The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

It’s been a minute since I last posted and the plan was for a longer hiatus until I happened upon Tina’s Lens-Artists Challenge, the final one for 2022.
This challenge is to post photos from 2022 that have not been previously published. Couldn’t resist.
It’s a hard thing to plumb the passage of time. In one sense it seems like yesterday that I was chilling outside the local coffee joint while my grandson Jackson squirmed in his baby carriage. At the same time, those days seem like a lifetime ago. Twelve years.
Basketball is Jack’s love. Years ago stumbling and unsure, his game has benefited from confidence and maturity.
Taken in a dimly lit high school gym, the quality of this photo is iffy but for me the subject is priceless.

Forsaken and polished
During a road trip this past October I happened upon an automotive relic sitting in front of an old barn.

Every June, the nearby town of Pinole hosts a classic car show. The bright red beauty below caught my eye.

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This week’s Lens Artists Challenge is hosted by Anne Sandler and she has chosen the topic, Wildlife Close To Home.

I’m choosing home as what’s known as the entire Greater Bay Area, so I’m reaching out to the Pacific Coast.

Half Moon Bay is about 45 minutes away. That’s close to home. Right?

The Pacific shoreline teems with birds. Below is a flock of fluttering plovers (say that fast three times).     

Below, a posing black oystercatcher.

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A chapter in an occasional series of posts documenting an autumn 2021 road trip through the Midwest. A continuation of the post, Highway 52 – Southbound To ‘Heaven’

“The people who come here will be drawn…” He stops, searching for words. “Have you ever been walking down the street and stopped in mid-stride and turned in at a bookstore or a gallery you never knew existed?” People will decide to holiday in the Midwest for reasons they can’t fathom or express. ~ J.D. Salinger in the book Shoeless Joe.

Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? You find yourself drawn to a small town that you wouldn’t have known existed if not for some haphazard, disjointed string of events that happened over the course of nearly half your lifetime. Okay, maybe that’s how it rarely goes.

In the autumn of 2021, I found myself in Dyersville, a small town in eastern Iowa. A few months prior I didn’t know there was such a place. And yet my visit wasn’t a random event, one of those, ‘Oh look, Dyersville. I think I’ll jump off the highway and look around,’ sort of things.

Dyersville could have been just another one of the thousands upon thousands of small towns, dots on a map all over America that most of us have never considered visiting, never even heard of. We might, on occasion, take a second’s note of some random, tiny burgs. Maybe the name catches the eye and we wonder how there came to be an Accident in Maryland. What’s so cheery about Cheer, Iowa? Would I want to live in Boring, Oregon? Why is there Hell in Michigan and from what seed did Weed sprout in California? Maybe they’re little places we breeze past, on the way to somewhere more important. Mostly though, those small towns, those little black flecks on the map are the ciphers we ignore – cartographical white noise.

Dyersville could be one of those places but it’s not. Dyersville sucks people in because Dyersville is an example of life imitating art. Like most of the Dyersville pilgrims I wouldn’t have visited had it not been for a movie and a book.

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A chapter in an occasional series of posts documenting an autumn 2021 road trip through the Midwest.  A continuation of the post, “The Road to Lansing and the Divine Revelation”

“I just feel like the most important conversations I’ve had in my life have been at a diner counter.” ~ Ramy Youssef

October 23rd, Lansing, Iowa.

It was a sparse crowd in NutMegs when I walked in for breakfast and to figure out what to do with my day.

NutMegs. It’s a proper coffee shop. When you walk into a proper coffee shop you see stools in front of a counter; you hear chatter; you likely hear an argument or two, local gossip, local politics and naturally, sports; you hear the clink of a spoon on a sturdy white coffee mug; the sizzle of a flattop hard at work. And the smells; breakfast meats and strong coffee. On weekdays, old timers finish a light breakfast and then hang around chatting with other old timers seated nearby or, hell, even across the room. Weekends bring the families, before a sporting event or after church. The moment you walk into a proper coffee shop, even on a chilly Midwest morning, you feel its singular warmth.

Yeah, NutMegs is a proper coffee shop. At least it seemed so to this stranger from the Pacific Coast.

Plain, straightforward, knotty pine walls, maybe fake knotty pine walls. I can never tell the difference. Walk in, and to your right is a display case overloaded with empty but still delicious calories; donuts, fritters, bars and assorted pastries. To the left, a set of shelves holds some prepackaged cookies and porcelain likenesses of milk cows – Midwest kitsch.

I took a seat at a counter that was worn and shiny, the erosion of scores of satisfied elbows.

A few stools over a burly man, an empty plate before him, sat nursing a few final sips of coffee. He wore the vestments I’d become used to seeing in small town middle America; faded denim work pants (preferably overalls) a flannel or denim shirt and work boots.

This attire was always topped off with a faded, sweat stained well worn cap, sometimes pulled low, other times, like in a proper coffee shop, worn back on the head, the better to look people in the eye when chatting. Never though, is the cap worn backwards (a good friend of mine holds the firm belief that only baseball catchers and submarine commanders should wear a cap backwards. Being a photographer, admittedly one of no repute, I firmly disagree. Try aiming a camera with a brim fighting your hands for space).

Worn back or pulled low, these caps are usually emblazoned with some farm equipment logo; John Deere, Case, or Tractor Supply.

It’s a raiment I came to call, Midwest business casual. I’d yet to see a suit but I hadn’t yet visited a church and didn’t figure to. I imagined that even attorneys, accountants, bankers and the undertaker must wear some form of this Midwest business casual.            Continue reading

This week John, author of the site, Journeys with Johnbo, leads the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, choosing the topic flights of fancy. I was stumped and ready to bow out of this one until I realized how easy this one could be for me.

My flight of fancy has been the road. The road; cobbled roads; dirt roads; highways; country roads; farm roads; busy roads; lonely roads. Roads have led me to places that I’ve dreamed of seeing and places that I never dreamed existed.

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Roads have carried me to interesting and beautiful places, but the road itself possesses its own singular beauty and character.

A road less travelled. Saxeville, Wisconsin

It’s the road that’s allowed me to experience places of matchless grandeur and beauty and to share them with my wife. If not for roads I would have never experienced the twin pleasures of viewing nature’s handiworks and Cora’s joy and awe.

I don’t know which was more beautiful, the Black Hills or Cora’s awe in seeing them.

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Being October, and being that Halloween is less than two weeks away, it’s only appropriate to add another graveyard episode to the Monthly Monochrome series (for the previous charnel chapter click this link).

As I indicated in my previous graveyard post, a graveyard can be a cemetery, but a cemetery can’t be a graveyard until time, nature and lack of attention have weathered the old charnel.

Tonopah Cemetery
Located in the high desert of Nevada, 211 desolate miles from the glitter of Las Vegas, sits Tonopah, Nevada.

Nevada is appropriately named the Silver State because many of its cities, towns, ghost towns and ruins were birthed by silver. In 1900, Jim Butler discovered silver at a site that would produce one of the biggest booms in the west and with it, the high desert town of Tonopah.

Old cemeteries are repositories of history. They speak, as silently as a grave, of lives and times long past.

Among the epitaphs of the residents of Tonopah’s old graveyard:

In 1909, Leonard Black fell from a freight wagon loaded with three tons of grain and was run over. Leonard was eleven years old.

In 1906, Alfred Anderson succumbed to a gunshot wound after having assaulted a woman in, as the epitaph describes, her bagnio.

Kentuckian William Allen Montgomery was a pioneer, stockman, and teamster. Born in 1838, he died at age 62.

In 1916, Peter Mandich was careless while riding in a mining skip (car). According to the Reno Evening Gazette, “Peter Mandich, a Servian, 25 years of age, was instantly killed in the underground incline shaft of the Tonopah Extension Mine, Saturday morning about 10:30 o’clock. He stood up in the skip and his head coming in contact with the timbers, his neck was broken and his head badly crushed.” All the way from Serbia to seek his fortune only to perish at a too young age.

Unmarked gravestones cast long shadows in late afternoon.

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