Fifty Years

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write today. Would I mention how every morning I wake up with a fragment of song or text rolling on a constant loop in my head? It’s really annoying, and I can’t make it stop. It has to stop on its own. I can’t fall asleep to music, and that may be why. Earlier this week, my head has featured The Four Seasons (twice), Snow White from the Disney movie, and a medley of very unrelated bits. I will say this – that does tend to keep me from falling back to sleep. When my alarm is due to go off in a few minutes, that’s a good thing. When I’ve woken up at 3am to use the restroom, not so much. Yeah, that happens a lot. But again, only during the week. Maybe somewhere in the back of my head, my brain knows I’m going to have to get up or risk hearing that alarm going off. I use my cell phone, as so many people do. Kinda like it, really; it starts off quietly, then gets louder and louder until you shut it off, or it’s been going for, I think a minute. If that happens, it automatically snoozes and does it again in ten minutes. Far less jarring than a sudden burst of sound. Keeps me from throwing it across the room.

Then I thought about an account of my week, about my follow-up visit to the nephrologist on Monday – I’m really quite lucky I live where I do. My hometown is a great place to be sick. People literally come from around the world to get better here.

2009-12-17 Day Downtown 181a
Crossing the Roebling bridge back to Cincinnati

On a vaguely-related-but-really-not-at-all note, I listen to Bob & Tom in the morning at work. It’s funny. Yesterday morning, they had a couple comedians on, one from northeastern Ohio. One of the hosts – I can’t remember which – is from the same area. They started talking about football for the under-college set, about how there are schools up there that will set up a football player with everything he needs just so he’d be able to play. There are college students that don’t have it so good. The others were surprised. High school? One of them said they would expect that in Texas, but Ohio? I’m guessing they’ve never heard of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and certainly don’t watch our evening news, especially on Friday and Saturday, where the high school football teams get just about as much coverage as the pro teams. This weekend down  here it will be a bit more, since the Bengals are on a Bye week. Yes , Texas is crazy about their football, and they want everyone to know it. This is Ohio – we’re secure enough, we don’t need to brag to the whole world. Oh, and high school football is actually a little more important than college. Well, none of the colleges down here really have a contending football team all that often. University of Cincinnati and Xavier tend to be more basketball schools (although UC does actually have a good football team). And Miami (was a university before Florida was a state) University is more about the academics than the sports. My first two years, they had a perfect record – 0 wins. I was there when they won the homecoming game against BGSU. The last game we won was two years prior, against the same team. That had to be a little embarrassing.

Right, so Kentucky and Indiana take basketball very seriously. For Ohio, it’s all about football. Baseball, too, but that’s more just down here, home of the first fully-professional baseball team.

238 Earl's Court Rd, London
238 Earl’s Court Rd, London. Follow the double arrows.

I thought some more about what I would write. Perhaps I would write about my favorite fantasy/sci fi television show, Doctor Who. It debuted in November, 1963. Today, the 50th anniversary special will air in a simulcast between the UK and over 70 other countries, including the US. It will be on at 2:50 EST (Daylight Savings is over) this afternoon, and I will be watching. I thought I’d mention how I’d heard of Doctor Who when I was a kid, and my local PBS station would play the shows late at night. It was usually the same time as the evening news, so I didn’t get to watch. For you young’uns, back in those days, most people still had one TV. Or at least, one main TV. We had a 13″ black & white in the kitchen. I took it to college with me. But everyone had to agree on the same show to watch, meaning you watched what your parents or older siblings wanted to watch. Fast forward far more years than I’d care to admit to 2006. I had pay TV for the first time since 1992, when I moved out of my mother’s house. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time watching TV anyway, and I just got used to it. Plus, for a few years there I couldn’t have afforded it anyway. I got DirecTv, and they had BBC America. One day I was home, and I was bored. They were playing Doctor Who, so I thought I’d give it a go. Been watching ever since. Even during the few years I didn’t have access to BBC America. There are ways if you’re determined enough. When this show debuted in 1963, they elected to rebroadcast it later; there were power outages in some parts of the UK, and then there was the news of our president Kennedy’s assassination.

How could I focus on something so ultimately frivolous, when the world is remembering the loss of what some consider one of the best leaders we’ve had? Sure, it was before my time, but it’s a major anniversary. Well, just like with 9/11, the world doesn’t stop. It continues to spin on its axis, changing day to night and night to day. People continue to sleep and wake and eat and be born and die. Because of the importance of this man to our nation, and the fact that this day is still in living memory for a large segment of our population, it will continue to get wide press, until they start to die off in larger numbers. Much like V-E and V-J days are all but ignored, and Veterans Day is a day off for many, a day to thank our veterans, but not a moment in history when World War I officially ended. Eventually, 9/11 will go the same way. As will the next national or global tragedy.

Still, that got me to thinking about 1963. Every year has a lot going on, but this one seemed to be particularly newsworthy, either at the time, or down the road. I may say the same about the next year or the next. I know the year I was born had some interesting stuff going on, some of it very negative. So what happened in 1963? My sister was born, as were Whitney Houston and Michael Jordan. The Dr. Seuss book “Hop on Pop” was published. The Froot Loop is introduced – very important for Saturday mornings. Ground is broken for the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The Beatles release “Please Please Me” in the UK. I think most of us know they didn’t get really big here until 1964. Big enough that The Flintstones did a show about them. Fred wasn’t a fan.

Other things happened then, too. Birmingham, Alabama, continued to remain an epicenter for civil rights. The most consistently violent offenders were the ones trying to maintain the status quo. I’d love to believe those people have learned. Some have; even former Alabama governor George Wallace himself recanted. But there still are plenty passing on their hate and fear to another generation, and they’re not all in some holler in the Appalachians. In August of that year, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. In September, the 16th street church in Birmingham was bombed, killing four little girls. There were so many other things related to those; that whole decade was a time of people saying “no more.”  I could write a series of posts on that year alone.

Bernie Madoff’s mother got into a little trouble with the SEC, although there’s some speculation that she was just a straw buyer for his father. The first hints of the Vietnam War were stirring about. And of course, president Kennedy was assassinated while riding in an open car through Dallas. Oh, and a blind boy wailed on his harmonica for an album – his first.

There was a lot of misery that year, but there was also joy. And a bit of progress. Maybe that year was a bit on the eventful side, like the bulk of the 60s.

This video is from 1964, but this song debuted at the end of 1963.


What Would I Say?

I have a lot on my mind right now. And it’s cold. I meant to go outside and cover my car mirror. Actually, now that I’ve thought of it, I still might. But with all this stuff on my mind, I don’t really have enough – I guess energy – left to even follow a writing prompt, much as I’d like to. I woke up this morning feeling a little excited at the prospect of some creative writing. I have to do something – I run out of stuff to say, otherwise.

Footbridge on Western Campus, Miami University
Footbridge on Western Campus, Miami University

Now, I did mention once that I might revisit my tales of driving in Greater Cincinnati, and perhaps comparing them to Colorado Springs. Those aren’t the only two places I’ve driven, but they are the only two I’ve driven in more than a couple days. Well, Oxford Ohio area, too, but that’s an entirely different experience. I went to college up there, straight north from here on US 27. At the time, there was a stretch named “Highway to Heaven.” There were a couple dozen little crosses at one particular spot, showing all the people who’d died there from traffic accidents. Over what time period, I don’t recall, but it was unusually short. My first year in college is when the state finally got everything ready to fix the road. I don’t remember if I actually saw the crosses live – the University requested they be taken down before the students started arriving – but I did see them in the various television reports, often enough that I recognized the spot without the little crosses. I was a passenger for my first few years; back then, it was a no-car campus. You had to be a commuter, married, or at least 23 to have a car on campus. Extraordinary circumstances would make a difference, too. But there was only one place to park for most of us – Millett Hall. For someone living on North or East Quads, it’s not a big deal. It’s right there. For those in the Central or South Quads or Western, it was a good 20-minute walk just to get there. Honestly, the area is so small (one of the oldest public Universities in the US – 1809), an entire driving student body would make traffic ridiculous. But, competition for students apparently got intense, they caved and now allow cars. Parking was hard enough when cars *weren’t* allowed. Can’t imagine how much worse it is now.

Neither here nor there. I was there long enough to have an automatic parking pass. I took the extended stay option – I changed my major starting my junior year, to something that required four years and didn’t offer classes in the summer. I graduated three years later than I was planning. I’m not currently using my degree (BA Music – was going to be Music Ed, but I didn’t do my student teaching), but I don’t regret it. I have a little regret for going back to school and not finishing my Accounting master, but there were a few things going on, so I suppose I should cut myself a little slack.

There is one thing…

I was watching a mindless TV magazine show, and they mentioned a website that sounded interesting. So I took a look. It’s addictive.

What Would I Say? Connect it to your Facebook account, and it will scour your statuses and probably previous posts, and come up with a status on its own. Most of the time, the text isn’t at all coherent; lots of sentence fragments and unattached verbs and adjectives. But once in a while, there are some good ones.

These are all unedited –

  • The whole comfort factor. I kinda bummed, now.
  • In 2008, Stevie performing this, but what I’ve seen pictures, and, well, nightynight, y’all. – *Stevie came up a lot. Didn’t think I’d made that many mentions, but apparently, I did. Wonder, not Nicks.
  • I got a bit like Clapton, Prince, and green brain thingies. I’d like to see several of my hair short Daytona Beach Taking a person’s opinion in politics, in a bit of fall, anyway.
  • Swing your fingers off she’s cute – *I was going to stop here, but I couldn’t; I had to go on

This was my favorite –

  • Even the models don’t look like a higher grade of crap out, munching on my front page.

I think I’ll go cover my side mirrors. Scraping those is a royal pain. Nighty-night, y’all!

Obstacle Course

Construction - Road Closed
How far do you go before you’re considered ‘thru traffic,’ I wonder…

It’s Veteran’s Day weekend. Since I work for a bank, and we get bank holidays (we didn’t at my last employer – but I did have five weeks vacation), it’s a three-day weekend for me. Took a half-day on Thursday, too. I think I stopped at Meijer after work – can’t really say on the way home, because it’s actually the opposite direction – and picked up a few things I needed. Yeah, that’s right, that’s what I did. Sorry, CKD brain getting worse; memory’s kinda shot. While driving there, I came across a detour of sorts. Well, more like a sign telling me that no through traffic was allowed. It was a large sign attached to two or three orange-and-white pylons, more visible than the old cones, and probably cheaper than the orange barrels. there’s a huge exchange being built for I-71 through an area that desperately needs it. There’s a lot going on right in that space, and getting on and off I-71 was tricky at the best of times.

So I maneuvered around the sign, since I wasn’t going through, I was going to the store. When leaving, I had to wait for someone who didn’t understand hand signals, particularly the ones that meant “move.” My patience is shot, too.

Friday morning, I had an appointment – getting a new baseline ultrasound of my kidneys. The last one is lost to the universe. While I was there, I figured I’d take care of the bloodwork my new specialist wants. Great, no problem, eat a late dinner so I’m not starving in the morning, pay a visit to the vampires, maybe grab something to eat before the ultrasound.   The hospital where I was going to have all this done is undergoing it’s own transformation, starting last year. It’s a very big project, and it’s taking up a lot of space. The new Heart Center looks cool, though. It’s also affecting parking in a very big way, and navigation in a very big way. I had my first appointment with the specialist on Monday. I was fifteen minutes late. Not because I left late, but because I just couldn’t figure out where to park and where to go in. Eventually I parked in the hospital garage, and took an extensive tour of the grounds to the Medical Office Building, where I thanked the cell phone gods for reception while I called to ask where I was supposed to go. I had it written down – on my desk at work.

Friday morning, I got there before 11. My ultrasound was scheduled for 11:30. I stopped at the lab to see how long of a wait it would be – 30-40 minutes. Too long. Starving, lost, and a little confused, I tried to figure out where to go for the ultrasound. I stopped at the information desk just outside of the lab. She sent me to the women’s center where they do mammograms. Fortunately for me, the hospital’s computers are sync’d up, and the receptionist there was able to point me in the right direction – in the hospital, maybe half a mile away.

Color Explosion at Spring Grove 164as
Nothing to do with the story, I just like it. Impressed myself.

I set off on my journey to the hospital’s  ultrasound lab. I checked my supplies to make sure I had enough to carry me to my next destination. Insurance card, check. Photo ID, check. I was ready. I crossed the narrow connector, braving chilly breezes and backhoe fumes to reach my destination. At last I had reached the hospital. My journey was far from over. I was able to enlist the aid of locals at the information desk to find out where I needed to register. Spent, and not a little frustrated, I found it. I took my seat in the waiting area, playing with my tablet and using the hospital’s free WiFi – I hadn’t been able to use it for months, not on my tablet, and not on the laptop I was given, back when I was out of work and nearly out of money. I recovered in the oddly-comfortable waiting area chair, anxious to hear my name, anxious to know when  my journey would finally end. At last, my name was called; I was able to register! I still had fifteen minutes to go – I was going to make it! I followed the directions of the registration desk clerk, and wound up in the ER. *sigh* A kind nurse walked me to the desk I really needed.

Ultrasound completed, I made my way back to the lab. I’d made the trek twice before, so returning was much easier. Didn’t need an oxygen tank or anything. Waited, got my blood drawn, and started fantasizing about breakfast. Getting out of the parking garage was a piece of cake. Getting back onto Auburn Avenue was a little more challenging. Not that bad, but I was hungry and a little delirious, with visions of omelets and burgers dancing in my windshield. That might be a slight exaggeration.

I finally made it out of the lot, and back to the main streets. I turned left onto Reading Road (pronounced like Redding), after waiting for people to figure out how to use an intersection and acceleration pedal – remember that whole ‘patience shot’ thing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was – before me was an orange construction sign, and orange and white pylons. The lane I was in was closed ahead. At least, that’s what the sign said. So, being the polite drivers we are, the person beside me drove the same speed, effectively trapping me in the lane, trying to force me behind him. Mind you, I was already in front. Red car. You know how that goes.

Color Explosion at Spring Grove 234bs
C’mon, it’s funny!

The sign was wrong – my lane was open; the other was closed. And again, being the type to return no man evil for evil, I kept driving so the jerk would be stuck in his lane. Once I got to Reading and Oak, it started to get interesting. There were construction machines, flashing yellow lights, and a lane full of cars that weren’t moving. Then someone drove in the closed lane. It was anarchy! For two blocks, the people in that lane made progress. Because of that, their numbers grew. It wouldn’t last forever, of course. That lane was actually closed. By that point, I’d found myself in that lane. I was stuck behind a white van, and there was a lot of stopping and starting – it just got ugly. At last, I broke free. I was hungry and tired, and not looking forward to ripping off the gauze from where they drew blood. That tape stings!

I managed to avoid the last of the construction in my path and get something to eat. Felt much better after that. I thought about going out with my camera, but I was going to see Peter Pan that evening, and I didn’t want to be too tired for that. Talented kids.

Y’know, this was supposed to be about construction in the city, accidents, and obnoxious drivers. I even had a bit about the Cincinnati Slalom in mind. Oh well. I suppose I shouldn’t be too terribly surprised – these never go the direction I intend.

For all those who are serving, and the families waiting for them to come home, Happy Veterans Day, and thank you.


Afternoon Out 170a1
The Golden Hour in Silver

It’s the first weekend in November. Partly cloudy, here, but there will be sun, and very little rain, if any. I drove up to my father’s house after work yesterday, hung out for a bit, so that was cool. On the way there, though, I got distracted. I knew the leaves would be changing soon – there had been trees in various states of change. I didn’t expect it to explode with color!

There are times when a photographer wants the sky to be a little overcast, for the sun to be hidden. It’s a softer light. Shooting when the sun is strongest can cause very sharp lines, strong definition, harsh shadows. There’s a place for that, there’s a way to use that light, but it’s tricky to get something soft and beautiful without editing. During the parts of the day when the sun isn’t so strong, it’s easier to use the light and shadow to good advantage. When it’s brightly overcast (not something those in drier climates see often), that’s wonderful for portraits – minimal shadow.

Then there’s “The Golden Hour.”

08-19-2013 073a
Doesn’t mean I haven’t shot a sunrise; it’s just really early.

It’s a period of time before sunset or after sunrise – actual length depends on latitude and time of year, and probably altitude, although I’m not sure about that one – when the light is softest, and warmest. If you’re in a particularly photogenic place, look around an hour before sunset or after sunrise. The dedicated ones will be there. Me, I’m better at sunset than sunrise, ‘cuz sunrise comes so early in the morning.

The light during that special time doesn’t necessarily add a golden cast, although that’s the most common effect. If you shoot the right things with the right settings, the light becomes silver. A soft silver, which sounds contradictory, but it’s there. The saddest thing is it is so fleeting. From late fall to early spring, when the day is shorter, the one after sunrise and the one before sunset aren’t so ridiculously early or late, so there are some advantages to those times of year, I guess. I can’t imagine shooting dawn during summer in northern Michigan, let alone Alaska! Too early for me.

Ault Autumn 047as
Decorative grasses in the sun

That’s a little weird for me to say, if I’m honest. I’ve been awake for the past three hours – it’s 8:30. I woke up on my own. Happens all the time. When it happens during the week, I have to pay close attention. There’s a point where it’s just too late to go back to sleep, and a dilemma zone (to borrow from my driver’s ed classes) when it might be too late, or there might be just enough time. Those I decide by how tired I am. It’ll result in yawning by 9:30 regardless, but if i sleep, I’ll be less irritated with the world.

But I digress…

Ault Autumn 010as
Caught changing

This past Monday, I had an unexpected free evening. The sun was shining, the temperature was mild (upper 50s, I believe), and I had a camera. Well, I had a camera after I drove home from work and picked it up. Some trees had already lost half their leaves, while others remained steadfastly green. Still others were in the process of changing, decorated with leaves in green, flame orange, and scarlet, sometimes on the same leaf. I headed for one of the more picturesque – and popular – parks in the city, Ault Park.

I was a little surprised; I had no trouble finding a place to park. I expected it to be packed like it usually is on a beautiful day. There was a fair-sized crowd, but nowhere near what I expected. Made it a lot easier to take my time and get the shots I wanted, while listening to the various photographers cheering along their subjects. There were a few times I wanted to intervene, but it wasn’t my gig, my opinion wasn’t sought. So I kept my thoughts to myself, and wandered among the trees, pausing to admire the colors, then analyze the light, pick an angle, and click.

Today I will be going out again, shooting with a friend. It’s not about the photography, although that is important; it’s about spending time with a friend, doing something you enjoy. Plus, so many trees have changed all at once, it’s gorgeous!

Something to keep in mind: When you spend your time behind a camera, it’s entirely too easy to try to capture a moment instead of being in it. Very necessary when you’re doing portraits or events, but when you’re doing it for fun, well, it’s time to take a moment and be in it.