Friday, December 13, 2013

Back home in Manhattan and nothing to say...

I used to work with this psychiatrist who had a colleague who was manic depressive.  He said that although they had lost contact, he could tell how things were going with the guy by his output.  A glut of articles  and maybe a book, or just extended silence.  Right now,  I'm in an extended silence.  Down and out,  and not much to say.  But really, the blog was not about words, but pictures.  Started out by writing to provide context, and got ahead of myself, thought I had something to say, and maybe I did, but when I didn't, it was a struggle.   Got back from Boise in the second week of September and after a few days to recover, we ended up in NYC for 3 or 4 days on business, staying at the Andaz Hotel on the corner (more or less) of Wall and Pearl Streets, safe within the claustrophobic confines of the narrow New York street grid.  Hadn't been down that far in years, and had no idea what to expect, and few expectations.  Took the old IRT from Penn Station to Wall Street now the MTA number 3...It was good to be back and the amble downtown was productive.

Whenever I'm on the subway, I feel compelled to take pictures of my fellow riders, in the shadow of Walker Evans and all those Photo leaguers who came  before me and spent days and weeks riding the subways usually with concealed cameras and slowish film taking pictures of fellow riders.  Like them, the results were mixed, but if you rode the subway enough, like they did, and got one or two good ones a day, you had something.  This was my good one during the rise down town, which in itself could be considered a day's work.

Sunday morning was warm enough, quiet, and full of surprise for one not expecting much.  There was the above bit of street theater involving a photo shoot for some thing or other.  Never thought to ask what, because it didn't seem important, and actually still doesn't.  Got the e-mail address of the photographer and sent this to him.  He was thrilled, really.

A very mini protest/Occupy Wall Street effort on the steps of the Federal Building at 30 Wall Street.  There wasn't much response to this meager but heartfelt effort with only 5 or 6 people pausing for a minute or so to watch before moving on.  Maybe there was something about the nexus of the menacing neo-fascist/peace movement thing raised fist that scared people off in our post 9/11 world.  They didn't seemed spooked by my taking pictures, and I didn't ask any questions.

These three photos are a study in contrasts somehow counterpointing the relativity of space people in Texas and New York require to exist.

Lastly was Mina's Shoe Repair, an anomalous/anachronistic remnant/reminder of little tradesman in a little shop tucked away amidst the soaring grey megalithic monuments to Mammon reminiscent of an earlier bygone era when NYC was inhabited by regular people who used to make things, do things, tradesmen, who lived and worked there crafting furniture, brewing beer, printing newspapers, selling shoes and socks, selling and repairing appliances, manufacturing garments, slaughtering animals, basically providing everything a city needed to exist who can no longer can afford living here and who are no longer needed, who no longer sit on stoops or fire escapes on warm summer nights as children run wild in the streets, through the neon nights of city nights....I mean, who gets their shoes repaired anymore?



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bozeman Montana...

So I know I have mentioned Bozeman a number of times in prior postings, as if it was some kind of destination, which it really wasn't,  just another whistle stop on the Boise express, where we will end our trip where we started, in a week or so spending the last 3 or 4 days there for Rosh Hashanah.  In fact, my only real acquaintance with the place prior to this was in an episode of The Big Bang Theory in which Sheldon Cooper chooses it as the perfect place for him to move after their apt was broken into.  He was right, and for that reason, Bozeman turned out to be not all that photogenic, it being a well manicured, upscale college town with nice bars, nice restaurants, nice sporting goods shops, a really nice, in fact great food coop with great prepared food right by the bus station,  everything clean and well kept, which did not fit well into my photoparadigm, but even so, I reluctantly admit that I had a great time, even if I was old enough to be a professor emeritus.   Here's me at Wild Joe's Coffee Place, a great place to set up your laptop, or put your feet up.

That's Jackie holding the coffee cup and taking the picture.  I can't keep up with her anymore.  One of these days I will be turning in my camera.  Lately all I've been been reduced to taking pictures of signs.  Like shooting ducks in a barrel.  Talking about signs, we were quite hungry when we hit town and saw the sign for Ted's Montana Grill and Jackie thought it sounded like a great place for a burger.  It is in the historic Hotel Baxter and it looked perfect...

While we were checking out the menu, they put out out a ramekin full of these freshly made pickles that were indeed fresh and delicious.  Those are some coriander seeds on top.

Loved them so much that when we got home, I adapted my pickle recipe to recreate them,  nailed it, and everyone loved them.

Two quarts of water that has been boiled to remove the chlorine, let cool
Two tablespoons of kosher or sea salt added to water while still warm
Three tablespoons of white vinegar
One and a half tablespoons of coriander seeds
One tablespoon of mustard seeds
Two or three tablespoons of roughly cut fresh garlic
Ten or so medium sized pickling cucumbers

Place cucumbers whole in a bowl with the brine for two days.  Then cut them into one inch chunks and return them to the brine for 2 days or so.  Then refrigerate to stop the pickling and eat.  Didn't add dill here because the ones at Ted's had none, but you can if you want..

Everything about Ted's was great.  Great food, burgers were perfect, historic, rich, well maintained surroundings, a nice waitress, no complaints.  Thought we had stumbled onto a truly unique Montana experience.  We wondered if the Ted was as in Ted Turner, a big name, land holder, and buffalo rancher in these parts, so we googled it to find out, and that's where the disillusionment began.

Ted's Montana Grill is one of a chain of 44 restaurants which first opened in was first opened in 2002 in Columbus, Ohio by Ted and some entrepreneurs as a "for profit effort to stop the extinction of the American Bison".  While on the brink not so long ago, with the help of many including Ted Turner, bison have been back in reasonably large numbers for some time now, so at this point, I'm not sure how selling a few thousand bison burgers are needed to stop their extinction.  Also in the very short entry, Wikipedia also mentioned that  part of the restaurant's eco friendly approach was "the re-introduction of paper straws", wow!!!.  Now if Ted could just use the connections his billions bought at the UN to do something about all the raw coal smoke and toxic waste the Chinese and Indians are spewing into the air and pouring into the water every day to the extent that their citizens are literally choking to death, we would have something environment friendly.  It's true what they say, that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, although it didn't change our experience.  Great burgers, Ted.

But as always, I digress.   Ted's really was great in every respect, so much so that we made it a point to return there once more before heading to Helena, Montana.  The motel signs along Route 7 leading into town are a part of Americana that are also heading slowly toward extinction, so...

And if your name is Ellen, you are in luck in Bozman... 


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Black Thunder Mine...

Mystery solved!!!

Traveling through Nebraska as much as Jackie and I do, we are continually seeing long trains full of coal heading east, and equally long freight trains heading west, empty.  Knowing that there is no coal mining that we were aware of in western Nebraska, we always just figured the coal was coming from Wyoming, and never thought much more about it.  Well, it was true, and while heading east on the 450 to meet up with the 116, there it was, Black Thunder mine, "The Largest Surface Coal Mine in North America".   Didn't know whether to applaud or cry.  But here we were...

Along side of the road, was the machinery by which they fill each of the coal cars with just the right amount of coal.

In as much as I have never been inside of a Walmart or a sausage factory, I decided not to opt for a tour of the facility, but from what I could tell from the side of the road, the strip mined coal is somehow transported to a station at the bottom end of the long white tube which contains a conveyor belt carrying the coal to the silo, and one by one, the coal cars stop in a little tunnel under the silo where just the right amount of coal is dispensed and so on ad infinitum/naseum, depending on your politics.  Not rocket science, but we never really gave any thought as to how the process worked.  Quite efficient.  On to the 116 to Hulett and the Devil's Tower, our last stop in Wyoming.....


Monday, September 23, 2013

Lander Wyoming

Lander is a wonderful small town at the confluence of Highways 287 and 789 kind of midway between Jackson and Casper Wyoming, a city Jackie has been wanting to see,  but we were beat and decided to spend the night in Lander along the way, a really good choice.

This is the view from the rise in the highway leading into town.  There is not much behind me, and the vast forbidding mountainous wilderness ahead.  Not so long ago this was all there was for 50 miles in any direction and getting anywhere took courage and strength.  Lucky for us there was a good Mexican restaurant in town, and no shortage of bars.  The one below was also a micro-brewery to the left and the little wooden attached structure to the right was an ice cream stand.  What more could you ask for.

Why there's someone ordering a scoop right now.  Before we left town, we stopped in the Lander Art Center and saw the well seen paintings of someone who seemed to understand the emptiness that surrounds this place.

Loved the paintings, bought the poster, had some coffee and left town traveling east toward Casper.  I know I didn't take enough pictures of Lander, but I guess when you are just passing through, its just what catches your eye, and I did walk through town and that's all I saw (on the sunny side of the street anyway). 
As we left town, we passed through the suburbs...

and a few miles further down the road, a book seller who realizes that if you are going to make it out here, you have to diversify!!!

Don't even ask.  I showed this photo to a friend who loved it and asked about the person running the shop.  I felt badly that I had no idea.  I was so thrilled with the photo, and we did need to move on, that I never even thought of checking it out.  And I am a person who haunts used book stores.  


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Idaho at last or is that 4th from last....

I have never really mentioned it before, but I retired early a few years back, not because I was particularly old or disliked my job as a forensic psychologist, which was actually more interesting than most, and impressed the hell out of other people, making me the life of the party where people couldn't get enough of my pulp fiction sagas of the blood and gore depravity of the criminally insane, a generally innocuous and mundane group who required a certain degree of creative fabrication on my part to breathe a menacing level of evil into them.  No, I left this enviable position because I was becoming bored, irritable and twitchy, sitting behind a desk in a state mental institute when there was a whole country out there that existed only in maps and photographs by Walker Evans and Edward Weston and Stephen Shore and Danny Lyon et al, that was calling out to me and which I feared may no longer be there if I waited much longer.  I needed to see  America, more particularly the lower 48 states into which I had been born and to take pictures of what I saw, which is what this blog has been about.  I was at first depressed and dismayed to find that the America I dreamed about no longer existed and thought I had missed my chance.  But slowly my eyes opened to the America left to me to see and document, and so I have.  I went in search of America, and I found it!!!

On August 19, 2013, we flew into Boise, rented a car, and headed east on Highway 20 along the southern quarter of the state, past the smoldering aftermath of the massive Sun Valley forest fire to begin our journey thought Idaho (Wyoming already visited), and Montana, the  45th and 46th states in out quest.  Since we didn't stay in Boise initially, my only photo from there was this one taken at the airport.

Someone else's photo idea, but I couldn't have said it better.  As I mentioned we got the car and headed east on the 20 to spend out first night in Idaho Falls.

A number of years ago, we were traveling were traveling along Highway 50 along the Great Basin in Mid Nevada, a road called the loneliest highway in America.  It may well be, but over the years, our ambles through Nebraska, Wyoming, Texas, Montana and now Idaho, have brought us upon many roads that are equally desolate and vastly devoid of life that might challenge that title.  Highway 20 was certainly one.  The first town on the map about 40 miles from anywhere was Hill City.  I was an abandoned collection of 5 or 6 commercial structures, all empty and back lit, so I couldn't get any satisfying photo of what was there, but I was not too disappointed since they not that old or of any great historical interest.  In fact the only structure well lit was this phone booth, although the dangling wire did not bode well for its availability in an emergency.  So be informed that for all intents and purposes, Hill City does not exist.  Nor does dependable cell phone service, so have a full tank and plenty of water, good advice for travel through much of the mid west.

As we drove between Hill City and Fairfield, the next dot on the map, there was little evidence of civilization, but at one point we came across these now abandoned markers of human activity in close proximity to each other indicating a town, but there were no signs or markings indicative of where we were.

The next dot on the map was Fairfield, 40 miles down the way, a moderately substantial town where you could buy groceries and gas, have a beer or two, mail a letter and get a hamburger, shake and some pretty good onion rings.  I don't usually take pictures of food, although I sometimes think I should, and in the case of great pizza in unlikely locations, I do, but in this case, you will have to take my word for it.

That's Jackie, ordering a hamburger, vanilla shake, and onion rings.  They were all were pretty good, and better that we expected at this point.

Main Street, Fairfield...

And as a collector of examples of great American Architecture, how could I pass up a photo of this gas station at the edge of town.
Leaving town, our last stop before heading to Idaho Falls, where we are to spend the night, was the Craters of the Moon National Monument which was a vast field of the charred, cindered, black ashen remains of ancient volcanic activity incongruously in the middle of this otherwise golden, sunlit, pastoral landscape which the next photo by Jackie shows me trying to grapple with.  I am not good with landscapes.

Photo by Jackie, of me trying futilely to capture the vastness and incomprehensibility of this prehistoric natural wonder beyond comprehension. 

A vast, black, other worldly place the can not be contained in a photo.  So the best I could do was to fall back on tried and true devices to organize things in the short time we were there, but to no avail.  If you get the chance to get there, you won't be sorry.  On to Idaho Falls.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Canajoharie New York and it's Dummy Light

So we drove to Canajoharie, N.Y.  today to see a photography exhibit at the Arkell Museum, a selection of about 35 photos on loan from an art museum in Syracuse, N.Y.  My main motivation for going was to see an original print of the photo of Edward Weston and Margarethe Mather taken by Imogene Cunningham and displayed on the cover of the book- A Passionate Collaboration, one of my favorite photographs and one of the best portraits ever taken.  The original was a sepia colored platinum/palladium print, however the one in the exhibit was a b&w silver print, obviously printed much later, which was a bit of a disappointment.

While there we enjoyed the small museum with its lovely collection and explored the town which may be at the beginning of a slow, inexorable decline, now that Beech Nut foods, it's main employer has left town, and left them with a large, sprawling, empty plant, an ever increasing number of empty store fronts and some sense of desperation about the future, a feeling that is not uncommon among a vast number of places across the country that have been abandoned by their primary employer.  Presently the town is in great physical shape, and as always, I am hoping they will find a way to repurpose themselves before the decay starts to set in.  Here are a few photos taken of the still lovely village...

A little research on the town informed me that this is called a "dummy light".  It is reported to be one of only 3 in NYS, and possibly the whole country.  It is unique and the best example of its type, but many people in the town find it to cause confusion and to be an overall nuisance to the orderly flow of traffic and want it removed.   They are fools.  With the loss of Beech-Nut, if they took the light away, what would be left?

Church Street looking north.

This last  one is a picture of the abandoned Beech Nut plant taken from the memorial garden at the Arkell Museum.  Mr. Arkell who founded the company and contributed most of what comprises the lovely collection in the museum seems like someone who cared alot about the well being of his town and its people, most of whom worked for him, would most certainly be quite unhappy about the sad state of affairs created by decisions made by the present owners of his creation.