Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Shootout - Stairs

Just straight pictures today, I'm afraid.  Not even a subtle change to my header -- so you don't need to take time looking for it. 

Baby Kay is coming home tomorrow.  And - Brian, Melody and the grandchildren are moving to Goose Creek!  So it has been a whirlwind week of borrowing pick-up trucks and sweating a lot. 

The bad (or good) news depending on how I look at it is that in all probability, Melody will be starting a job next week.  Noah and Conner will be in daycare, which they love (at least once they get there).  But Kay will need fulltime care and guess who got nominated?  Ain't retirement grand?   Three or four days a week, I'll be driving out to their trailor in Goose Creek and taking care of a very delicate newborn. 

There is no internet there yet.  So much of what I usually waste, I mean invest my time in will be impossible.  Maybe that will force me to actually do some writing on Karen's laptop during the time Kay is asleep...probably the majority of each day for the time being. 

Ah well.  Without further ado and without lots of lame attempt to be humorous -- here are my stair pictures.

Stairs to the old market in Charleston

A sand sculpture version of the old market in Charleston
(I guess the railings were too delicate for sand)

BAGMAN: "I thought you weren't gonna try and be cute."

"Where did you come from?  I don't have time for this right now."

BUTLER:  "So why are we here?  You know you can ignore us whenever you want."

"Not as easy as it sounds.  You guys bubble up in my subconscious and and I can't always...Yes.  I can.  And I will.  Be quiet.   It's late and everyone is asleep and I should be too!  Go back to bed and let me finish!"

BAGMAN:  "Good night, John Boy."

BUTLER: "And goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are."

Buzzards don't need ladders but there is a ladder in here somewhere

Lots of stairs and one die hard fan

Stairs and fans look differently in Italy
Waiting for a wild horse race in Sienna

Another from Italy

Somewhere in Tuscony

Back in States - I haven't a clue where
And not really stairs - but stair-like.

And, finally, back in my hometown
near the Charleston Maritime Center
(How many stairs can an architect fit into one entrance?)

And with that, I'm going to lie down and contemplate serenity and acceptance of the disconnect between what I thought my retirement was going to be like and what God thought my retirement was going to be like.

BUTLER: "I can't fall asleep."

BAGMAN:  "Can you bring me a glass of water?"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sore muscles and Pelicans

Still working on helping the kids move out.  I doubt we will have empty house syndrome too badly since the grandchildren will be staying with us on weekends.  I'm getting good exercise hefting my end of sofas, bureaus, tables.  

And did manage to grab some time this afternoon to post a couple more pictures from Hadrell's Point.  When I went out there last week I used my compass -- yes, I actually carry a compass in my camera bag so I can figure out where the sun rises and sets and whether it might be worth an early morning or late afternoon return some day -- and Hadrell's Point is probably a good one.  In yesterday's ship shot, the dock itself was empty but there are often shrimp boats unloading there.  I figure if I pay attention I might get a sunset behind shrimp boats.

Patience.  In the meantime, a couple of quick shoot from the hip shots of pelicans in the air:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moving, Baby Shower, and a Picture of a Boat

Busy weekend - Kay (the new baby) was going to be discharged from the hospital to come home but then she wasn't.  At the same time we borrowed the neighbor's truck and made trips out to Goose Creek where Brian and Melody are moving -- sad to see them go but but they need their own space.  Come to think of it, so do we, at least me.  I guess that is supposed to be "I" but "me" sounds bettter. 

Also at the same time we were preparing for a scheduled baby shower for Kay on Sunday.  Remember that Kay wasn't suppose to be born yet.  If she had been released from MUSC she would have been one of the few baby's who get to attend their own baby shower. 

So while we were trying to make the house all presentable for guests, we were simultaneously messing it all up with moving boxes. 

Busy weekend but I did manage to sneak in a little time to to process a picture I had taken last Thursday. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Friday Shootout - BW/Sepia

Well, I didn't have time to shoot any new stuff this week but I thought it would be fun to experiment with B/W and sepia on some old shots -- look at what kind of subject matter leads itself to black and white. 

I thought it would be fun, at least, until I went into the studio and got attacked.

BAGMAN (blocking my computer so I can't get at it): "What the (bleep) are you doing here?!

BUTLER:  "Turncoat!"

Trying to figure out why the boys are angry at me, I stall for time.  "Turncoat?  What kind of a word is that?"

BUTLER:  "A perfectly good word that dates back to 1557 when people turned their coats inside out to hide their insignias or colors that market their allegience."

"Seems dumb to me," I reply. "Didn't anyone notice people with their coats turned inside out?  And why didn't they just wear a different coat?"

BAGMAN:  "Don't change the subject!"

"What is the subject?"

BUTLER:  "Bagman is just upset because you've been ignoring us to work on your novel..."

BAGMAN:  "Which you know (bleeping) well you ain't never gonna finish!"

BUTLER: "You might have a good idea for a plot but your charactor development leaves a little be desired."

"I invented you!"

BUTLER:  "My point exactly!  As charactors, we're flat.  You've never given us histories.  You always dress me in a tuxedo and Bagman in rags.  All we ever do is banter.   It's a pretty flat existence just sitting here in the studio waiting for you to arrive.  What do you think we do all the time you are away?"

"How should I know?" I ask.

BAGMAN:  "You never cared for us anyhow!  You just used us to be cute in your blog!  And now you are off playing with the cute little girl who talks to dead people on the Internet. Get out of here and leave us alone!"

BUTLER: "Let's give him a break, Baggie.  He'll get bored with this new project after a few weeks.  He always does.  Let him post his pictures."

By now, I'm not in the mood, but I load them onto the blog anyway. 

Taganga, Colombia, SA

I couldn't resist leaving a little color in this one

And this one - Windsor Castle, England

Charleston Navy Base

BAGMAN:  "You finished yet?"

"Sure.  Fine.  I'm leaving and you can go back to what you were doing."

BUTLER:  "Easy for you to say.  Since you created us -- (He uses his fingers to make sarcastic air quotes around the word 'created') -- we don't do much when you aren't around, now do we?"

"Okay.  Then I'm creating a library for you and you can be reading and learning more esoteric words to throw at me when I come back."

BAGMAN: "That's just bleeping wonderful for Butler.  What about me?"

"I'll add some magazines with pictures and centerfolds."

As I leave the studio, I almost catch a smile on Bagman's face.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What's going on with me?

I seem to be regularly missing or skimming over the Friday Hometown Shootout and the Monday Poetry Jam -- and since I wasn't blogging a lot in between...

Worse, I am following the people I regularly follow with less regularity.  (A bit of a tongue twister, that).

What's going on with me?  I'm sure people are anxious to know.   I haven't a clue why I assume that.  I  know that we all develop relationships and friendships and intimacies on blogspot.  We celebrate births, holidays, new jobs, vacations together.  We share the pain of illnesses, deaths (I still miss Barry), lost jobs, and simple funks together.   But we don't take attendance.  If someone drops off the map, somewhere along the line we will notice it and wonder.  But when I read a blog that starts off "I'm glad to be back blogging again after my long absence," I'm always glad to see that person back but usually I admit with a little shame that I hadn't realized they had been missing. 

Maybe the person who is anxious to know what is going on with me is actually me.

Since May when I retired, I've reveled in having long leisurely mornings to read blogs, write blogs, fiddle with photography, watch the sturm und drang of Wall Street unfolding in lines on a blue screen...but lately it has begun to seem, oddly, like work.  

The unthinkable (at least to me) has begun to happen.  I sometimes find myself hurrying to get the  computer stuff out of the way so I can go outside and do yardwork.  People who know me would find that statement to be completely absurd since, for decades, it has been the reverse. 

I find myself wondering, what next. 

Some of the answers are being given to me by the Universe itself, which I choose to call God.  We have a new granddaughter, Kay, who is still in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit but doing well and due home in a month.  Brian and Melody are making plans to buy a trailer about 45 miles from here and move out.  Karen and I are now thinking of downsizing and buying a smaller house closer to where the kids and grandkids are moving. 

And despite the fact that I have been trying desperately to dig in my heels and avoid it, there is an idea I've had for a long long time for a novel that is forcing me (like constipation) to write it.   While I continue to refuse to commit myself to actually finishing it, I can't help thinking about it when I go to sleep and writing on it for a few hours every morning during my usual blog time.  

Even weirder, the novel is not a collection of humorous essays but a kind of combination murder mystery and Stephen King-like horror thriller.  Weird because I hate horror movies and will not watch them.   

And Butler and Bagman seem to be on vacation.   Or at least they don't seem quite as real to me these days as Sandy O'Neal, a 16-year-old girl who has discovered that, through some quirk of Wi-Fi frequency, the dead have been establishing a presence on Facebook. 


Anyhow, I will check in from time to time but maybe not quite so often.

BAGMAN:  "Yeah.  Right.  You know, Mark, that every time you write a blog that explains why you won't be around, you then enter a phase where you blog more than ever!"

"Where'd you come from?  I thought you were on vacation?"

BAGMAN: "Forgot my bag and had to come back to grab it.  See you later.  Have fun with Sandy.  Just don't forget that her father is the police chief."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Walking the Dogs

Cast of Characters

Daisy - Part terrier, part opossum
Selective hearing when being called

Annabelle - Part shitzu, part floor mop
Buries nose into whatever she smells

Conner - Apprentice Dog-Walker

Noah - Convinced he can do anything Conner can do

Timing the dog walks used to be hit and miss with more  mess than hit.  But in retirement I have been able, through my excellent and now underutilized management experience, to implement an efficient schedule. 

Short walks consist of letting them loose in the back yard and monitoring them.  But long walks require that they be on leashes despite the fact that they are no threat -- cats and even large birds ignore them as harmless.  But we live in one of those "Yard of the Month" (which we have never won) subdivisions where dog poop needs to be collected in little blue plastic bags and sent to the landfill where they will last for centuries until some future archeologists find them and wonder what kind of strange theology we had that included the preservation of canine excrement for the afterlife.

Long walks used to be easy and almost refreshing except for the fact that Daisy is always pulling forward and Annabelle is always dragging backward with her nose fastened firmly to the ground.   Long walks were even fairly good after Conner reached the age where he became determine to accompany me.

Conner is excellent about watching out for cars and when he sees one will always pull Annabelle to the side of the road and stop until the car has passed.  This works well except for yesterday when one of our neighbors came out, started her car in the driveway, then decided she had forgotten something and went back inside her house.  Despite all my explanations, urgings, rantings, and ravings, he refused to pass her driveway until she finally came out and drove away.  

But now Noah is old enough to be convinced he needs to do whatever his older brother does.  And sometimes I need to walk the dogs and it is the wrong time for the children.

This morning, for instance, the sun was just coming up and the kids had awakened earlier than usual and I had awakened later than usual.  The kids weren't dressed yet and the dogs HAD to go.  Time for stealth.

Conner and Noah seemed to be engaged with cereal and television so I slipped out of the livingroom and quietly gathered the leashes.  Instead of calling out, as usual, "Annabelle!! Daisy!! Walk-time!!," I tiptoed to each dog and whispered in their ears, "Come on.  Let's walk."   I tried to slip out the front door instead of the back so I wouldn't be in sight of the livingroom but Conner heard the click of the latch and came running.   It breaks his heart if he knows I've gone without him, so I figure, what the heck.  So what if the neighbors see him in his underwear. 

Then Noah shows up running in his little waddling way, arms out waving to keep his balance, sort of like a tiny drunk man except for the diaper.   Expecting to be left, he is already working toward a cry. 

Change of plans.  Instead of the leash, I'll take them all to the backyard.  For a brief moment, I almost believe I am going to be able to control the situation.  I was, after all, a professional manager -- although, in retrospect, I didn't control adults very well either.

Once off the porch, it's like some imaginary quarterback yelled "Hut" and they all take off in different directions.  Daisy and Annabelle run to left hoping to score some squirrels in our neighbors backyard.  Conner grabs his orange ball and kicks it toward the pond where it will float away.  Noah waddle-runs in the opposite direction but also toward the pond.

I cry out, "Annabelle!! Daisy!!  Come back!!"   But I still have my priorities straight  and give up on the ball which plops into the water and begins floating away to the left.  I ignore it and run toward Noah who thinks it is a game and runs faster toward the pond on the right.   Unlike the orange ball, I know that Noah doesn't float. 

Conner yells, "Ball!  Ball!" 

I yell, "Annabelle!!  Daisy!!  Conner!!"  My legs kick into high gear as I admit sadly that, at 65 years old, I am in danger of being outrun by a toddler.  I grab Noah, pick him up and head back in case Conner is trying to save his ball. 

Fortunately, he has already forgotten the ball.  Unfortunately, he has decided it is his responsibility to get the dogs back.  He is running across the neighbor's yard toward the dogs who are now three yards away.   He is yelling, "Gogs!! Gogs!!  Gogs!!"

I'm chasing him although it is clear that, at 65 years old while carrying a one-year-old, I have no chance of outrunning a two-year-old.   I am screaming, "Conner!!  Annabelle!! Daisy!!  Karen!!  Brian!!  Melody!!"   I'm pretty sure Karen is in the shower and Brian and Melody are still asleep, but I'm looking for reinforcements desperately.  

In the distance I see Daisy squatting in September's Yard of the Month but I'm not going back for a blue bag any more than I'm diving into the pond for the orange ball. 

A stroke of luck!  Daisy, with selective hearing, ignores me but Annabelle actually turns and starts running back toward Conner who is still yelling, "Gogs!! Gogs!!"  

Annabelle reaches Conner at the same time I do, jumps up and knocks him over.  Still holding Noah with one arm, I grab Annabelle with the other.  And breathing a sigh of relief, I see Daisy on her way back to see what the fun is all about.   We head back to the house and are almost at the porch when Daisy realizes my intention to get everyone back in the house.  This time she runs to the right. 

I become philosophical.  (Becoming philosophical was also the strategy I used in my former job when management strategies failed).  In a much calmer voice, I say, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."   I flip Annabelle up on the porch in time to grab Conner's arm before he takes off after Daisy.  I pull him onto the porch, still carrying Noah.  Shut the door and herd them all into the house. 

Karen is standing there, drying her hair.  Her first words, of course, are, "Where's Daisy?"

"Fertilizing the neighborhood," I answer, putting Noah down and heading for a cup of coffee.  I know that Daisy will return in fifteen minutes or less but at this point, I'm not sure I care.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Friday Shootout - Grandparents and Patriots Day

This is pretty much a placeholder.   My sense of humor seems to have misplaced itself these last couple of days.  Hey - it happens sometimes.  But I'm sure it will return.  It always does. 

Kind of a shame because Bagman and Butler could have had a field day with Grandparents Day but, alas, I only have the energy level to post a couple of pictures in order to stay in the game.


Conner and Noah waiting for their sister, Kay
to come home from the hospital

Probably not as much as Kay is waiting to come home.
She probably has another 5-6 weeks in prenatal care unit.


The U.S.S. Yorktown at Patriot's Point
shot from top of Ravenell Bridge

This has nothing to do with today's theme
but I shot it while I was on the bridge
so here it is.

I just got a text message from my sense of humor saying it promises to be back in time for next Friday's shoot.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Poetry Jam - Humorous Poem

I'm not sure I've got much this week.  It's been a busy weekend, culminating in the birth -- a bit premature -- of a granddaughter, Kay, at 4 pounds - healthy but due to stay in Neonatal Intensive Care for 6 weeks. 

But prior to all this, I had been working on something -- but all I've got is the initial limerick.

A poet tried stand-up at dark
at a comedy joint in the park.
"Be funny," they said
but he stood as if dead
so they kicked him out cold in the dark.

Okay - since I am now the only adult awake, I need to go feed the two brothers that Kay hasn't met yet.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Friday Hometown Shootout -- Work

A longer than usual blog during which Mark finally learns his true vocational calling.

I'm whistling as I skip down the hallway to the B&B office for this weeks photo shootout.  The tune is from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves -- "Whistle while you work, just whistle while you work....da da da whatever the words...just whistle while you work..."    I'm looking forward to this one.

But when I walk into the studio, I'm shocked to find that Bagman and Butler have already started posting!

"Hey!  What's the big idea!  How could you start without me?!!"

BUTLER: "If it isn't Grumpy, himself."

BAGMAN:  "I think he saw himself as Dopey."

"At least Snow White kissed Dopey," I explain.  "But don't change the subject.  Why are you posting pictures without consulting me?"

BUTLER:  "No offense, Mark, but you are retired now.  What do you know about work?"

BAGMAN:  "He never knew nothing about work when he was working!"

"I resent that!" I bluster resentfully.  "I had an important job directing an alcohol and drug treatment agency!"

BUTLER: "Yes. It is obvious that you took your job very seriously."

"That's not fair!  That picture was taken at an office Christmas Party," I whine, which is what I do when blustering doesn't work.  "I was working hard at building employee morale!   I worked long, hard hours.  Look at this!"   I manage to post a better picture of myself.

BAGMAN: "You call that work!?   A cushy air conditioned office?  It was 100 degrees yesterday and real workers were putting a new roof on your neighbor's house!"

"But I had a position of importance.  I was even in charge of the County's Emeregency Operations Center during hurricanes,"  I rationalize, which is what I do when trying to recover from whining.

BUTLER:  "You seem to have a rather inflated perception of your self-importance.  Do you really see your job as more important than people who struggle for a living?"

"Well some people thought I was important," I say, reduced to grasping for straws.  "Look!"

BUTLER: "Now you are just grasping for straws.  That was just a photo opportunity and besides, the award was being given to the woman.  She's the one who did the work.  They just invited you to be in the picture because they didn't want to offend you."

So I am now reduced to silence.  But I'm not quite defeated yet.  After a few minutes of trying to remember if I ever really did anything during my 35 year career, I come up with an idea!

"Okay," I concede (partially).  "Maybe management doesn't qualify as work.  But I was also very creative.  Look at the picture below!  I used to make very creative Power Point presentations."

BAGMAN:  "Creative!!! You call that creative?!!   The audience is half-asleep!  Besides, this is what real creative work looks like!"

Suddenly Bagman and Butler are posting pictures faster than I can keep up with them.

BUTLER:  "Look, Mark. We regret having to burst your bubble.  But even if we agreed that you did a little work during your career, the fact is that you are now retired.  You no longer work."

Angrily, I explode with self-righteousness which is the last resort when whining, blustering, rationalization, etc., have failed.  "My two grandchildren live with me!  I dare you to tell the single mothers of the world that being a stay-at-home mom isn't work!!" 

BUTLER:  "You're not a single mom!!  Three other adults live with you!  The kids go to day-care, the adults go to work and your main duty is to walk the dogs while they are gone!!"

"But...but...but...well, I taught Conner to fish!"

BAGMAN:  "You're not even in that picture."

BUTLER:  "Besides, it was Barclay who taught Conner to fish.  You just go out these days and get the line all tangled up."

BAGMAN: "Besides that..."

BUTLER: "I already said 'besides.'  You can't say 'besides' right after someone else has said it."

BAGMAN: "Go eat worms!  This is what real fishing work looks like anyway."

I'm beginning to feel useless.  "I don't have a picture to prove it, but at least I sometimes cook."

BUTLER:  "I think it's called the Microwave. This is what cooking looks like in the world of work."

I'm totally defeated and have no further recourse than to throw myself at the mercy of Bagman and Butler.  "Please, guys.  Have mercy.  Are there no photographs that show a purpose to my life?"

BUTLER (smiling compassionately): "Well, I've noticed one area where you succeed in being useful around the house.


BAGMAN:  "I think Sleepy is the dwarf that Mark most resembles."