Sunday, April 29, 2007

The "A" Bar And Motel

Ever had the pleasure of spending the night in a bar's upstairs hotel room? I have.

In 1989 Lovely Wife and I, along with Numbers One and Two Daughters, flew to Utah to visit Big Brother and his family.

The big plan was to drive up to see Yellowstone National Park. We arrived at Salt Lake City in the afternoon, Big Brother came and got us from the airport and drove us to their home in Ogden, Utah.

We sat and rested a bit, caught up on each other's lives, loaded up their new Toyota 4-Runner, and headed up the highway, hoping to make it to West Yellowstone, Montana to spend the night.

We ran out of light, and Big Brother ran out of energy, so we stopped at a lodge along side the highway to try to get a room. He and I went in, and stood behind a man checking into the lodge. He was telling the checker-inners there that he had come from West Yellowstone, and had been stopping at hotels all the way, that this was the closest room he could get to the city. West Yellowstone was full. The people checking him in told him that the room he was getting was their last.

So we walked out, and started back down the highway on which we had come, stopping at any place with rooms. Finally, my sister in law started ragging on my brother to FIND someplace, as if it was personally his fault that all the hotels were full.

The next place we were approaching was obviously a bar. Big Brother pulled in anyway and the place had a small vacancy sign up, and he and I went inside to check things out. The name of the place was the "A" Bar and Motel.

Northwestern Idaho looked to be cowboy country. The predominant mode of dress was western, much like in Texas.

Big Brother and I go into the bar, and all these rough looking, cowboy dressed folks stop what they're doing and watch us. In our shorts, and loud colored shirts, obviously vacationers, we asked if they had any rooms open. The bartender doubled as the hotel checker-inner, and miraculously had two rooms available. So we asked for them and paid up and got out of there.

Good thing that between us, Big Brother and I would have tipped the scales at about 500lbs back then. Back then the people seemed a bit hostile, but over time, I just figured that we looked like a couple of crazy tourists, and none of them would try anything.

We went out and informed the women folk that we had two rooms. They were underwhelmed, because how good could a room above a remote bar in Idaho be?

We all climbed out of the 4-Runner, grabbed all our stuff, and headed up the stairs on one end of the building. The door into the motel part opened onto a long hall with doors to the rooms on either side of the centered hallway. We each went to check out the rooms, and to every one's surprise, they were absolutely spotlessly clean. Bathrooms and everything.

We did all of the things you do to finally get the kids down to sleep and finally all us adults fell into exhausted sleep ourselves.

The next morning, Number One Daughter, then about three and a half years old, woke up, and then Lovely Wife and Number Two Daughter followed suit. They tried to wake me up, but I resisted valiantly.

Lovely Wife and Number One Daughter left to find a coke machine, and a short time later, they both come into the room, wake me and Number Two Daughter up and tell us to come, and for me to bring my camera.

I roll out of bed, get ready quickly, grab my trusty Canon AE-1 and follow.

I'm led down the stairs that we had climbed to our rooms the night before, but instead of heading out front, they lead me behind the bar/motel.

What we had no way of knowing beforehand, and couldn't see in the dark, was that the "A" Bar and Motel sat on one bank of the Snake River in Idaho.

I walked around the corner, and the views that you see in the photos I've placed in this post were what we saw when out back behind the bar.

Number One Daughter had run ahead of Lovely Wife after the big Coke hunt, and ran around the building. Lovely Wife followed her to drag her back and was stunned at the fields of pastel colored wild flowers from around her feet, and extending all the way to the mountains in the distance.

We spent a little time stomping around out there, me taking photos, and Lovely Wife just soaking up the scenery, and Number One Daughter throwing rocks in the river. Number Two Daughter was only 10 months old and was busy just being held.

Anyway, we dragged Big Brother and family around there to show them the view before we headed on up the road to Yellowstone, but eventually got going.

But I will always remember the inauspicious beginning of our stay at the "A" Bar and Motel, and will remember the magic of the beautiful next morning, standing on the banks of the Snake River, and looking at more wild flowers than I had ever seen, and still have not seen it's match until this day.

Sometimes what starts out with a dubious vibe, can end up being a huge blessing and cause for joy. I'll carry the feeling I had standing there looking at miles of wild flowers and that gorgeous river forever.

That first photo is of the sunset that evening as we headed north to Yellowstone. I asked Big Brother to pull over, and am still glad I did. He seemed a bit put out to have to stop and start again just for taking photos, but he eventually got used to it on this trip. The colors are real. That is a straight 35mm slide scan with no manipulations in Photoshop Elements. God's better at colors than I am anyway.

The other photos are of the flowers and the snake river that I took that magical morning.

Picture Post, Sunday April 29, 2007

These first two photos are of a porcelain angel Lovely Wife put in the house. The other day I noticed the sun shining through one of our living room skylights on this figure. It was beautiful. I got up and took some shots of it in that light.

These next two photos may seem boring, there's not much going on in them, but it's the view from my car as I'm about to turn onto U.S.1 here in Florida. They are in sequence, and I love that view when all of a sudden I drive up and can see the Indian River Lagoon. I never tire of seeing the big, open expanses of water down here. If I turn right, there's a sign that says Miami is 171 miles away; if I turn left here there's a sign that says Jacksonville is 181 miles away. Smack dab in the middle of the coast, I reckon.
I had taken a photo of a pelican at Sebastian Inlet recently, and was struck by how his webbed feet were gripping the wooden railing he was standing on. So I just cropped the picture down to just his feet. It's the story in that photo anyway, you don't need the whole bird.This man was going so fast on this jet ski that it startled me. Looks like fun.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Yesterday, I spent a little time trying to create a simple setup where I could take photos of small items and have them look nice (without buying expensive pro lighting stuff).

I took some pictures of some of my cameras, and also a reissue of some of Tom Daniel's car designs.

Tom Daniel designed some of the original Hotwheels that Big Brother and I played with as kids. My favorite Hotwheels of all time is the Red Baron.

These Tom Daniel reissues were not produced by Mattel as Hotwheels. The cars are about 2 or 3 times the size of regular Hotwheels.

Here's two of my shots of my bigger Red Baron. I still love this design. I've always loved roadsters with the engine built up and open so that it can be seen.

When Lovely Wife and I were in Louisiana after Christmas last December, Big Sis gave me an old camera that had belonged to her In Laws. It's an old Agfa Model PD16 Clipper Camera. It is in almost mint condition; it isn't worth much, but I like it anyway. The only problem is that it takes a unique film size, 616, that is no longer made. I've seen folks on the internet that have posted processes to be able to load and use modern 120 or 220 film (like wedding photographers use in their Hasselblads), but I haven't tried to do that yet. That's a project for another time.

Here's the camera and it's box. I think it was made in the 1930s; Kodak introduced 616 film in 1931.

Last, and certainly not least, is my trusty old pal, my Canon AE-1 I bought in the summer of 1979 with my yard mowing money. It still works fine; I had it CLAed (cleaned, lubricated, and adjusted) a few years ago.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Terror In The Tenth Grade (a true story)

When I was a little boy, I didn't really care what shoes I had. If they fit, and didn’t hurt, I was good to go.

I even remember once, when we lived in Vidalia, Louisiana, that I needed some new tennis shoes, and my mother handed me a five dollar bill, and I rode my bike to West Brothers and bought myself a pair of shoes. I was probably 11 or so. This would have been around 1973-1974. I was fine with that.

Then in 1975, we moved from Vidalia (population, oh, about 4,000 souls) to the monstrous, ginormous, incredibly massive city of Monroe, Louisiana (population, oh, about 50,000 souls).

I started eighth grade there at Robert E. Lee Junior High School, and by then I had advanced to my first pair of Converse All-Star (Chuck Taylor) purple low tops. Not fancy, but I loved those things.

Throughout that whole year, I still didn't much care about having the "right" clothes, much less shoes. I bathed every day, and wore decent stuff from Jacques Penn-ay, so I was cruising along.

But next year when I started at Neville High School, for some strange reason, Sainted Mother let me buy my first pair of Nike's. I was in love. With a shoe.

Even then I wasn't trying to fit in. In fact, most of my classmates were all about the Addidas, but something about that white leather pair of Nike's spoke to me.

So, even though I was still a fashion reject because I never sported designer jeans which had become popular, nobody messed with me about stuff like that; I guess that the Nike's were socially acceptable enough. (Plus, being bigger than them helps lower the risk of ridicule.)

Life went on, high school kept creeping along, and then sometime in the tenth grade, whatever pair of Nike's I had at the time, had a serious enough blow out to demand new shoes, and quickly.

One problem, ye olde pocket book of Sainted Mother's was almost bare, and so we ventured off to Monkey Ward to see what could be had on the cheap.

By then, although by no means a clothing snob, I had become attached to Nike's, and dare I say it, dreading having to show up at school wearing a brand new pair of Trax from Kmart, or something that would bring down the ridicule of my friends.

They even had a weird name for lame, off-brand, or ugly shoes. They would call them "pies". Don't ask me why.

Now the word pie could be easily added to to reflect anything from the looks to the smell of a ridiculed pair of shoes and the owner of those shoes. Ex. Smelly AND ugly shoes could might be called "tuna pies." I know, it's stupid, but then so were we at 15. There's no plumbing the depths of the weirdness in the minds of a 15 year old.

Back to the store. I had at least avoided the massive humiliation of having to show up with a pair of Trax from Kmart, my compadres at school could spot a pair of those a good mile away. There was no hiding a pair of Trax. But thankfully they didn't sell them at Montgomery Ward.

Then the problem of Sainted Mother's lack of funds arose, and the only thing I could get, that I though I might be able to slip by my friends was a pair of Converse All-Star fakes, with the unfortunate brand name of "SKIPS."

So I go to school the next day, and all is well, for a while. We were in Phys Ed and had to change into our gym shorts and t-shirts. No more long legged jeans to help hide my Skips.

We were avoiding having to participate in volleyball as much as possible and a bunch of us were sitting on the high school gym's bleachers, as the volleyball nets were set up inside.

By this time, I had completely forgotten about my shoes, when one of my friends, Mike K., sitting a level below me on the bleachers happens to glance down at my shoes.

"Aw, man! Check out Big John's new pies! AW MAN! THEY'RE SKIPS!" and everyone fell about in laughter.

Skips were one level above Trax on the acceptable shoe scale, and my almost-Converse shoes had avoided being laughed at for precisely 4 periods. Half a school day.

The next few months were long, as I wore the Skips, and until I earned enough mowing money to buy my next pair of Nike's.

The ridicule eventually died away, and I was invisible again, just like I liked it.

I can't forget the ridicule of the Skips. I didn't mind the ridicule part, it wasn't what they said that bothered me, it was the ATTENTION. Good or bad, I didn't want attention, and I still don't.

And I'm still a Nike guy, even after all these years. I've tried converting to other belief systems brands of shoes, but I always come back to Nike's. Once I find a pair that fits my size 14 gunboats, I'm a happy man, and my feet are happy too. Everyone has a preferrence, and to me, Nike's always feel like I'm putting on a favorite old flannel shirt.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #36

13 Photographs Taken With My New Lens

A few weeks ago, I bought a Nikon 18-200mm VR lens for my digital camera. I LOVE it.

Then Tuesday afternoon I looked on Cute Overload and saw that some pictures I had made of a baby sandhill crane had made the cut, and had been posted on their site. Wuhoo!

There's a verse in the Bible that I'll paraphrase here, If any man thinks he's standing, he better beware, he just might be about to fall. Instead of being able to bask in the glory of my successful entry into Cute Overload, my back was so messed up yesterday that I had to stay home from work. That's life, eh?

So I'm taking the easy way out on this week's Thursday Thirteen and am posting 13 recent photos taken with my new lens (did I mention that I LOVE it?), including a few more of the baby sandhill crane and family.

Give them a click to enlarge.

1. Sandhill crane in Melbourne, Florida.

2. Baby was with two adults, one of which honked at me in crane, saying, "Not one step closer buddy." (I speak fluent crane.)

3. Tsk, tsk, they didn't look both ways before crossing the road.

4. Baby runs from one parent to the other.
5. Dad, I think. His red was brighter than the other adult's.

6. A surfer at Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida.

7. A plastic flower in our fountain.

8. Jetty at Sebastian Inlet State Park.

9. A boat heading west toward the Indian River Lagoon through Sebastian Inlet.

10. Under the bridge over Sebastian Inlet.

11. Some green stuff, kelp, seaweed, or whatever growing in the water of Sebastian Inlet.

12. Two brown pelicans silhouetted against the sunlight reflecting on the water in Sebastian Inlet.

13. Little birds looking for food in Sebastian Inlet.


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

News Flash! I Made The Big Time!

I submitted a couple of my photos of a baby sandhill crane to Cute Overload and they posted them!

You might have to scroll down to see them.

Big Time Photographer

I'm seriously pumped about this!

I'm With Karl Rove

Cheryl Crow has come out with her advice on how to save the world from global warming.

From an article in The Times Online (London Times):
The singer Sheryl Crow opened a new front in the fight on global warming yesterday with a call for people to use only one sheet of toilet paper after each visit.

Well now, isn't that special.

And the article also talks about how she approached Karl Rove at a dinner and started blasting him about the administration's handling of global warming.

She put her hand on his arm.

Karl Rove jerked away and said, "Don't touch me!" And everyone is acting as if Rove was being unkind.

I disagree.

I would have done the same thing, she had probably just come from using the bathroom.

Moral: Don't shake hands with Cheryl Crow.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Don C. (my Dad) worked most of his oil-field career on off-shore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

For lots of years he would have to drive to south Louisiana and work on rigs off the coast of Louisiana. During those years, he mostly worked with Cajuns. They were some crazy characters and he had a million and one stories to tell about them. Plus he learned to cook most Cajun dishes like they did at home. Good stuff.

But for a number of years he worked off the coast of Texas in the Gulf. Most of his coworkers were from Texas. They were more like Don C. in their eating choices, and they were also a hardy, salt of the earth bunch too.

He once told me about a man he was friends with out on a rig off the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas. I'm going from memory here, so I don't even know the guy's name.

The man lived in west Texas somewhere. He loved to hunt. He had a top on the bed of his truck, that was strong enough of a platform to sit or stand on.

Certain places he liked to hunt deer, there were so many snakes, he would park his truck, climb out onto the top of his camper top, and sit up there to hunt. At least that's what he told my dad, and having been far enough west in Texas to be amazed at the different landscape, I can understand his respect for snakes. I believe him too.

Anyway, the man also told Don C. about being on the way home from hunting one day. In the distance, he saw that a Texas DPS officer (state trooper) had someone pulled over.

As Don C.'s friend got a little closer, he saw that a plain clothed man was standing over the State Trooper who was on his knees, and was firing a pistol at the cop.

My dad's friend pulled off the side of the road, opened his truck door and stood in the crack of the open door and aimed his hunting rifle at the situation, to see it better via his scope, mounted on the deer rifle.

There was indeed a man shooting a cop, so the man took aim himself and put a couple of 30.06 rounds in the man's chest. When the man went down and didn't move, he pulled closer and got out and checked. Both men were dead.

He used the DPS car's radio to call it into the police, this was years before folks started carrying cell phones in their cars, and waited.

Later, the man was asked to a ceremony. The Texas Department of Public Safety awarded this man some sort of civilian honor, for trying to help a lone Trooper and killing the Trooper's killer.

I know that things are getting crazier by the day in this country, but I sure think back on that story Don C. brought home and told us, and I still like the man's style. And I admire the style of the Texas Department Of Public Safety for acknowledging the man's actions in that situation. A common man, with a gun, aiding a state trooper, even to the point of killing someone.

When Lovely Wife and I went back to Louisiana at the end of this past December, one of the things I noticed, not having been back there in several years, was gun racks mounted in the back window of pickup trucks, with a gun or two in some of them.

It reminded me that, although this is far from a perfect country, there are still pockets of people who take quite seriously the right to own and use a gun. I miss that, because I don't see that in Florida. Someone who is not familiar with, or ever used guns, would probably be appalled to see guns carried openly in a truck, but to me it's reassuring. By and large, those people are some of the most dependable people you'll ever meet.

I have valliantly fought the urge to read, watch, and listen to all of the news since the Virginia Tech shooting.

Thing is, I can't avoid it altogether, we live in an era of twenty four hour news.

And I've come across news stories and blog posts about guns. Now I'm not going to preach at y'all about guns, you've all probably made up your mind about them anyway, so I'd just be wasting my breath trying to argue about it.

Hammer posted some of the most common comments to his blog posts about his being a licensed gun carrier. This post of his give and take with commenters, pretty much sums up what I believe about guns.

But something I've only seen once or twice in many years was on the news this week.

An 82 year old woman, the former Miss America from 1944 (!) helped stop a scumbag near her home with her pistol by shooting his tires out.

I'll just say that I'm really glad that our right to own and bear arms was written into the constitution. The powers that be, both Republican and Democrat would have taken them all away by now, had it not specifically been written in the constitution.

This is just one of those subjects that is a hot point among people. People who believe we should not have any access to guns think people like me are crazy. And of course, my attitude is, "takes one to know one."

I also don't mind people having completely opposite positions on everything in the world that the positions I hold, but I sure want you to at least be able to articulate what you believe and why you believe it.

P.S. I have a 45 caliber single action Colt Army model, much like the one pictured at the top of the post.

Woops. I accidentally turned off the comments. It's back on now.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Picture Post, Sunday April 22, 2007

Babystepper wrote a post a couple of days ago about a boy they know that was struck my lightning. He's ok, but it reminded me of this sign I photographed a week or so ago at Sebastian Inlet State Park. Sebastian inlet is the closest way from where we live to get boats out to the Atlantic Ocean. There's a really nifty park there and I went and walked around and saw this sign. (This is the wide view so y'all can see the beach and beautiful sky and water.)

Here's a better look at the sign; stuff like this intrigues me. Thankfully there wasn't much chance of lightning strikes that day.

This is Angel, one of our poodles. She's obsessed with chasing lizards, and was out showing me what a great hunter she is when I took this photo.

This is Angel, and Spike chillin' on top of my bass amplifier in our bedroom window. They love it when the weather is mild enough to have the windows open. This is their perch for watching, and barking at, the world. Spike and me are the only boys in the house. I love his "soul patch," that little tuft of white hair on his chin. He's pretty laid back like me; if he was any more so he wouldn't have a pulse.

I was testing out my new lens and when I walked back inside from the front yard, I stopped and took a photo inside the house, and kinda like it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sandhill Cranes

I saw one of the neatest things yesterday afternoon.

Two days ago, I was cruising through some photography blogs and on one, the person had a couple of amazing images of sandhill cranes that they had recently seen and were able to photograph. (like the bird in the picture here I got off of Google)

I wrote a comment on the blog about my only experience in seeing live sandhill cranes.

It's basically this. One day at work, I was leaving for lunch and when I went out the turnstile to the parking lot. Where I work, all of the buildings are fenced in, and you have to scan a badge to get through the fence, and then again to get inside the building.

So, after going out the turnstile, right there beside the sidewalk to the parking lot, stood two sandhill cranes. Like they were waiting for someone to come out.

They were about 3 feet from the sidewalk, and were not scared of me at all. The looked me over pretty good, and I was looking them over pretty good too, because, hey, I've never actually seen a sandhill crane, and these guys are a yard away.

They're amazing looking and about 4 feet tall (1.3m). Then they started honking and skwawking really loud. That was after I had walked past, and their loud honks startled me. They are big, not afraid of anything as far as I could tell, and they could probably do some real damage if they wanted to.

I stopped in the parking lot and watched them a couple of minutes. They were actually kind of comical, just standing there like security guards or as if waiting on a pal.

That was several months ago, and what I mentioned in the comments on that blog.

With all of the security at work, cameras are a big no-no. That includes cell phone cameras. And who wants to leave an expensive camera in their car, right?

So last summer I had done some experimenting with a flexible, cloth-covered cooler like you'd take to a picnic or something. I put a big hardback book in there in the trunk of my white Taurus, and would go out at different times of the day to see how hot it had gotten. I was amazed that, even on the hottest of summer days, the book was only about the room temperature of a house or business. Not even warm to the touch, but not cold either.

Therefore, I had, on occasion, taken my camera to work, in it's thick padded camera bag, and that all inside the big flexible cooler, and even on hundred degree days, the camera was at about 80 degrees after a whole day in the trunk. Pretty cool, huh?

Well, no actually, not cool in this case. Because then yesterday, my back was hurting pretty bad, and the only way I made it to and through a day of work was because of pain medication. And when I had left for work yesterday morning, I looked at my camera bag, just sitting there like a puppy, wanting to go for a ride, and I left it sitting there.

Pain = no mood for photography.

So then yesterday when I shut down all of my stuff and log off all of the computers and go get in the car to come home, I'm still not thinking "camera" because, although it was an amazingly beautiful afternoon, the parking lot at work isn't a hot spot for great photographic experiences.

I load up, crank up, drive out to the unbelievably long red light to leave where I work, and turn north on Wickham Road in Melbourne (FL).

And I'm sitting there (long red light), and to my left, about 20 feet away in the manicured green grass were two of these sandhill cranes.

I think to myself, "Hmmm. I wonder if that's the same two from a couple of months ago?" but quickly dismiss that thought as unlikely.

And I hadn't any more thought that, when out from between one of the crane's legs comes a little baby sandhill crane that I hadn't noticed.

The adults were big, and they have dark gray feathers and intensely red heads, but the baby was only about a foot tall. Instead of gray feathers and red head, he was kinda cream colored all over. And instead of distinct feathers, he looked fuzzy like a baby chicken (on serious steroids maybe).

The one adult crane that the baby was staying closest to, would bend over, peck at somthing in the grass, like a bug or worm, but instead of picking it all the way up and eating and swallowing it, the adult would just pick up the morsel of whatever it was, and then quickly drop it right in front of the baby crane.

The baby crane was watching closely, and would then pick up the item just as the adult had, and eat the thing, whatever it was.

I was sitting here, watching this crane teach a baby crane what to look for in the grass and how to catch and eat it. National Geographic, right out the driver's side window of the car I happened to be driving.

Then I thought, "You know? If I had brought my camera anyway, I could be photographing that right now." Seriously, I could have had fired off fifty or more sequence shots of that whole cute little scene, and all without having had to get out of the car. The window was even already rolled down. Just pick up camera, point, focus, shoot. Because on the days I do take it to work with me, when I leave, I put the camera itself on the seat beside me, already set with an estimated exposure for a fast shot, and IF I would have simply done that same routine yesterday, I could have had some incredibly amazing sandhill crane and baby photographs.

Bummer. And that little feller was SO cute!

Then they crossed the road I was on, behind the car that was behind me. I heard something and turned off my radio and looked back, and one of the adult cranes was standing beside the passenger window of the car behind me, and was skwawking and honking real loud.

I looked back around, and the light finally turned green for us to go.

At least I had a nice show to entertain me at the red light this time.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Virginia Tech Shooting

I wrote this, but was unsure of posting it. Here goes nothing.

I've been avoiding watching and listening to a lot of news, because the stupid way the media saturate the airwaves with the blame game and their assinine questions and suppositions makes me want to hit someone.

So in the interest of public safety, I have refrained from reading watching and listening to more than the basics.

Here's my thoughts, since I know that, as the only person who hasn't voiced his opinion on the goings on in Blacksburg, you're chomping at the bit to know what I think. Who I think is to blame. What I think should have been done instead of what was done.

It's easy.

The person to blame is the guy who did it. Who obviously planned and executed an evil and complex plan. HE IS TO BLAME. Not the gun industry. Not President Bush. Not the lack of foresight of the heads of Virginia Tech.

That scumbag punk is to blame.

We live in a fallen world. And we live in a country with lots of freedoms. Bad combination.

We live in a country with 300 million people in it. A certain percentage of that many people will be criminally insane, but also very clever. Another bad combination.

All we can do is to do our best to live the best lives we can; to take sensible precautions in every area of our lives, and to pray.

After that, I never know if my trip to work this morning will be my last attempt at driving. I don't know if I'll live to see tomorrow.

I tell my family I love them, and I do my best to be the best man I can in every situation. For me, though I fail miserably and often, What Would Jesus Do is not a joke. The slogan has become that, but not to me, even though, like I said, I fail the test miserably and often.

Until the end of the earth, or 'til Jesus comes back to those of us who believe that, there will be criminally insane, and criminals who are quite sane that do things like the knucklehead at Virginia Tech did, or like Sadaam Husein and his sons did.

It's gonna happen. Again and again.

But I tell you this, even though a person can never truly know what they would do in certain situations, I've thought long and hard about things like being cornered or confronted with a gun or knife, or encounter a situation where someone is killing people indiscriminately. I have determined in my heart that if I believe I can possibly save the lives of others, I'm going to try to throw all 300 pounds of me on that person as fast and hard as I can and try with all of my might to kill that person absolutely as fast as I can.

When I was a kid, I had an incredibly violent temper. Those who know me now would never believe the way I could totally become an animal as a young person. I learned to control my temper through the grace of God, and through determination, because when I let loose, I had no memory whatsoever of what I had done. I got into a fight in high school, and later, a girl told me, "I saw the look on your face, and I was sure you were going to kill M." At that point, I realized that as big and strong as I was, that if I lost control, I could kill someone. I did not want that.

But that animal still lives somewhere under the surface, and if I ever encounter a situation like at Virginia Tech, I won't play dead. I won't try to hide if he's killing other people. And at my size, I sure as heck won't be jumping out of any windows either.

I'll just let the animal back out. And unless he puts a bullet in my brain, and stops me instantly, that punk is mine, even if I die.

So all of the second guessing going on in the media, and all of the people starting to find the person or persons to blame, and the politicians on both sides of the gun issue posture for the cameras, is just plain old crap in my opinion. Like Don C. (my Dad) used to say, "All that ain't worth a bucket of warm spit."

I'm getting really, really disillusioned with many Americans. We are becoming a nation of wimps. Where were the guys like on that plane on 9/11 that did the right thing, even if it meant their lives?

I grieve for the families of the dead students and teachers at VT. I also grieve for the parents of that insane moron who killed all of those people.

I just know that I have something within me that is so primitive and brutal, that it scared me into finding a way to control it; and if the next person to try this does it in front of me I'll go down trying to stop the guy, and I WON'T be shot in the back.

That I promise.

If one person can lose his life for evil and to take life, others of us can choose to lose our lives for good to save life too.

But that's just me. I'm not a huge fan of Metallica, I like that style of music a whole lot, but I don't look to them for philosophical truths. But they have an old song called Until It Sleeps. There's a lyric in there that says, "So tear me open, but beware, there's things inside without a care..."

First time I heard that song, I thought, "That's a perfect description of that part of me."

I hope to never have to let that part of me wake up, but I will if I need to. It has always been there, looking over my shoulder anyway.

He's ready.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #35

13 Tips On Finding A Good Barber Shop (For Men's Haircuts)

1. Well, Duh! They have to have a barber pole out front! Not some bogus barber pole painted on the building's front glass either. A real, attached to the wall outside the front door, red, white, and blue barber pole. Extra points if the barber pole spins too.

2. When you walk inside, you must smell a strong smell of hair tonic. You know, the old-school, spice aftershave kinda smell? Yeah, that one.

3. When you look around, you MUST see a broad cross section of working men waiting for a haircut. Plumbers with beards, engineers in white shirts, pizza delivery guy, and a couple of known good men from church helps too.

4. Beware of walking into an empty barber shop. Sure, there are certain times of day when it's possible for a barber shop to be empty, but it's almost impossible to find a GOOD barber shop that's empty. Waiting is part of getting your hair cut, so suck it up!

5. Although this is getting harder and harder to find in this day of AIDs and all, but if you walk into a barber shop and see a customer with shaving foam over the tops of his ears and a barber carefully shaving around his ears with a straight razor, you can take it to the bank, this is your barber shop. Some barber shops only do this on request these days.

6. If there are mounted deer heads and fish on the walls, this is a very good sign.

7. If there are ten years of back issues of Field And Stream and Guns And Ammo magazines, and lots of sections of today's newspaper laying around, this is also a very good sign. (If they have Maxim and GQ, then RUN, do not walk, RUN out the door. That's a deal breaker there.)

8. If you happen to see someone get a world-class flat-top in the shop, even if you just want a regular hair cut yourself, you've found your new barber. If he can do a killer flat-top, he can do a great regular man's haircut in his sleep. With fingernail clippers.

9. If you see a stack of those padded booster seat/boards leaning against the wall for young boys to be set at the proper height for a haircut, that's a good sign this might be your barber shop.

10. Real barber chairs. They have to look like they were made and mounted to the floor in 1935, and have that big arm on the side so the barber can raise you up with a satisfying ker-klunk, ker-klunk, ker-klunk. This is also the sign of a good barber shop.

11. If the barber shop is full of barbers and customers who are all on first name basis with one another, this is a good sign also. Part B of this is if you can detect early on that some of the guys in the shop just come in to visit and hang out. Real barber shops are also somewhat of a hangout for regular guys.

12. They have to have mirrors both behind and in front of you so you can sit there and contemplate the infinity of your own reflection in the receding views. This is also a must.

13. If the barbers have those little wooden handled brushes with the cream colored bristles to brush the hair off of your neck and face, this is another good sign. Add bonus points if the last thing he does is to shake a little talcum powder on the brush for your final brush down.

I could go on and on here. There is much to the makeup of a good barber shop. A good barber shop and a particular barber you're willing to sit and wait on because he cuts your hair really well is a hard thing to find.

The barber I have gone to for years here in Palm Bay doesn't have the mounted deer heads and fish, but the owner and his son are both barbers there, and the owner's grandson is an up and coming stock car racer in the southeast, so there are racing pictures and car photos of the boy through the years on the walls instead. I don't like NASCAR, but I can sure relate to the pride of a boy's dad and grandad in his efforts to make something of himself in a competitive sport like that.

Plus, the John Wayne clock on the wall there makes up for any missing stuffed deer heads and fish.

Can't go wrong with men who still honor John Wayne like that, now can you?

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Daddy's Little Man

I worked on a few photos last night. More of the one's I scanned on the trip we made to Louisiana after Christmas.

My Younger Brother is seven years younger than me. He was born in 1970. He always had, and still does, a great imagination and flair for being funny. He kept us all laughing with his original characters that he would "become" when playing.

We used to call him Daddy's Little Man. They were buds.

I was able to do some nice repair and color correction using Photoshop Elements on all of these. It's a lot of fun and it's gratifying to take photos that only exist in one fading print, scan them, bring them back to life, and archive them for the future.

And it allows me to do something productive when I'm not in a writing mood.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jumpin' John

After my junior year (11th grade) of high school, I bought my first good camera, a Canon AE-1.

The head of the high school yearbook said I could work on the yearbook staff if I had a camera. So I worked my hiney off and saved and bought the camera during the summer of 1979, a couple of months before beginning my senior year.

I called the teacher and told her I had a camera, and she said I could go to a summer yearbook workshop that was happening just before school started. The workshop was held in my hometown at University of Louisiana - Monroe, so the week long event was a total blast. Easy to get to and I learned black and white film and print developing.

When school started, they supplied me with a "potato masher," a big flash like pros used, to take pictures at football games and whatnot.

The camera, I just carried around all day at school and took photos of the other nobodies like myself. The yearbook's main photographer was another senior, but this guy was born to be a pro photographer. He already had tons of equipment and experience and was being counted on to deliver the great shots.

Steve did fantastic work, but there was only one issue with all of that; Mrs. D, the teacher in charge of the yearbook wanted photos and she wanted them fast. And a bunch of them.

What to do? Steve was such a social person, he often was able to take photos at events but somehow didn't have much time for grinding out the film and print work in the school's darkroom.

"Uh, Mrs. D? I can stay late on school days, and I can come in on weekends and do darkroom work for you. As much as you want. Whenever you want," Said I.

She looked at me like I had a two heads. A high school student, working on a yearbood for which he got no credit, and for which he was willing to work what amounted to a part-time job for free? She immediately took me up on my offer.

My feet didn't touch the ground for two weeks. Unlimited Kodak Tri-X (ISO 400, B&W film) for the school year, and as many prints as I could churn out for Mrs. D.

When the film was developed, I would make contact prints by putting a piece of 8x10 light sensitive paper down, lay out the strips of film, flatten it it all together with a piece of glass and shine the enlarger light on them for a few seconds, and then develop that print and let it dry.

Mrs. D would take a stack of these contact sheets, each showing small pics of a whole roll of film, examine them with a loupe and circle the ones she wanted me to print.

After school for many days and many weekends through the year, I did much of the darkroom work. Steve did his share, but I was Mrs. D's go-to guy for rush jobs and weekend work.

But the sweetest part of the whole deal is that I made sure, with Mrs. D's blessing, to develop lots of photos of the nobodies, dregs, and wretches that usually never make it to the yearbook because yearbook space is usually given over to the beautiful and the popular. I'm very proud of my senior year yearbook because lots of folks got their pics in there that wouldn't have otherwise because of lack of being a jock or popular.

Why in the heck is this post titled Jumpin' John then?

Well, one Monday after my high school's football team had won a playoff game the previous week, several classmates called to me in the hall. "Hey! There's Jumpin' John!" and then move on. I had no idea what they were talking about.

Finally someone on the football team told me. They had all come in Sunday afternoon to watch films of the game, and when our running back scored the winning touchdown, the coaches rewound the game film, and then said, "Now, watch what happens on the upper part of the sideline when and after the score."

And they re-ran that portion of the film, and there was Me on the sideline, camera held to my eye, waiting for the running back to dive for the short touchdown, took a couple of shots, watched for the umpire's signal confirming the score, whereupon I apparently started running and leaping and dancing up and down the far-side sideline.

The football team got a laugh out of it, and the coaches re-wound the film and they watched it again, and one of the coaches mentioned for the players to watch and see that I got the shots, waited for the official to signal the score, and THEN started my celebrations.

So I was Jumpin' John there for a few weeks in the fall of my senior high school year, and then some other schmuck did something stupid and they left me alone and started eating on other carrion. High school students have short attention spans thankfully.

Not that I cared anyway, I was bigger than most all of them and they were sure to do their picking on me in a good-natured way.

Anyhoo, that's my story.

The top pic is of a physics classmate pretending to pound Mr. Luther with a dusty chalkboard eraser.

The middle pic is of a behind-the-lines tackle I photographed in a playoff game against Lake Charles High School.

The final photo is a bust of none other than the great William Shakespeare, dressed up as a Neville Tiger fan. It was in our English class.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Keepin' It Real

I wish I had a great, funny story to tell. I don't though.

It was a pretty tough weekend because of my back acting up. Plus trying to get the bills in order, and also the taxes.

So I end up doing what I can, and having to lay down a lot. Plus when my back acts up, my brain doesn't cooperate with the desire to write. In fact the pain pretty much kills the creativity part of me. It kills the desire to want to do ANYTHING.

Which means my blog sucks for a while. I'll try to get back into the groove, so just keep checkin' back, OK?

You can go check out my photography blog for the pics I uploaded this morning if you care to.

I don't mean to sound like a whiner, I just wanted to let you know why the posts are lacking substance.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Picture Post, Sunday April 15, 2007

Cool evening sky over Melbourne, Florida after sunset one day.

A squirrel poses for the camera in Sebastian, Florida.

Coquina (ancient coral) in the Indian River Lagoon near Wabasso, Florida. I played around with this photo and when I cranked up the contrast like this, it looks almost like a painting.

A family coming back to the dock in their boat on a beautiful evening. Goode Park on Turkey Creek, in Palm Bay, Florida. We like to take the dogs to this park, plus, we see manatees here from time to time.

Trimmed palm fronds in front of the Fee Avenue library in Melbourne, Florida. Not sure exactly why they did this, but it looked kinda neat.