Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tree trimming day

Well, we didn't actually trim it yet...but at least I assembled it.  Wasn't there a poem about "Only God can make a tree?"   I don't remember that it said nothing about assembling. 

Yes, we have reached the point in life where we have an artificial tree.  I remember, as a child, the joy of going out in my grandparent's woods and finding and cutting a tree of our own.  And later, of driving around picking out a tree.  But after doing this over 6o times, it began to lose its excitement. 

So I bring in the all the pieces from the shed and begin the process of straightening little metal twigs with plastic cedar shaped pine needles.   They get bent in storage so each one must be adjusted by hand.  A long process, but whenever I begin to become impatient, I remember the Christmas in the mountains of Virginia fifteen years ago. 

It was the year we decided to get a really "live tree" and then replant it.  Protecting the environment and all that. 

The tree farm was run by a 90-year-old minister who was a mountain of a physical speciman and drove Karen, me, and 8-year-old Brian out on his tractor into a wilderness below his house.

Did I mention it was sleeting heavily and the tractor pushed through mud and ice?  But we found our tree eventually.  Bigger than we had planned.  But we loved it.  I would have loved anything that could get me home and out of the bombardment of ice pellets. 

Having identified it, the nice lumberjack preacher handed me a shovel, a pick, an axe and turned to Brian and Karen and said, "You two must be soaked!  My wife has some hot cocoa up at the house. 

I'll never forget the first time I pushed the shovel into the ground near the tree, listening to the distant sounds of the tractor disappearing into the darkness.  The shovel went less than an inch into the ground before striking a root.  So that was what the axe was for.  But the advice had been, "try to cut as few roots as possible so the tree will have a better chance of living."

I backed up.  I tried to the left.  I tried to the right.  The sleet came down harder.  I was standing in mud.  My feet went deeper into the earth than the shovel. 

Periodically, I would rest to catch my breath and look up at the house.  There was a brightly lit warm window from the kitchen that overlooked the valley.  In the window, I could see Karen and Brian drinking cocoa.  Sometimes they waved at me.  

Eventually I decided that cutting a couple of the roots couldn't hurt the tree too much.  It was becoming a matter of survival.  Mine, not the tree's.  

After another hour, frankly, I didn't really care if the tree made it or not!  I hacked, dug, yanked, levered, pushed, pulled, hacked again. 

In the end, I'm not sure if I actually dug up the tree or whether the rain and sleet turned the ground so soft the tree just fell over on its own.  I waved at the window for them to bring the tractor.  

They waved back.

I waved furiously, jumping up and down and flailing my arms. 

They waved back. 

I don't remember much after that.  Somewhere in the haze a tractor appeared.  Later I was driving home and Karen and Brian were laughing about how much fun it had been and how we should do this every Christmas. 

It wasn't too many years later that I bought this tree where I can sit on the couch for hours and straighten branches and watch football.  

Oh -- I should mention the step ladder that shows up in the last shot.  I wrote a poem about my stepladder a couple of years ago that I'll post here at risk of making the blog too long. 

Stepladder’s Christmas

Not only for the Claxton fruitcake,
the Messiah on the CD, and eggnog in the glass,
tree-trimming day is special for being the time
the stepladder receives its annual invitation
to the livingroom, and out of the shed where it spends its days
leaning against unpainted walls with the shovels.

It even consents to have its broken red plastic feet
washed so it won’t soil the sanctity of the oriental rug
as it stands, like a farmer, out of place in the company
of plush embroidered Victorian sofas, antique bureaus
in a room that’s polished often and used seldom.

The ladder knows its place and stands quiet
and humble, but structure firm,
never trying to hide its rust from stares
of family portraits (whose eyes follow it everywhere).
Paint stained, dented, twisted legs, and missing rivets,
It knows my feet better than any Persian,
knows my hands better than any polished knob.
It has held me in storms and sun, to repair windows,
to rescue kites from tree limbs, supported me
for hours while painting and caulking the house to keep
this assemblage of holy furniture from mildew.

In front of them now, it knows itself,
despite the host of crystal coasters that rattle
protecting their pristine veneer
and takes me, willingly, like a dancing partner
to the top of the tree where we place the star.

It has sufficient time each year
to calculate the value of the living room crowd
and is always content to slip back out the door,
competent, of course, to never scratch the molding,
on its way back to its home in oil and dirt.


Oh yes...when we eventually moved from Roanoke, the tree was still alive in the back yard.  

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Hometown Photo Shoot - Faces and Smiles

Sarah from Idaho picked this week's theme...I hope I haven't screwed up again and it was really Sarah Lulu -- because this sounds like a theme she'd suggest as well.   It's a great one and forces me - blush - to even post a couple of photos with my smile in it as well. 

Conner and Grandpa
(Being a grandpa freaks me out and I eat too many cookies)

But Conner seems to make everybody smile...

He makes Mommy Melody smile
He makes Daddy Brian smile

He makes "Nana" Karen smile

He makes his Aunt Jean...well...look like a fish smiling.

He makes his Mommy and Daddy kiss
(which is why he will be getting a brother or sister this summer
...or maybe it wasn't just the kissing...

And then there is the picture a little ways down below.  It is a blurry shot taken by someone...who knows...when the big Ravenel Bridge opened in Charleston a few years ago.  People were walking it for the ribbon cutting and getting their pictures taken with our infamous Governor Sanford.  For my international friends, who may not know the story, the last year has been tough for our Governor because he was caught returning from Argentina where he had slipped off for a tryst with his "soul mate."  He had told everyone he was off hiking on the Appalchian Trail until a reporter caught him getting off an international flight in Atlanta.  The scandal hasn't helped his plan to run for President any and didn't do much for his marriage either.  But Jay Leno had a field day with it. 

This was taken long before the Spanish bull dooky hit the proverbial fan.





Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Karen always slow-cooks the turkey, wrapped in aluminum foil, all night so we wake to a drool-inducing house.  I've already pre-posted a small but smiling faces post for tomorrow.   But before the kids arrive and we begin Thankfulness in the world outside the computer, I thought I would take a moment to tell all of you how much I have enjoyed being part of the Blogspot Community.

I love you all.  


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stalking the Great Owl

Thanks to all of you, my dear friends, for your flap confirmations and stalking recommendations, I woke at 5 a.m.   No alarm clock.  Just excitement for the nocturnal hunt.

In order not to spook the owl I have decided is residing in the tree beside my house, I turned on no lights whatever.  Quiet as a mouse -- thinking that mouse might also attract the owl -- I tiptoed barefoot from the bedroom to get my camera.

And stepped on one of my grandson's toys that I had forgotten to put away when he went back to his parents yesterday. 

Fortunately it was a soft cuddly toy.

Unfortunately, my first thought was that it was it one of our cats so I jumped back so fast I smashed my knee on the coffee table. 

Refusing to cry out, I stuffed my agony and found my camera bag and like an expert, got out the Nikon, put on a mid-range zoom, attached the strobe...attached the strobe...tried to attach the strobe.  Finally realized in the dark that I was trying to put it on backwards.   Got it right.

I carefully moved to the porch and discovered it was raining.

But heck! It's 5 am.  National Geographic photographers do this in Antarctica, underwater, in rain forests.  So I tiptoed back to the hall and got my rainproof windbreaker and a plastic bag to protect the camera. 

30 minutes on the porch trying to figure out how to cover the camera and still push the buttons, leave the lens free but still protect it.  I ripped holes in two bags, ruined another, considered putting a big leaf bag entirely over my head and shoulders.  Almost suffocated. 

Okay, I did't really almost suffocated.  I just almost fell back asleep.  At which point I probably would have suffocated.

But the rain let up a little.  So I decided I could just protect the camera with the windbreaker and left the bags on the porch and stepped out.

Barefoot.  Wet grass.  Dark.  I crouched and stealthed my way...

BUTLER:  "Stealth is not a verb!"

Ssssshh.   I hid behind a bush.  It was dark.  In fact it might not have been a bush. 
It might have been the barbecue grill.  I had the tree in sight.  I strained to see the owl's eyes as my friends had suggested.  I could hardly see the tree.  It began to rain harder. 

I set the camera and strobe to multiple shot mode so I could make the most of the one chance I would have to shoot flapping wings.  The machine gun of photography.

Holding my breath, I stepped out from behind the bush (or the grill).  The rain started coming down heavier.  By then my only thought was the owl.  So what if the Nikon gets wet!  I took one more step, my bare foot landing on something soft and wet -- praying it was a mole hill and not a gift from Daisy the Oppossum-Dog. 

I raised my camera and...

All the spot lights on the house snapped on turning night into day and Karen's voice called out loudly, "Mark!  What are you doing?!!  Aren't you going to walk Daisy??!  What are all these bags doing in the porch??!!!!  What time is it?!!"
I didn't even hear a flap from the owl...only the flap from the porch.  I turned quickly and slipped, splashing in the wet grass.  The good news was that what I had stepped on was a mole hill. 

The bad news is that what I fell on was the gift from Daisy. 

So much for my career with National Geographic.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Owl Flap

Wow!!  An owl has taken up residence in the Japenese Elm tree beside the house! 

I haven't actually seen it yet.   But for the second morning in a row, walking Miss Daisy, my usual pre-dawn grumbling was interrupted by the sudden, thunderous but silent flapping of giant wings while something owlish flew over my head. 

I can't defend why I thought it was owlish any more than I can explain the oxymoronic silently thunderous sound.   It might have been a hawk or an ibis.  There are plenty of those around the pond.  But it was night!  Or pre-dawn at least.  Owls are nocturnal.

Okay, so it might have been avery small dragon or a very large bat.  Wearing a bowtie with a German accent.  Or did Dracula have a Hungarian accent?   Speaking of hungry, it could well have been one of the last of the escaping turkeys trying to stay hidden for three more days.

Are any of you good at identifying birds by their wing flapping?   This one went "Flash, flutter...pause...flap flap flap."   Any ideas?  The best I can do is rule out hummingbirds because they go "z.z.z.z..z".   Turkey vultures never flap at all but just hover like gliders.  In fact, I can't prove it but I think they are fixed wing birds that are towed up into the sky every morning by owls. 

But I'm convinced this is an owl.  A large one.  Bagman says it is a great horny owl.

It probably sits in the Japanese elm waiting to have sex with Miss Daisy who is a cross between a terrier and an oppossum.   



And, to be perfectly honest, I have no idea whether the tree is a Japanese elm either.  But I don't think it is an elm, an oak, or a magnolia which are the only trees this poor excuse for a naturalist knows. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Shootout -- Our big thing or something like that

This will be the fastest, rushed shootout I've ever posted.  I didn't think I'd even get the time this week.  Crazy week.  But I'm driven to post something.  So this is being written and posted on the run.

I can't remember the exact theme title but it has to do with what Charleston is known for.  I was going to talk about lots of things, but I guess we are known mostly for being the birthplace of the Civil War.  Nobody argues that slavery sucked.   Even the deep seeded Southerners here.  Well, at least they "say" they think racism sucks.  But they sure do worship their heritage and claim it was about not having the government tell them what to do...which they still hold true.  Frankly, I don't like government much either. started right here:

Fort Sumter -- out of focus but the best I've got
And it is a MAJOR tourist attraction

I think I've mentioned it before but lots of folks get into "reenactment."  They take it seriously, particularly in the fall during the reenactment of the Battle of Seccessionville which wasn't actually at Boone Hall Planatation but its a good place for tourists to come and see the boys play.  They draw straws for which side they will reenact and then they get to

...ride horses while holding guns...

...the North gets to shoot at the South...

...the South gets to shoot back...

...some get to pretend they were shot...
They tell me this is the worst role to get because you have to lie absolutely still while mosquitoes, gnats, flies, and ants have a field day!

...and widows reenact writing bad news home...

Charleston is also really well known for the Hunley Submarine.  I didn't known this until a few years ago but while Charleston was under a blockcade during the Civil War, the Confederacy invented a submarine run by hand cranks.  The first tests sank, drowning the sailers testing it.  But even so, one night seven guys led by Dixon (no time to look up his first name) went out and actually rammed a tethered bomb into a Union boat.  The Hunley, however, sunk.  A few years ago they actually found it, raised it, and took it apart spoonful by spoonful, extracting all of the bodies.  Then they put it back together, carefully cleaned and soaked it in solution to preserve it.  It is now in the Hunley museum here...a big attraction.

One more quick story -- there was a legend about Dixon that his life had once been saved when a Yankee bullet was stopped by a gold twenty dollar piece his girlfriend had given him and he carried the Double Eagle everywhere he went.  And yes, while excavating the sub they found the gold coin and it had dent from a bullet mark in it. 

Anyhow, they eventually gave the crew a reenacted civil war burial that was incredible because it really had the feeling that the 1860's came from another world.  The parade was huge.  The photos are terrible because they are stills from a poor quality video.  But here are some of them.

I need to post this and get back to a million things...if I have a moment I'll add an abstract manipulation I did of one of the video pics...but maybe  not. 

I really hope I get a chance to look at the other shootout stuff tomorrow...but don't know when...maybe by Sunday.

Love you all.

Oops...I found it is

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In the meteor shower with Denise

I decided to spend a few rare precious moments looking at blogs this morning but never got beyond the first one.  Denise was talking about the Leonid Meteor shower that we are now in the midst of.

BUTLER: "Up until recently it was not good form to end a sentence with a preposition but it is now all right except for very formal writing."

BAGMAN:  "You are in the midst of a shower with Denise?"

Everyone on Earth is in the shower, Bags.

BAGMAN:  "Suddenly I'm glad I woke up!"

Anyway, reading her blog suddenly gave birth to an idea for a short blog.

BAGMAN: "You're conceiving with Denise in the shower?"

BUTLER: "This won't be a very short blog if Bagman keeps sticking his smutty ideas in.  And please note that even I can end a sentence with a preposition."


So I was remembering that I always was disappointed as a kid because I expected meteor showers to look like fireworks displays but never saw anything more than a little streak.

But two years ago, I decided to go outside and lie down for an hour or so in the grass and just look, without expectations, to see what this Leonid Meteor shower was all about. 

BAGMAN: "Boy, you must have been bored!"

Anyhow, after I adjusted to the light, or lack of it, I noticed a couple of little streaks in the periphery of my vision.  They were small but I counted them.  One, two...

BAGMAN:  "Did you count them with a vampirish accent like the Count on Sesame Street?"

(Long pause and deep breath while I concentrate on ignoring Bagman.)  So I kept looking and counting and, sure enough, the meteorites kept coming.  Some were tiny, a couple were longer.  One even split in two as it streaked overhead.  Nothing that would excite a kid but I began to realize how many there were.  Fifteen...sixteen...

At first I wondered why the vast majority appeared in my peripheral vision instead of where I was looking.  Then I realized that it was because the vast majority of my vision is peripheral.  My focus is only a small area of what I am seeing at any given time.  So instead of trying to look around and guess at where they might be, I just relaxed. 

No, it wasn't spectacular like the Northern Lights, but I was up to 173 meteorites before I heard Karen calling me from the house -- "Mark!  What on earth are you doing out there?!!!"  

"It's the Leonid Meteor Shower!  Come and see!  One hundred and seventy-four!" 

She walked out and looked up.  "Where?  I don't see anything."

"Just wait.  There!  There's one!"
"There!  One seventy-five!  And one seventy-six!  And there!"

"You mean that little thing near the tree?"

"Yes!  One seventy-seven!"

"Okay.  I guess I saw it.  Are you coming back to bed?"

And I did, deciding that my record for seeing meteorites would stay at one seventy-seven. 

BAGMAN:  "And this blog was what you conceived with Denise in the shower?"


BAGMAN:  "Did you offer her a cigarette?"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Art, Eisenhower, the Army, Obstetrics, and World War I

Part "½" of 4

I have been planning to start a 4 part series on my grandfather (Grandee, to me) on the first of December.  I thought it would be simple but I also decided to see if I had any old stuff out in the shed and...

KABOOM!  I knew lots of stuff that I had sold, lost, or given away over the years but had forgotten stuff I've lugged around.  So I keep finding things that don't quite fit in the series as I had planned it.  So here is an out-take.  (Actually I'm afraid the out-takes will be better than the series) least more spontaneous.

I do wish I’d asked more questions when I was growing up with my grandfather. I wish I’d listened more. There is so much about my grandfather’s history that I know only in bits and pieces but not how they connect.   Like the war.

He joined the army near the end of World War One. I don’t know what he did in the war except that he told me that he never saw any action. I know that he was in England and France. I even found his passport!

I also know that he served in the Tank Corps under Dwight Eisenhower, long before he became president. Eisenhower, that is.  He -- my grandfather, not Eisenhower --designed a logo for the tank corps and worked with some other soldiers to make a sign for the headquaerters.

I remember this because when I was 7 or 8 (or maybe 9 or 10) before we moved away from Washington, Grandee took me to Eisenhower’s retirement home in Gettysburg to give him these little documents. An aide came out to receive them and later Eisenhower wrote, through another aide, a note returning them with thanks.
Although my grandfather said he never "saw action," he saw the results of action in France and said he'd never forget it.   In the shed I found some photos he had taken.

Years later he painted a very large painting of Rheims Cathedral, beautiful even in destruction.

Some people used to ask him why he didn't show it in it's glory and he used to say that he felt it had glory even in destruction.  I wish I had been a better photo-copiest when I shot many of his pictures along time ago because I did not do justice to the frame.  He hand-carved all his frames and this was magnificent but I can't find any slides that show it.  Except for this detail of at the bottom.

This was a wall-sized painting, probably 6 feet tall.  It was one of several that my grandmother and I could not get placed in museums after he died and then, after she passed away, I had to sell them because (a) they were too big for me to carry around or hang, (b) because I was an alcoholic and needed the money, and (c) because I was an idiot.  

But back to my grandfather, I don’t know what Grandee thought about war before he joined the army or why he joined in the first place, but I know he hated war afterwards. In fact during a short and very a strange surrealist period in his career – nothing like the vast majority of his work – he painted an almost Hieronymus Bosch-like anti-war painting.

It is probably my lack of knowledge but it seems to have been a strange army and a strange war because Grandee also seemed to have spent most of it studying art under various masters in Paris and London.

And it appears that a lot of soldiers were doing the same thing! Everyone was in uniform!  (Well, not everyone).   I looked at this closely and finally found my grandfather. If you blow it up (and don't look at the model!) my grandfather is in the back row, his head covering the lower right hand corner of the painting of the model's face. 

Finally, unlike today’s army, he brought his wife (my grandmother) along with him. And while he says he never saw action and that the war was almost over when he got there, they always told the story about how my mother was born in London in the middle of a German Zeppelin raid, with bombs shaking the windows of the hospital.

I also realized he was a pretty damn good photographer as well.  Long before the days of digital.  1914-1915?  What kind of camera did he have, I wonder?

And he must have been in London (and /or France) for several years because in the picture below, she is clearly no longer a newborn.

Yes, I really wish I had asked him more questions about that time in his life.  There must have been a wealth of incredible stories. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hometown Shootout - Places of Worship

Today's theme was chosen by Rebecca

I've attended many different churches, but I don't seem to have taken pictures of them.  So this will probably be a somewhat odd shootout. 

BUTLER:  "What else is new."

Actually, the first thing I thought about was a verse from Thessalonians (yes, I had to look it up), that suggests -- "admonishes us" is probably more Biblically sounding -- to pray without ceasing or pray continually.  I've given that some thought over the years.  Pretty quickly, I decided that I couldn't do that if it meant formal prayer.  I don't think I do formal prayer very well anyhow, let alone continually.  But maybe it is more of an attitude.  Don't think I do that very well either.  But the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has helped over the years.

Until a couple of weeks ago when my A.A. Homegroup moved, this was the place where we met.   We always end the group by standing in a circle and saying the Lords Prayer, but just as important is the sharing and support that goes on during the meeting.

While I don't pray continually, I do throw out little blurts to God from time to time.  Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on my state of mind.  Almost always when I'm driving and pass those little wooden crosses that some family has placed at the scene of a past accident.  "Dear God, bless that family. Amen." 

I talk to God in bullet points -- which is strange for someone who writes such long wordy blogs. 

Another place of worship, believe it or not is:

I don't know when I started this habit.  When someone would cut me off in traffic, I used to always lean on the horn and flip them the bird and scream at them.  But quite a while ago, I made a decision and developed a habit that is now pretty deeply ingrained.  Whenever someone cuts me off, my first thought is...

BAGMAN :  "Come on, Mark!  Be honest!"

But within moments, my next thought is "Dear God, give that person a better day.  Amen."

Probably the most regular and constant place of worship for me is:

Karen, my wife, almost always leaves for work an hour before I do.  But whichever one of  us leaves first we are usually hurrying.  But once we, mostly she gets in the car she calls back on her cell phone (Yes, I know, I least she isn't texting and she uses an earpiece.) and I'll read a daily reading from the book above.  Then each of us says a prayer -- whatever is on our minds.   It is one of the rituals we really enjoy.

Well, that's about it.  A fairly short shootout for me.  I can't resist, however, posting the photo below from a trip we once took to Italy -- from the roof of St. Peters.  I know that I've posted it before.  But it is one of my favorite photos and fits the theme so I can't help but post it again. 


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Preview, 1886, and emotional intensity

If I had time to do it all over, I would probably change my places of worship post tomorrow and add this and a few more like it.  But to give you a preview of tomorrow's post, it will be nothing like the photo above. 

I'm still researching where this church alter is (or was) but it was carved and painted by my grandfather. 

I wasn't going to post today at all.  In fact, after writing my letter, yesterday, to Barry and reading the comments, I was emotionally exhaused.  But since Barry's last comment was "see you tomorrow," I had to at least post something to let him know I was still alive.

My grandfather was born on December 4, 1886.   Ever since I did a series on my Father, the Hermit of Panther Key, I've been thinking about doing a series on my Granddad.  Yesterday, I got started on it, figuring I'll post it on December 1,2,3, and 4.  Coincidentally the Friday Shootout coincides with December 4th and the theme is "My Favorite Things" and I figure my grandfather's art qualifies. 

So yesterday, after wiping myself out reading all your comments, I figured that since I was already dealing with feelings, I'd dig out an old storage box from the shed that contained stuff I've been carrying around for years.  Old photos, writings, stuff from my grandfather.  Whew!! I had forgotten what was in there.  The series might run to 5. 

This one is worth a click to blow it up and look at what he was working on.  Because it is a good metaphor for him.  He was sketching a cathedral alter and he had pinned it over a nude woman he had been painting.  If you think there is something of the Bagman / Butler dichotomy here, you are right.  Grandee was the genetic source of these guys, big time.   In fact, I'm going to let Butler write one of the series episodes and will risk letting Bagman write another.  I'll have to post an adult warning, I suppose, because there will be nude paintings involved. 

And speaking of nudes, wasn't I a cute little boy?

Ain't life grand! 
And not I need to become a mature adult and go to work. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dear Barry,

Dear Barry,

Today is Veteran's Day.  In South Carolina, county offices have the day off but schools do not.  So I kissed my wife goodbye and came up to spend some rare relaxed time on Blogger.

Yesterday was different.  I was rushed.  I only had time to look five or six posts.  Yours, of course, was one of them...the first one I always check.  And you had written about putting your affairs in order.   I stopped there and never looked at anything else.  I wanted to leave a comment, but couldn't.  Then I was going to email you.  But couldn't.  Last night, trying to sleep, I thought about you and Linda and Lindsey.  This morning I turned on the computer, went to Blogspot, and just stared at the screen.

Finally, I decided that I had to write something.  And I hope that an open letter to you is not too embarassing but, I think, probably not.  One of the things I admire and honor in you is your amazing ability to journal so openly about your cancer.  Your ability to both fight a strong fight while simultaneously accepting and preparing for losing it.  And for finding joy in life, along the way, and sharing those moments with us as well. 

I'm struggling this morning to tell you what I feel without sounding stupid or maudlin or just plain weird.  One of the things I want to say is, "I love you."  And Linda and Lindsey.  It's a bit odd because when Bagman, Butler, and I first started blogging last year, Bagman was really enjoying flirting with the women.  In fact, he was kind of shocked when he discovered that some old guy from Scarborough was following us.  But over the months, I have grown to feel very close to you.  In fact, last month, I even mentioned to Karen, "Why don't we drop everything and take a month and drive up to Canada."  But with a new grandson and another on the way, we have affairs of our own to keep in order. 

The other thing I want to say to you is really problemmatic.  Because the timing is wrong.  But, then again, it will never be right.  I want to say, "Goodbye."  

I hope that you, or anyone else who reads this, doesn't interpret that as negative or fatalistic or depressing.  It's a kind of putting affairs in order for me.  Over the years, I have lost many friends and family.  Three years ago when my mother-in-law passed, it was sobering to realize that I was now at the head of the queue.  A few I was blessed to be able to be with.  Too often, however, it was unexpected and I was left with things I wish I had said.  Like "I love you" and "Fare well." 

So I hope it is not terrible form to say goodbye to you this morning, even though I fully expect to continue reading your adeventures for at least the two years the doctors have given you on the high side.  And none of us ever really know.  Today might even be my time.  I assume not.  God!  Wouldn't it be aweful I dropped dead at the end of this sentence and you never got to read it!  I can imagine the scene:

First Paramedic:  "He's trying to say something."

Mark:  "Push the Publish Post button."

Second Paramedic:  "He must be delerious."
First Paramedic:  "Clear!"

Anyhow, when I kissed Karen this morning as she was heading off to work, I held her a little longer than usual.  Because of you, my friend. 

I will never forget you.  Whenever it does come my time to leave the front of the line and get on the ride, I know I will be thinking of you and what you have taught me.  Courage, sympathy for others, awareness, dignity, humor.  

Of course, what I really need to learn is to shut up and write shorter blogs.

I love you, Barry.  Goodbye.


PS:  See you tomorrow.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Hometown Shootouts -- Skylines

I started to feel geographical inadequacy about this week's theme since Charleston is about as flat as they come!  But then I saw the theme was chosen by Kate from Kansas.  So I guess I have to "rise" to the challenge.   South Carolina can't be that much flatter than Kansas, can it?

And this week, God did help me by putting a nice sky behind a flat row of trees. 

But that shot would really be more appropriate for "Sunsets" which we've already done. 

However!  I am really really grateful because the skyline theme gave me a learning experience!  I wanted to capture the entire skyline of Charleston, flat as it is, which required shooting about 10 shots and then merging them in Photoshop into a panorama.  I struggled for hours trying to cut and paste and match and adjust tones...AAAGH!  So, facing failure, I put it aside and pulled out some old skylines from long ago and far away -- cheating as usual.  (Except there is no such thing as cheating in the shootout...I think.)

Boston, 1971

New York, 1971

New York again, 1971 - I think

One of these, I had dated 1985 and the other 1971 but they were clearly taken on the sameday...Who knows.  (For that matter, who cares?)

Dallas, 1980 (Why am I stuck on dates?)

Salt Lake City, 1847

I didn't shoot this, of course, in 1847 - and the statue wasn't there then either.  But I was working and living parttime, helping set up an alcohol treatment hospital there awhile back.  I was an obsessive runner then and used to run up in the hills above the city.   The statue is the "This is the place" monument on the pass in the Wasatch Mountain Range where Brigham Young leading the beleaguered Mormans who had survived the trek from Missouri first saw a fertile valley and decided to settle it.   I learned alot while living parttime out there.  But enough digressing...

England, 1997

But I still wanted to keep up with the spirit of "Hometown" in Hometown shootout.  So I went back and played some more with Photoshop.  No matter what I did, I kept having lines between the shots that made the "Panorama" look like a stamp collection.  Finally I did what I truly hate to do and picked up "Photoshop for Dummies," and discovered there was a "Panorama" function.  One push of a button. 

And fifteen minutes of computer processing...watching the little green bar scroll over and over again and wondering if the computer had seized up...and ending up with a picture that was something like 58 megapixels!  The computer case actually bulged out on the sides it's memory was gorged.  But I downsized it enough to post...although I doubt you can see anything at all and if you blow it up I think it will fuzz up.  But this is my first shot at Charleston's skyline.  (Maybe my last...who knows).

Altough you probably can't see them, there are several church steeples that used to be the tallest things before the shipyard cranes were built.  Charleston had the knickname "Holy City" because it was open to many denominations and had lots of chuch steeples.  At the time is was also South Carolina's State Capitol.  But during the Civil War  (or the War of Northern Agression as the natives call it) the Capitol was moved to Columbia.  But I'm not sure Charlestonians ever really believed the capitol should stay there.  We tend to think of ourselves as rather special and precious.  So now, folks in the rest of the state often say things like, "How are things in the Holy City?"  And there is often a little muted sarcasm...holy city...and probably somewhat deserved sarcasm. 

I was going to talk about pluff mud too.  Not that it has anything to do with skylines -- except that it is one of the reasons we stay flat.  Skyscrapers would probably sink.  But that's for another day when  I talk about the submarine that got stuck in the pluff mud.