside and discovered a small statue of Buddha that had been carved into a large boulder a very long time ago. Stuck into the crevice in front of that statue was a bouquet of freshly cut flowers. I was always sorry I never got to meet the person who trekked all that way to place those flowers in that spot. That is a person who I would’ve liked to meet because for me that is religion at its best. Simple, private, heartfelt, and meaningful, at least to the person making the journey.

I’m still an unbeliever in all-things mystical but that day gave some hope. It demanded that I at least look into Buddhism as a simple way of learning how to deal with myself. I’m no Buddhist but many of their practices appeal to me, their simple way of living their life.

SIMPLE IS THE WAY

11 SHOPPING DAYS LEFT

11/29/2021 X-mas 2021   Leave a comment

I’ve written many postings about the Christmas season over the years and as I recently read back through them, they appeared varied, somewhat interesting, and some even boring. I hate to admit that I was ever boring but there are times when Christmas can be a huge pain in the butt. I just don’t get the “buzz” like I did when I was a kid and it still amazes me that some people (without kids) turn into Christmas fanatics and go wild over it. I loved Christmas as a young child but each year I lost a little of the holiday magic everyone seems to be searching for. It saddens me a little but “it is what it is”. The only real enjoyment for me now is when the young grandchildren are running through the house wearing Christmas apparel and having a grand old time. I thoroughly enjoy living vicariously through them.

After my last two years of medical problems, I didn’t feel things would ever be getting any better. The years, 2019 and 2020, drained away what little fun I had left in me. If not for my better-half and a few other close family members I might not have survived to enjoy Christmas 2021, for that I am eternally grateful.

All of that being said, it’s time to prepare for the holidays once again. With the pandemic still gumming up the works I’m not sure what direction to take. Now that I’m cancer free you’d think I’d be ready to celebrate the hell out of just about anything. After the experiences of the last two years I’ve entered a phase in my life that was totally unexpected. I’ve become calmer, more thoughtful, and seriously introspective.

The grandchildren are no longer toddlers and are becoming actual people. They now can speak their minds and voice their feelings like never before. While I find that refreshing it makes my preparations for the holiday a little more troublesome. My education continues but now they are the teachers and I’m the student.

I now know more about Pokémon and the thousands of cards involved with that experience. It’s supposed to be a game but I have no idea what the rules are. I think he’s just messing with me because he seems to win every game. Which cards are rare and which ones are crappy, who knows?

I’ve seen the Alvin & the Chipmunks movie a hundred times and have been hearing that theme song in my head for five years. I find myself humming it at the oddest times, in the shower and while I’m cutting grass. Don’t even get me started about “Lady and the Tramp”.

I’ll bet you any amount of money that I know more about the cartoon “Larva” than anyone you know over the age of 15. I actually found myself purchasing a “Larva” tee shirt three years ago that the grandson wanted to give to his grandmother. Apparently, it was a bigger hit than I anticipated since she still wears it occasionally in odd moments.

I’ve also been coerced into becoming a soccer fan. I’ve hated soccer with a passion and have avoided it for most of my life. Not anymore unfortunately. Both grandsons have decided that soccer is a great game but it’s always much more fun when family members come to the games to cheer them on. So, my newest job is the official family sports photographer. I get to sit and watch groups of five-six-seven-eight-year-old boys and girls playing “at” soccer. Just shoot me now. It’s finally improving this year since they’ve added a real game to their curriculum, baseball. This I actually enjoy watching.

I guess I should be happy. Those boys have enough energy for us all and I think it’s rubbing off on me a little. They now have me looking forward to a Christmas I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to celebrate.

HO! HO! HO! ONCE AGAIN

09-14-2016 Journal – Mother Nature & Dentistry!   Leave a comment

Since our return from our vacation things have quickly returned to the normal everyday insanity. Over the years I’ve discovered that Mother Nature is a fickle friend at best and she got me again this week. We were still enjoying the post vacation afterglow as we visited a nearby Walmart. It was sunny and bright with a chance of thunderstorms. As we exited the store it was pouring rain with wind gusts of 30-40 mph.  We didn’t give it much thought until we heard on the radio about the severe wind advisory throughout the area.

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We arrived home to find the huge 60 foot maple tree in our backyard down for the count. It had missed hitting the house by only a few feet. It was a double trunked tree with one trunk now on the ground and the other still standing but leaning dangerously close to the house.  It was badly damaged as well and looked as if it might fall at any moment.

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The trunk that was down was partially blocking a nearby road used by our neighbors to reach their homes.  One of those neighbors arrived within minutes with a chain saw and agreed to take the wood in payment for cleaning up the mess. Hooray . . Right?  Not hardly. After doing an inspection of the standing trunk it was obvious that it too had to be immediately removed before it fell and caused serious damage to the house.

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The better-half found a guy through someone at work who is a tree removal expert.  Having no real choice in the matter he arrived to inspect the tree and I agreed to his price (OMFG) and told him to proceed.  So yesterday I got to spend my entire day removing limbs and leaves and watching the tree get dismantled.

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It’s now the day after and the tree is gone, I’m sore all over, and the house was saved from serious damage.  Nothing can save the damage the entire experience did to my wallet.  Thanks a lot Mother Nature . . . you nasty old hag.

After the last of the limbs and leaves were picked up and removed I took a shower and arrived for my dentist appointment right on time. The day just kept getting better and better as two of my teeth were extracted.  I was packed with gauze, patted on the head, and sent on my way.

THREE DAYS I REALLY WANT TO FORGET

09-12-2016 Journal – The Big Easy Finale!   Leave a comment

This will be the last of the New Orleans postings.  It’s been a lot of fun reviewing the pictures and writing about all of our little adventures.  As you can tell I really love the place and plan on returning as often as possible in the future. Todays post will be nothing more than a few random pictures of the French Quarter that I failed to use this week. You must remember that between my better-half and I we took more than a thousand photographs in our six day visit.

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A balcony used by the bead throwers.

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Artists displaying their wares in Jackson Square.

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Everyone needs a little Voodoo in their life.

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St. Mark’s Cathedral

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How about a little truth in advertising.

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And some Day of the Dead skeletons.

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And finally a stop at Café Du Monde for cafe’ au lait and beignets. Absolutely delicious!

So ends my reminiscences of a truly wonderful vacation.  I should mention that on my last night in the Quarter I made my way to a local tattoo parlor and purchased one as a memento of our trip.  I was going to post a picture of it but my better-half thought that might be a little to much information. Just let it be said that I brought some permanent New Orleans voodoo home with me.

I hope any of you who would love to visit there get the opportunity to do so.

YOU WON’T REGRET IT

 

09-10-2016 Journal – The Big Easy-6!   Leave a comment

Our vacation began to wind down a little as we entered our fourth day in NO. We decided to spend the final day and a half just roaming around the French Quarter and shopping, people watching, drinking, and eating.  It was a dirty job but someone had to do it.

My first suggestion to my better-half was a required visit to a NO must-see, Pat O’Brien’s Bar.  During my first visit to NO many many years ago I was taken first to Bourbon Street and then directly to Pat O’Brien’s Bar.  I loved the place so much I couldn’t wait to introduce it to my better-half.

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It’s a nondescript hole-in-the-wall or so you think at first glance. You walk through the entry way into a dark tunnel with a barroom on either side.  That leads directly into the terrace filled with tropical plants and tables for patrons.

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Directly in the middle is a fountain that is somewhat famous.  During the day it doesn’t look like much but at night it’s on fire.

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It was difficult trying to capture the rising flames in a photo. This was my best attempt.

We took a seat in the bar and ordered dinner. Since O’Brien’s is the actual home of the famous Hurricane cocktail we ordered two. They were huge as was expected and strong enough to give you a glow after drinking only one.

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My entrée was something I’d been waiting for for years.  This is something the locals call “crawfish etouffee” and believe me it was the best I’ve ever had.  It was hot and spicy and effing delicious.

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It was a fun night spent people watching and just enjoying the atmosphere of the French Quarter.  Vibrant, crowded, and as much fun as any person could handle.  We retired to our hotel and the secluded pool to cool down a little before bed.  Another terrific day in the Big Easy.

WE’RE REALLY GONNA MISS THIS PLACE.

09-08-2016 Journal – The Big Easy-5   Leave a comment

Our fourth day in NO took us to one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been.  I’ve always been a big fan of graveyards but this one was the ultimate. It’s called St. Louis #1, the oldest cemetery in the city. Some residents have been there since the late 1700’s.  The temperature was 95 degrees but once we got inside the cemetery it rose to just over 100 degrees.

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Since all bodies are buried above ground in NO the cemetery is just concrete walkways and white tombs.  The heat actually accelerates the decomposition which is important I suppose.  The cemetery isn’t open to the public any longer but I’m sure the Catholic Church is getting their taste from all of the tour groups visiting every day.

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To add to the solemnness of the visit we happened upon what has become a common occurrence these days. A Hollywood celebrity showing up to spend 60,000 dollars to build an eight foot tall white pyramid right in the middle of all this history. Who else would it be but that way-out-there celebrity . .  Nicolas Cage.  Only one word comes to mind and that is A-Hole.

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I think I lost five pounds of water weight in the hour and a half we spent roaming around the place. Our tour guide was an encyclopedia of history of New Orleans and the people resting in that cemetery.  It was a highlight of our trip.

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The vacation continues with Pat O’Brien’s Bar scheduled for dinner and drinks tonight. We both need a dip in the hotel pool and a few cold ones to rehydrate before visiting there.  I’ll cover O’Brien’s in the next post.

MAN WAS IT EVER HOT

09-06-2016 Journal – The Big Easy-4   Leave a comment

Our third day in NO was a special day for me because for most of my life I’ve wanted to ride an airboat through these Louisiana swamps.  We boarded a bus in the French Quarter which took us across the Mississippi River southeast into the bayous. Our destination was a bayou named Barataria where the pirate John Lafitte and his men helped Stonewall Jackson defeat the British at the battle of New Orleans.  A beautiful place filled with as much history as you could ever want.

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These boats are just as fast as you can imagine. It’s like flying on water.

We left the dock and proceeded into the bayou and the beauty of the place was breathtaking.  I could have spent an entire week just riding around taking pictures. The guide took us to a rather cool cemetery where the brother of Jean Lafitte is buried. As you can see all bodies are buried above ground here in Louisiana.

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This is the ultimate spooky graveyard.

I was especially interested in getting some wildlife pictures and I no sooner had that thought and BAM . . . we found a few gators.  They were almost as curious about us as we were about them. This guy came to visit after we pulled ashore to get a better look at him.

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Doesn’t he have the cutest smile?

We played around with them for a few minutes then it was back into some isolated logging channels where we ran into a couple of turtles sunning themselves on a log.

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I hated for this day to come to an end but I was able to take some truly wonderful photos.  This last photo is the one that will remind me of this trip for as long as I live.

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WHAT MORE CAN I SAY?

 

 

09-04-2016 Journal – Big Easy-3!   Leave a comment

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Day two began with a walk through the French Quarter to the Toulouse Docks where the steamboat Natchez was moored.  My better-half has always wanted to ride the Mississippi River in an old steamship and we made that happen. We signed up for a three hour river cruise (hopefully better than Gilligan’s) that would take up south on the river through the busy port of NO. It was a brunch cruise and we had a great meal sitting on the main deck with a fantastic view of NO and the river.. It had been fully restored and was just like you would expect it to be minus the gambling tables and card cheats.

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One of the m0ost interesting sights was the massive amount of damage caused by Katrina.  There were huge section of docks and buildings that had been totally destroyed in the storm and had yet to be repaired or replaced.

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On the upper deck we checked out the gift shop and of course the bar. Their specialty drink was the Jazz Punch which was delicious and wickedly alcoholic. I wanted to have a second one but wasn’t sure I could off the boat without injury.  The views were incredible.

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We made a U-turn an hour later and proceeded back north to NO which was a sight to behold from the middle of the river.

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Another great day of relaxation to help us prepare for day three of the vacation.  Day three was on the top of my wish list and it meant an airboat and trip into the bayou’s.

HOPING FOR LOTS OF GREAT PHOTO’S

 

09-02-2016 Journal – Big Easy-2!   Leave a comment

The first day in NO was coming to an end and we decided to just hit the streets and roam around to get a better feel for things.  It was just getting dark and we were both starving. That airline food really is a joke.  We stumbled on a place on the north end of the French Quarter called Coops.  It’s one of those places with a questionable first impression and it was filled with mostly local residents some of which were way out there.  Of course we immediately went in to sample some good old Cajun food and we weren’t sorry.

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My rule #1 for eating in NO. Go local!

I ordered my usual ice cold Chardonnay while my better-half discovered a new love. She ordered a Big Easy IPA that’s brewed locally.  She fell in love with the brew which meant I would have a few more of them on my credit card in the coming days. . . AND I DID!  She ordered some sort of shrimp dish while I stepped outside the box once again. I dined on rabbit and alligator sausage jambalaya.  I hate to say this about the rabbit but if cooked properly it tastes just like chicken. No eye rolling please. We were finally cooled down by the air conditioning and decided to continue our walking tour.  Temps were still in the low nineties at dusk.

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We stopped at a number of small shops when we saw something interesting and to use their air conditioning. I’d already sweat through my clothes and would do so many more times during our stay.

NO is known as an artist colony and one of the reasons I love this place so much. We saw murals and sculptures just about everywhere we went. Here are two samples from our first night.

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We spent a lot of time looking at art work displayed in galleries and also on the street in Jackson Square.  Some of it was really good, some just OK, and others that were unbelievably bad.  To each their own I guess.  We continued our walk into Jackson Square where the line of horse drawn carriages were waiting for customers.

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We were at the end of a very long day and headed back to our hotel for the night.  That little pool in the courtyard I posted about earlier was the best thing that happened to us the entire day. Off with the clothes, into the swim suits, and into all of that lovely cool water.  We chatted with some new friends from Germany at the pool, finished our drinks and went off to bed. Our room felt like a refrigerator and thank god for that.

MORE TO COME

08-31-2016 Journal – The Big Easy!   Leave a comment

Well, my better-half and I arrived home last night after spending 6 glorious days in the party capitol of the USA . . . New Orleans.  If I disregard our god awful experiences with Jet Blue then we had a great time.  It’s been a number of years since I visited NOLA but I was thrilled to see that it was the same old exciting place that I remembered.  The evidence of Katrina’s visit eleven years ago has been all but erased.

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I grabbed this shot from their website because mine was blurry as hell.

I booked our hotel in an off-the-beaten-path location located in the old creole section of NO on Burgundy Street, 2 blocks north of Bourbon Street. The St. Pierre hotel was once the NO Jazz Museum but has since been converted into an hotel.

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It consists of a group of 150 year old creole homes joined together with small intimate courtyards and swimming pools hidden from street view.  If you ever visit there you need to know this is not the Hilton or Weston style of hotel.  This is an old building with 150 years of character and an 1850’s atmosphere.  We loved going native for a few days and would do it again in a heartbeat.

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This pool was 30 feet from our room. This is the view looking down from the balcony.

The weather was typical NO. It was 90 plus degrees all week with never less than 80% humidity. It was feel-like temperature of over 100 degrees.  Even though the heat was brutal that pool made it bearable. We visited it twice a day to cool off and have a drink and meet people from all over the world who were also staying there. Just fabulous.

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Another view of the courtyard from our balcony.

This posting is just the start of our trip. I’ll probably continue posting on our other activities for the next week or so. There was a lot to see and maybe I can give you a little taste of how it felt to be there.

IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE WEEK BUT WE’RE GLAD TO BE HOME.

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