The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

young woman with sticker showing cross on mouth

“It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.” ~ Judy Blume

I just recently finished reading Art Spiegelman’s, Maus, a graphic novel that, in January, made national news – for the worst of reasons.

Maus is Spiegelman’s memoir that recalls interviewing his father Vladek about his experience as a holocaust survivor. Maus is two troubled stories; one is the uneasy relationship between a modern day son and his grouchy, set in his ways, father and the other, Vladek’s holocaust story, presented in the book as flashbacks.

It was all hands on deck last January when the board of trustees of McMinn County Schools in Tennessee, convened a meeting to express its righteous indignation over eighth graders being exposed to Maus.

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I was browsing some interesting photo blog posts and, while I wasn’t particularly lost I did find a provocative challenge – lost. Debbye Smythe hosts the the Sunday One Word Challenge and one could get lost in all the possibilities. And so…..

I hear the word lost quite often in our house. One of my grandchildren might ask, “Have you seen my backpack?” Or, “I lost my sweatshirt at school.”

I might tell my wife, “I think I lost my glasses.”
“They’re on your nose,” she says.
“Gawd. I think I’m losing it.”

During my travels though, I’ve seen other examples of “lost.”

I’ve seen things and places lost in time.
“Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not.” ~ Stephen King, The Green Mile
Route 66 was once a vibrant highway. It was the way to get from west to east and vice versa. Progress took over and bypassed once thriving towns and businesses and they found themselves lost and abandoned.   .

A sign is all that’s left of a motel in Southern California along Route 66

A filling station in Adrian, Texas. Note the gas prices also lost in time

Nevada City, Montana was once a booming mining town. As happens with many mining towns the mines were played out, the boom went bust and the remnants were lost to the ravages of time. Below is what’s left of an old railcar.

When I was in Virginia City, Nevada, a once thriving silver mining town, I walked through the old cemetery and captured a metaphor for the notion of an era lost in time – a wild horse grazing near a 19th century headstone. It’s a photo symbolic of America’s Old West.

There’s an old, old graveyard on the grounds of Mission Dolores in San Francisco. It’s a fascinating place, gray with age and lost in history. Markers here date back to 1830. I happened upon a marker leaning against an old gnarled tree. The inscription on the tablet is illegible – a soul whose identity is lost in time.

 

Being from the San Francisco Bay Area it’s not uncommon to be lost in the fog. In the image below the Golden Gate Bridge is partially lost from view.

The Quincy Copper Mine in Upper Michigan operated between 1846 and 1945. During a recent road trip the ruins were lost in fog and in time.

Please visit Debbie’s site, Travel With Intent (link here) to see her take on “lost” and those of other talented photographers.

“Plans should be ephemeral, so be prepared to move away from them.” ~ Anthony Bourdain.

Nine o’clock on a weekday morning is never a good time to get on the road in a major metropolitan area. But, instead of following my instincts and getting out of town early I decided to thumb my nose at the traffic gods, and luxuriate in the plastic, faux opulence of the motel breakfast room, indulging in free yogurt and cello wrapped muffins. Through a layer of spilled yellow crumbs and an occasional blueberry I loitered over my complimentary copy of USA Today and swilled tepid, dishwater coffee.

To those who might call me ungrateful in my sarcasm over breakfast freebies, let’s not fool ourselves. The yogurt and muffin are not free, they’re built into the price of the room, as are the sundries you find in your room. That’s why my wife has managed to assemble the fine basketful of mini-bottles of shampoo, conditioner and skin creams and little patties of soap that adorns our bathroom counter at home.

I’d resigned myself to a long sojourn in highway purgatory and when I merged onto gridlocked Interstate 35 out of Minneapolis I was not disappointed

Google Girl warned me of traffic congestion. “No shit,” I countered. “Can’t slip anything past you, huh?”

Google Girl couldn’t come up with a response. She’s like that.

My stay in traffic perdition turned out to be surprisingly short. In a mere thirty minutes the freeway was again free and I was back in farm country.

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This week’s Lens Artist Challenge hosted by Ann-Christine is curves.

Looking through the archives, I found that I wasn’t at all thrown for a loop.

So allow me to throw a few curves.

A bend in the road always adds some drama to a photo. The viewer is left to put the imagination to work. Where or to what does that curve in the road lead to?

Autumn country road, Wisconsin

At this curve in the road in Shipshewana, Indiana, the old (an Amish carriage) is followed by the new.   

In the mountains of Montana a dirt road curves into the distance.  To where?   

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The COVID Chronicles is a series of posts relating my experiences and observations during the pandemic. I hope that this will be the final post in the series. 

March 12, 2022. My wife Cora and I are having lunch at Caffe Sport in San Francisco’s North Beach, the City’s Little Italy.

Caffe Sport is a little trattoria on Green Street, half a block from busy Columbus, the main avenue that slices diagonally through North Beach.

This part of the City is a favorite of ours, a merging of Asia and Italy.

East of Columbus is most of North Beach, while to the west is about a quarter of the district, where North Beach and Chinatown coalesce in a delicious, colorful fusion. At one time the boundaries between the two districts were distinct, but over decades Chinatown expanded into North Beach so that nowadays you can hear a conversation in Cantonese while enjoying cannoli at A. Cavalli Café.

Walk half a block south from A. Cavalli to Little City Meats to buy some blood sausage and scaloppini and then cross Vallejo street for dou sha bao, at Fancy Wheat Field Bakery.  Another short walk across Broadway and you’re smack in Chinatown.

Normally there wouldn’t be anything significant about a garlicky Sicilian lunch at Caffe Sport, but today, March, 12th, 2022, it’s an anniversary of sorts.    Continue reading

protester holding sign with stop putin on it

Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.
~ William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

What exactly is it that motivates a man to “let slip the dogs of war,” on an innocent nation, a country doing nothing but minding its own national business?

The injured nation possesses nothing that the attacker needs; no resources that can’t be otherwise secured, no riches in particular. The attacker doesn’t need the land for colonization, what Hitler termed  lebensraum.

But there’s a sin, one unforgivable sin perpetrated by the injured nation, a decades-long transgression conjured up in the twisted mind of a narcissistic madman; the sin of existence.

After months of amassing a huge army on his country’s border with the Ukraine, and spinning a yarn of war games and exercises, Vladimir Putin let slip his Russian Army.

Why?
It’s the question that Putin has answered only with fury and more fables, and pundits have tried to answer with theories.

My own?

Ukraine long ago took up residence in Putin’s head. The Ukrainian national anthem must be the earworm that disturbs Putin’s sleep at two o’clock every morning.

That Ukraine exists as an independent sovereign must, for decades, have been more than he could take. Putin probably looks at a map of Europe, sees all of those former Soviet republics and cries in his borscht, nostalgic for the “good old” cold war days of an intact Soviet Union.

As he sips his vodka maybe he waxes over those glory days of TU-95 bombers cruising off the coast of Alaska, nuclear submarines peeping at Boston Harbor through periscopes and the Kremlin casting its ominous shadow over the vast Soviet land mass.

When the Berlin Wall came down, Putin was a young KGB agent in Dresden, in what was at that time East Germany. The dissolution of the Soviet Union was, for Putin, a traumatic event that would stay with him and shape his life (Germany’s defeat in World War I and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles were traumatic events that shaped the life of a particular German corporal).

If Putin’s goal is to reestablish the old Soviet Union, what better place to start than the second largest country in Europe. Continue reading

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~ Bruce Lee

I’ve been watching the Lens-Artists Challenges from the sidelines, but when Anne Sandler chose as the topic, water, a subject that I’m particularly drawn to, I couldn’t resist submitting my own rendition. I love to photograph water in all its forms.

Water
F
A
L
L
S
And when it does it makes for a wonderful subject, particularly when shot at a sloooowww shutter speed.

Jacobs Falls, Michigan

 

Winnewissa Falls, Minnesota.

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pineapple beside pink flower

The server came to our table, and in the perky manner that must nowadays be a server’s job requirement (“My qualifications are; extensive knowledge of fine dining, friendly, attentive, hard worker and I have a saccharine, perky voice that’s guaranteed to either warm your heart or kill your appetite.”), introduced herself and chirped, “I’ll be taking care of you today.”

“Taking care?” Were we in a restaurant or a nursing facility?

Lunch at Sailor Jack’s Restaurant in Benicia, a seafood joint named after Jack London who lived in the area during the early 1890’s. He was in his mid-twenties when he plied the local bay waters hunting “poachers.” During his off hours London hung out at The Jurgensen Old Corner Saloon, where he gathered material for his novel, John Barleycorn.

I was meeting a former coworker, only the second lunch that I’d had with a coworker since my retirement. Many had been planned with various former colleagues and all but two were canceled for one reason or another. I was always the bride left at the altar. I’m retired, I usually don’t have cause to cancel much of anything.

Over the years, those canceled lunches always left me with the feeling that I was no longer welcome to the party; old news. They, on the other hand, were still important people, busy doing important things, contributing to the economy. Me? Retired; a lotus eater.

Or maybe they all secretly hate me and never want to see me again, especially from across a table of food.

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close up photography of tiger

January, my least favorite month, is done. January; a cold, dark, barren toothache of a month. What does January have to offer?

Oh sure it marks the start of a new year, and it…it… Well I’m not sure what else it brings to the feast. Just a dismal placeholder. Something has to take up that space on the calendar so it might just as well be January. Among the twelve siblings of the year, January is the pariah.

January. The holidays are done, if you don’t count New Year’s Day and what’s New Year’s but a day to loll about the house wearing pajamas and a post New Year’s Eve grimace. It’s great if you’re into football, aspirin, coffee and hangover remedies.

January. It doesn’t even mark the mid of “the bleak midwinter,” as the poetess Christina Rossetti termed it long ago,

The only promise that it holds is that its days are numbered.

February 1st, 2022. It’s starting out cold, very cold for the San Francisco Bay Area. Car windshields are painted with sheets of ice, the ground is frosted and breaths come in puffs that hang visibly in the early morning cold.

Out on the recreation path with Lexi, small patches of ice lay in slick wait, hiding in those sheltered spots never touched by the wintertime sunlight.

Lexi and I are walking along the San Pablo Bay Shoreline. My stocking cap is pulled low to cover my ears and my hood is pulled tight to warm any random centimeter that the cap won’t cover.

A woman approaches from a distance. She resembles someone I’ve often seen on this path. I know that sweatshirt and she does look familiar yet she appears strange to me. Even as we’re almost upon each other I still can’t place her.

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brown wood plank closeup photo

The side fence blew down last month, December 15th to be exact. That’s when an atmospheric river washed over California.

An atmospheric river. That’s the term that the weather boys and girls have been using when we get a lot of rain and wind off the Pacific. It’s only been a couple of years that I’ve heard that term, atmospheric river.

We used to call it a windy rain storm, or “cats and dogs.” Dad used to say, “It’s not a fit night out for man nor beast.” My grandparents might’ve called it a gully washer, a term which people can relate to. Well, I guess folksy people who know what a gully is, can relate to it. That’s likely a dying, if not already deceased, population – unless you live in the Deep South or the Midwest.

Why can’t forecasters on TV talk like normal people? They used to. Now they talk in jargon.

I don’t give a shit about your Doppler radar, your high pressure, your southern oscillation or even La Niña. Just tell me if I need an umbrella tomorrow.

I wish that the perky weather girl or the fresh faced perfectly coiffed weather guy would dump the meteorological mumbo jumbo and deliver the forecast in terms that are understandable to the common man and woman. “Cover your asses folks. Bring in your pets and tie down the lawn chairs because it’s gonna rain like a bastard and blow like a Vegas call girl.” It doesn’t get more common than that and it’ll get people’s attention.

Whatever you wanna call it, we had a big storm.

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