Saturday, September 2, 2017

Positively 4th Street...




Huh!!!  What the hell am I doing in Cleveland?

Strong armed by Jackie in one of those marital standoffs that you find your self in and know you can't win, I came here, kicking and screaming all the way to a Flynn family gathering at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for three and a half days of rocking and drinking. Not to say that there are not some perks to being here, but my ass hurt after the 7 hour drive, and it took a few days and more than a few scotch on the rocks to appreciate my relatively good fortune in being here.

We are staying in the Arcade Hotel, a crystal palace built on 1890 above and around the most ornate, tastefully extravagant indoor shopping mall in an architectural style and elegance that is breathtaking and rivals anything that could have been imagined by Renaissance Europeans.




Across the street is 4th Street where Clevelanders go to drink and get wild.  We spent a lot of time there drinking and celebrating something.  Somewhere along 4th Street is an alley that leads into a dingy netherworld where unspeakable things happen after dark and one is advised to stay away.  From the street, it looks pretty benign, even inviting once we got by Maurice, the official greeter who took a buck to pose for this picture...







I was lured in by the pretty flowers, the bright twinkling lights and a glimpse of graffiti at what appeared to be the end of the alley, but was just the beginning of something evil.  I took this picture of the graffiti and way prepared to go further which I started to do when I was approached by two guys who looked like they had nothing to lose and could eat you alive.  I smiled, waved, and moved back carefully and quickly, no longer curious about what lay beyond.




Other than that, loved Cleveland a town that exceeded all expectations in terms of intact architecture and inner city vibrance.  It is the hometown of the two guys who created the Superman character and comic.  At the public library across the street from the hotel, they had an exhibit celebrating the Superman thing.



    Pablo                                                         




Friday, September 1, 2017

YES Books in Portland...

Here I am at the YES bookstore in Portland Maine troubling myself about buying a cheap stained and tattered first edition of  henry miller's book, an air conditioned nightmare, a travelogue about his amble across america in the 1940's after his return from europe which i have been meaning to read, but have been unable to track down off line until now.  surprised to find that it is nothing more than a 200 page rant, a spewing of venomous distain and unvarnished hatred about everything american, and i mean everything.  after 10 glorious years in europe screwing and sucking and writing his way across the continent, the inconvenience of WW2 forced his return to the object of distain he previously sought to escape.  guess the french resistance should have been more to his liking although i guess obviously not.

i often trouble myself about buying used stuff becauseyouneverknow when the object will be inhabited.  i am generally not a believer in the paranormal, but i have had some unsettling experiences with antiques, a certain "inhabited" hotel room in Epinal, France in which I awoke with a start to the feeling of an overpowering presence that drove me out in the middle of the night  and don't even get me started on "vintage" clothes.  "nightmare" is the kind of book i would have written if i could write (minus the venom), but i can't so i take pictures and am often capable of 20 or 30 lines of moderately pithy prose to annotate this pictures so i am thankful.  never had that problem with a used book, so i should probably go back in and buy it, which I did.  thought it would be a funny sexy romp through america in the 40's, but i got that wrong.




Coincidently, we were just in Portland Oregon a few months ago on the last leg of our quest to see all of the lower 48 states and other than Voodoo Donuts, going to  Powell's Bookstore (no pictures...too big and under renovation), had to be a highlight where I found the holy grail...my search for a 1940 edition of the book that has had the most influence on my career as a photographer had come to a happy end, "California and the American West" by Edward Weston and Charis Wilson, and published by Deuel Sloan was on the shelf with dust cover for $50 an unheard of price.  Interestingly, Jackie said she had the feeling I would find it there.

Two Portlands, two books, and two donut shops.  Voodoo in Oregon, and...here, which I failed to document because it was great but not visually compelling and I didn't know it would be this important.  Love Portland, so another great reason to return.

                                                                   Pablo   

The Sand Hills...

Ever since coming across an October 1978 edition of National Geographic in my dentist's office  many years ago that had an article about  "Nebraska's Sand Hills" in it, I knew that was someplace I needed to see.  Like so many articles in NG, most of the pictures were of the people in the area, but it was evocative, there was one good little map suggesting that state road 2, beginning in Grand Island and ending in Alliance,  pretty well bisected the 19,000 square mile sea of sand hills that dominated the western part of the state.


We left Lincoln a little too late in the day expecting to spend the night in Grand Island and then beginning the journey along Route 2 from there.   Once we got to Grand Isle, to the uneducated eye, there appeared to be no compelling reason to be there, a decision I now regret because it was the beginning of the journey, but at the time, how could I have known what the journey was,  so we decided to keep driving to Broken Bow, driven by an evocative name that offered hope that this would offer the "authentic" Nebraska experience we were in search of.  Because it was now even later in the day, it was more of a mad dash to Broken Bow and bypassing what I now know were many missed opportunities.  But how could I have known then.  The only town we did stop to see between Grand Island and Broken Bow was Hazard and it's little downtown that consisted of about 2 unoccupied storefronts.  So much was missed along the way, but  like so many of our journeys, it was a learning curve that only made itself known along the way and even then, there was so much to learn.  Only looking back do you see what there was to be seen, how much you missed and hope you will get the chance to return to get it right.  On the balance, there was a lot good, but as always, it is the regrets of what could have been that prevail.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Red Lodge Montana...




For a change, Jackie was right once again.  When we pulled into Red Lodge Montana, parched and hungry on our mad dash to make it from Billings to Cody before evening.  We vowed not to stop too many times along the way, but Red Lodge was such an appealing place that we happily overstayed our welcome.  The minute we hit town, Jackie saw Mas Taco, a converted old gas station that has been repurposed into a Mexican Restaurant and decided that's where we would stop for lunch.  But I saw a Mexican place that I thought I liked better till I walked inside.  The bright inviting exterior quickly gave way to a dreary dingy depressing interior that looked more like a cheap Chinese take out place, so once again Jackie got it right the first time and Mas Taco it was.  Anyway I almost always like the idea of repurposed old gas stations, so what was I thinking?






Photo of Jackie waiting for our tacos and beer.  The tacos were very good and tasted great and Jackie always like sitting outside, but the tacos just really weren't photogenic, much as I tried.  You'll just have to take our word for it if you should ever find yourself passing through Red Lodge.
This next photos are the best looking building in town and a ghost sign.







   Pablo





Friday, June 30, 2017

Shoshoni Wyoming






No, this is not the mean streets of the South Bronx during the bad old days of the 1970's when NYC was a cesspool on the verge of bankruptcy and implosion when you put your life in jeopardy by venturing into the streets after dark.  Mid afternoon was almost as bad.  Early morning, when the drug addled baddies were still stuporous was your best chance to sneak out to the grocery and drug store and make it home unscathed.  No it isn't Camden New Jersey  Detroit Michigan South Philly or some other corner of burnt out inner city hell!!!  This is/was Shoshoni Wyoming, a once thriving harmless little former farming/railroad town in the middle of nowhere, literally, there are nothing but cows, sheep, and the occasional human to be seen for 30 miles in any direction.  What happened here?




In our travels throughout the midwest, through town after town abandoned and imploding but we have never seen such desolation, destruction, and architectural decay as we saw in Shoshoni.   The only building in town that was intact, actually new, was the post office.




One last mystery occurred as we were driving toward the end of town, down by the tracks.  On the side of the last building on the block, an abandoned, white, nondescript building with no identifying markers was this sign, which seemed somewhat recently painted, but gives no ides about what might be picked up.




As we were leaving town with a sick feeling in our stomach, we were kind of thankful that the Tumble Inn steakhouse on Highway 20 at the edge of town was not open that day to tempt us with some of their mouth watering sizzling' steaks which we would have had to reluctantly pass on anyway.



                                                                              Pablo

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monument to the American Spirit, Cowley Wyoming...




On route 14A about 1/2 mile or so before entering Cowley, Wyoming, a town of about 650, 20 miles or so south of the Montana border, which we passed through on our way to Billings, we came across the most exceptional sight, this structure, constructed at the edge of a farm/ranch facing the highway.

It was kind of late in the day, the sun was getting low in the sky, and we were on a mad dash to make it to Billings before sundown.  Cowley was another unremarkable rural town with not much else in town to take a photo of, but the above average welcome sign and this monument to the American spirit.  It is strong, impressive and a heart felt amalgam of everything that the western spirit stands for.





There was no indication who created it, but its pride in America and the western spirit speaks volumes.  Glad we choose this out of the way route to Billings the other day.

                                                                Pablo




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Postcards from the road from Nebraska...

Here we are in Chadron Nebraska, resting up after what can only be described as a heroic (I use that term quite loosely in as much as just about everyone in America seems to qualify as a hero of one sort or other for dubiously unusual acts that diminish the word to viral blather) 5 or 6 hour  heavily  photo op interrupted drive from Broken Bow to here along State Route 2  arriving in Chadron,  parched, exhausted and heat stroked to the point of delusion, which did seem to clear nicely after 2 beers.  But here are some shots taken along the way.






If Donald had only stuck to something he did well, like making burgers, instead of trying to manage our unmanageable country, we will have all been better off, but people wanted a change from the status quo and they got it.  But will they live through it?  Another story.



Anselmo, Nebraska










I know that the above photo doesn't look like much, but for me it is like hitting the jackpot.  Over the years I have been taking pictures of interesting post offices where ever I find them and at this point I have quite a collection.  Another project has been finding old banks in Nebraska that have either been abandoned or repurposed.  The reason I hit the jackpot here is that this is an old bank (in Mason City Nebraska) that has been repurposed into a post office.  Wow!!!




I always like to say that we jump on any excuse to come to Nebraska, like the proverbial dog on a bone, and Jackie's cousin Christopher's wedding in Nebraska City was the why this time.  Wedding, 2 days in Lincoln, and a day in Red Cloud for our annual pilgrimage to Willa Cather's home town now that we are regulars and long standing members of the Cather society.  Being major donors, we are accorded special privilege which we bask in.  There are very few places in which they roll out the red carpet for me anymore, or even notice I exist, so I like Red Cloud.











Red Cloud was just another midwestern town on the verge of implosion and irrelevance, but for Mrs. Bennett, founder of the Willa Cather Society celebrating Willa's formative years, something she would have found ironic and a bit of a hoot, all things considered, but latch on to her coattails they did, and have done an amazing job of turning the town around on the strength of the work the've done to create a world class archive and study center.  Kudos, and glad to have been a significant part of the tail end of the effort.

                                                                      Pablo