Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Hometown Shootout -- LOOKING UP AND LOOKING DOWN


All week long people have been telling how agreeable I seem.  Then I realized that I've been trying to find shots for today's post -- looking up, looking down, looking up, looking down -- and people just think I'm just nodding in agreement with everything they say. 

This morning, my wife took advantage of it.

"I didn't get to the bank yesteday," she said.

(hmm...that wallpaper is kind of interesting...)

Do you have any cash in your wallet that I could borrow?"

(Kind of goes with the shell motif...)

"Thanks for agreeing.  I'll leave you a couple of ones."

So as Karen gets ready to go out with all my money, I wonder how to spend my morning before going to work and look out the back door and am further discouraged by the sticky balls all over the grass.

I hate these balls that fall off the sticky-ball tree (I'm sure the tree has an actual name but I hate it too much to research it).  If I am forgetful enough to walk out barefoot, I pay the price.  If I wear shoes, I stomp them into the ground where they are harder to rake up.  But it rained last night so I hope that finally they have all come down and maybe this is the end of them -- I've already raked up three bags full over the last week!  I look up hoping to see that the end is near.

Only ten million to go!  Drat!

"I was going to help you rake the balls but you seem so agreeable and happy about it, I'll just go on to work," she says.  

"Huh?  Oh yes."  I nod.

"Are you nodding because you're okay with raking by yourself or are you looking for another picture to take?"  Karen asks.

I nod.  I don't really know why I am nodding by now.  She leaves.  I look up for a picture.  I look down for a picture.  I never see her in the horizontal plane where she is blowing me a kiss.

But, at least it is a nice day.  The dawn is pretty when I look up.

And pretty when I look down.

I'm glad Karen has left because she's already a little bothered about why I take so many pictures of the neighbors' house across the pond.  I don't even know the family.  But their house is where the reflections are.  She thinks they must suspect that I am spying on them. 

But soon, I head off for work across the Ravenel Bridge, a recent Charleston landmark.  Of course, bobble-heading, I look down.

Then I look up

Then I look further up

Then I look really uppity up...

And almost sideswipe a man in a Blue Altima


Somewhat shook, I decide that I should watch the road, stop shooting, and just think about some archive shots.  I was trying this week to avoid archive shots and shoot more, but while I'm driving it is safer to use the archive...and the shape of the bridge reminds me of

which reminds me of looking up at the St. Louis Arch in 1985

Except I guess I was looking confusing....

No confusion here.  Vertigo, but no confusion.

But enough of archives.  I've arrived at work.  I look up and see my window with my cactus.


 I look up and wave at it.

It looks down and waves back

I eschew the elevator and take the stairs feeling proud of myself because for the first time in my life I've actually used the word "eschew" in a sentence.   Twice, in the same sentence.

I go up the stairs.  I turn around and...

...go down the stairs.  Very short work day.  Wish I was at the beach.

Driving home, I avoid accidents again and think about the beach and succomb to more archives from last summer.

When my daughter visited (you have to look close)

Rediscovering her roots.


OMG!   The sound rips me from my revery and despite my decision to keep my eyes on the road, I can't help looking up.   One of the C-130's from our airbase is heading for Haiti.  Or Afganistan  Or Irag   Or maybe they are just training.  Or going for pizza.   I don't know...only that it is LOUD!!!  I stare up at it, put my fingers in my ears, and


...Honk! Screech! Honk! Honk! "Hey, Jerkface! Look where you're going!"


In my rear view mirror, I see a blue Altima skidding into the grass median.  A man is waving his fist but I can't hear him too well with the plane flying over.  He must have been yelling at somebody else. 

But this second close encounter causes me to slow way down while driving home. 

Not really.   But I need to say that in order to assist the reader with what I learned in one of my college creative writing courses.  I think it was called the "suspension of disbelief."   According to the professor, this was what the writer had to create in the reader.  So when something unbelieveable happens in a book, the reader will believe it anyway.  I could never understand why they just didn't call it the "establishment of belief" instead of making up some fancy double negative term for it, but I did get it right on the final exam and, remarkably, still remember it.  So by telling you that I drove very very slowly, I am hoping to get you to suspend your disbelief when I tell you that it was already dark when I got home. 

BUTLER:  "What thinking person would ever believe that?  All you did at work was walk upstairs and downstairs.  By the time the plane flew over, it couldn't have been more than 10:00 a.m.!   To make it dark by the time you get home, you would have had to drive 5 miles per hour on the Interstate!"

BAGMAN: "Suspend your freaking disbelief!  If he says it was dark when he got home, it was dark!"

Anyhow, having driven slowly -- and stopped for gas (does that help?) -- it was dark by the time I finally got home.   And I was able to play with a great application on my new fancy Droid phone.   It's called Google Sky. 


This is an amazing little gadget that uses GPS to figure out where I am.  It knows the time and date so it can orient itself .  When I point it at the sky, it will display and name whatever constellations or planets I'm looking at.   Of course, normally, when I am looking at this screen, I am looking up.  But I had to use a time exposure to shoot it so I had to use a tripod and put it on the ground.  

So it is looking down.  And WOW!  It even knows it is looking down and tells me it is pointing to the Nadir.   Brilliant little Droid.  It tells me that I would be enjoying the sight of  the constellations Ankaa and Diphda except the entire planet Earth is blocking my view.   I've never seen Ankaa or Diphda but those of you in the Southern Hemisphere might know them. 

I'm used to Orion and Gemini, so I take Droidman, the amazing brain extender, and look up to find them.

Darn.  Too cloudy to look at stars tonight.

BUTLER: "Excuse me, Mark, but where did the clouds come from?  There were hardly any clouds when the plane flew over."

BAGMAN: "Can't you suspend anything?!!  Weather changes!  He drove slow!  He stopped for gas!"

So, as Bagman and Butler argue, I am walking around in the dark, looking for a break in the clouds so I can use the Droid to find the Pliades.   Looking up, I step on some sticky balls, lose my balance, and stagger flailingly into the street.

"Honk! Screech! Honk! Honk!  Hey, Jerkface! Look where you're going!  Oh no!  Not you again!"



  1. I almost fell over laughing, Mark. The simplest things with you become the most convoluted adventures.

  2. I wish I had thought of the bobble head scenario. This post had me in tears, rocking in my chair and rolling on the floor. You have some amazing photos for this post. I really love the pond reflection. The last photo is pretty darn cool too, but I must say that I am delighted that your cactus waved back. Ah, you must be a really nice guy.

  3. Those sticky balls, are they edible? Or you can manufacture glue out of it?

    I really like the slick lines of the bridge and the reflection of your neighbour's house. I hope you don't get slap a law suit on spying on them.

  4. Well it fits all the rules of a greatly structured story and I believed every bit...because it was you and only you can have that kind of stuff happen. Your tree is the popular Sweetgum and you can prevent the balls from growing by spraying some kind of sterile chemical in the spring on the tree which prevents flowers and then prevents those cool spiky red balls. (Aren't you glad I read your blog?)

  5. I laughed at the sticky ball tree...hehe
    Love the dawn reflection in the water....very pretty! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  6. Wow, I love so many of these shots. And I am beginning to feel like a bobble head doll just looking at the MTSO posts this week.

  7. I love the way you brought the story back to the sticky-ball (er--Sweetgum) tree. Every photo was a surprise and a delight.

    My disbelieve is permanently suspended.

  8. You are so much fun!!! And your photos are crisp, clear, interesting and a pleasure to view :)

  9. Fantastic photos!!! And the story! Loved it. I know what you mean about the neighbors wondering why you're taking pictures of their house all the time. I'm sure mine think I'm spying!

  10. You should have been a movie director, because I would sit through two hours of your entertainment! The house I suspect you spy on will be a #1 winner on the favs this week...

  11. Oh my gosh - another drive-by shooting! I suspect that all of us blogging camera nuts are just as dangerous as driving text-ers.

  12. Oh, I would totally stalk my neighbor's house with pictures if it was that good looking (unfortunatly, all we've got is another set of apartment buildings across a dirty basketball court...not quite as scenic). The ones you took on the brige were very cool - I love the lines of the 2nd one - really gives you the "looking up" feeling. Happy Friday!

  13. I love the bridge - the geometric design of it is quite elegant - but of equal pleasure is the house with sky and water with reflection - I love this combination. this week you outdid yourself - the story almost as good as the photos in giving pleasure.

  14. Sweet Gum trees produce those prickly little things; used to have a black lab that liked to retrieve those for us; she could carry 4 of them in her mouth (ouch!) at a time.
    You really out did yourself here Mark: so many great shots I bet your neck is really sore! Those bridge shots are beautifully composed, the blue and white side-by-side is very elegant. Awesome work.

  15. Those are not Sweet Gum balls. They're porcupine eggs. I've never seen a more interesting shot of the St. Louis arch. Great shots Mark.

  16. Wow, you took some really great shots! I especially loved the bridge shots.

  17. I love that bridge posts, so beautiful, and so is that neighbour's house.

  18. Really wonderful ups and downs. There is always a new way of looking at things. Your photos are fantastic!

    I was listening to a Kenyan runner talking about running barefoot. Did you hear about it on NPR? It's actually better for your feet!

  19. That is a Sweet Gum tree and I have 4 of them d@*& trees and we just spent a great sum on money having the one right in the front yard taken down this summer! I hate them with a passion!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I love that white house and the pink sky and the reflection the best! But you always amaze and delight!

  20. Stellar, as usual. Do you stay up nights thinking up this stuff?! You've put the shine in my weekend.

  21. OK bobblehead, I particularly like the bridge shots as well as the 2 at the beach!

  22. Great introduction that I cant get my eyes form the very beginning until the last word. I really enjoy your journey with photos. I like them all especially the house of the neighbors and its reflection on the water. All and all, great job!

  23. A most thorough and amusing post. I love the bridge shots the best, though the filtered house and moon are great.

    You three are a hoot. Or are you "Hoots?"

    And to think you didn't know how to use your Droid a month ago.

    The beach photo makes me want to jump a plane anywhere warm, if I could get there. We had over a foot of snow before the day was over yesterday. The most we have had in twenty-five years, I am told.

  24. Oh that was hard on an old acrophobe. Dear God that bridge.

    Great photos, I mean, and you are just such an entertaining writer. But, oh Lordy be.

    Monkey balls. I think I've heard them called Monkey Balls around here. There doesn't seem to be enough air in this room. And you were DRIVING when you took those bridge shots?

    I'm okay. Really. Gasp.