Sunday, December 22, 2013

Landing in San Antonio Texas...

So we are just beginning our Highway 83 Texas road trip and have flown from Albany to San Antonio via somewhere and are spending a couple of nights at the Gunter Hotel on Houston Street.

The Gunter Hotel is historic and a great place to stay.  It was built around the turn of the century and is in the middle of renovations, although even at the best of times, it is not all that photogenic.

Got up around 8:30 and was out walking around the street soon after.  Being a poor sleeper, even at the best of times, I did admire this tired cowboy who seemed to be fast asleep when I walked by and took this compromising photo.  More interesting was that fact that he took his boots off and just left them on the sidewalk where anyone could have taken them, but obviously didn't.  I'm sure this was not the first time he did this with full confidence that the boots would be there upon wakening.  In Texas, boot stealing must be akin to cattle rustling.  Something which is just not done.  Compared to this, the rest of San Antonio paled in comparison, nice and worth seeing, but with a kind of inexplicable blandness about it that is best viewed on picture postcards.  Even the Alamo which is a must see, seemed smaller than you might imagine and only mildly interesting in its renovated and sort of cordoned off state.

Anyway, I have been on the road in search of America, and this is certainly a sight you won't see in Paris or Budapest.  But if you love Tex-Mex food, you are in the right place.  
As I always like to say, if you get even one really good picture,  it has been a great day, photographically and I peaked early today. 


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, December 4, 2013

Yellowstone Park..

The last stop on our road trip before we returned to Boise for Rosh HaShannah.  This time around, I made the effort to have all the postings in a chronological order (written after the fact), which was good in a way and stifling in another, but at last, here I am.  What can you say about Yellowstone that hasn't been said before.  Enormous, spectacular, and in two days, much of which was rainy, you barely scratch the surface.


First night we stayed at the Mammoth Hot Springs in this great little cabin where I slept like a log which is almost unheard if for me.  Jackie took the tour but I stayed back to laze around.

Then it was on to Old Faithful on what turned out to be a kind of drizzly/rainy day which turned out to be a minor inconvenience, but was the causal factor for a pretty great photo I took that day at the Artists Paint Pot Trail.

Here is an intrepid Jackie, braving the elements along the way.  The next one is her with a bunch of Japanese tourists overlooking some pretty active hot springs.

I always like to say that if you get one really good photo, its been a great day, and this is it.  You never know when or where they will make themselves available, but if you have your camera at hand and recognize the opportunity presented you and shoot first and ask questions later, you've got something.  Was pretty satisfied and ready to finish out wet walk and on to Old Faithful via the Yellowstone River.

If you have any doubts about the faithfulness of Old Faithful, at the visitor center, they have a clock telling you when the next eruption is, every 90 minutes or so.  When it is late, you wonder if it will happen or if you saw the last one ever, but you will be rewarded for your patience, because the late ones are bigger and better due to increased preasure.  

Have to admit that due to the vagueries of the situation clouds, position of the sun, time of day, etc etc,  I was not able to get a satisfying photo to the geyser, and a poor photo is worse than none at all.  But I did get this great photo of the guy next to me in the viewing area who spoke some strange and totally unfamiliar language whose Nikon was locked and loaded and he probably got a picture he was pretty pleased with.  Even if it wasn't that great, I'm sure there's no Yellowstone where he comes from, so the folks back home will be awed.  We certainly were with each eruption.

And finally, here is this strange photo of Jackie and me at the free photo booth where you can have an old style photo taken of yourself in front of Old faithful (digitally) and e-mail it home.  After 3 or 4 takes, we gave up and settled on this one.

This marks the end of my at times strained effort to present a chronologically organized photolog of our trip.  Some good pictures, saw 3 new states, 2 left for next year and now back to Boise for Rosh Ha Shannah and then home for a rest before heading off to Highway 83 for while.


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 29, 2013

Livingston Montana

After a while all small midwestern towns start morphing into one another.   A town more or less in the middle of nowhere,  with a more or less eviscerated main street full of abandoned, deteriorating buildings, broken windows, a pawn shop, consignment stores, a cafe or two, a bank, some bars, a beauty salon, maybe an art gallery,  sometimes a bit more, sometimes less, and always the question "Where did everyone go?".   So we weren't ready for the surprising vibrancy and sense of wholeness and relevance we found in Livingston.  There were stores to buy things, people in the street, theaters, hotels, a shoe store, fantastic art galleries.  No wonder Peter Fonda et al live here, so says Google!!!   As they say in Latin, re ipse loquator (it speaks for itself) so here are the pictures Jackie and I took there.

The first 6 photos were taken in the afternoon on the sunny side of Main Street, the last 3 were taken along  West Park Avenue which runs along side the railroad tracks.  This last photo is quite special.  An architectural gem, when function still determined form...

Built in 1946 when the station began to broadcast, it is now abandoned and in tenuous condition.  In spite of the fact that it is on the National Register of Historic Buildings, it is a mess inside and is receiving questionable attention at best as you can see from neglected look of the outside.  The station continues to broadcast from a "feed" out of Bozeman.  Someone's idea of progress, I'm sure.
Next stop, Bozman...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Big Timber Montana

In the service of continuity, I must mention Big Timber at this point.  Forgot we were even there till I looked at my memory chip while working on the somewhat unsatisfying Billings blog.  Wish I had taken a few more pictures there, but didn't.   Anyway, about 100 miles or so east of Billings, on our way to Bozeman, for some reason we stopped in this medium sized town of Big Timber that was a bit out of the way.  Given the paucity of big trees on the Montana plains, I'm not sure where they got the name, but so be it.

Anyway, the oddest thing happened.  While I was standing at the intersection of McLeod Street and 7th Ave, waiting for Jackie to do whatever it was she was doing that I was waiting for, I first saw a Coca Cola truck, and 3 minutes later, a Pepsi truck pulling onto McLeod.   Maybe it wasn't so odd, considering the vast amount of soft drinks consumed in the US.




Sunday, October 27, 2013

Billings Montana

The travel gods must have been watching over us after that heroic escape from the searing heat and potentially mind numbing tedium that was awaiting us had we had prolonged our Miles City stay.  We initially scoffed, but  Bob Coronato, artist in residence in Hulett, Wyoming was right about how much time we needed to spend in vast eternity of emptiness that is eastern Montana, and Billings promised to offer the big city remedy that we needed about now.   After consulting her AAA guide, Jackie determined that the Crowne Plaza Hotel was where we should stay, but upon calling, she was told they were booked solid.   Since we seemed to have stayed at a bunch of Best Westerns lately she called and got us a room at the Clock Tower Best Western.

The above photo was taken from outside out room at the Clock Tower Best Western in the center of downtown Billings, and in the distance is the cold and foreboding maximum security facility that is the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  As I said, we dodged a bullet, and ended up in downtown and feeling like we were in Fort Lauderdale or something, and with the temps hovering around 100, a couple of scotch and sodas and a dip in the pool before it closed at 10pm was a transcendent experience.  Next time you are in Billings, check out and into the Clock Tower, you won't be sorry.

After such a wonderful and fortunate start to our stay, things just kept getting better.  Attached to the Clock Tower if Stella's Bakery/Restaurant, considered by many to be the best place to eat breakfast and/or lunch, and they are right.  Included in our room rate was breakfast and everything there was big and more than just good.  The pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, cinnamon buns, bacon and eggs, potatoes,  on and on...Better than it needed to be and it was packed.  Sat outside, so got a quick table.  No pictures but rave reviews from Jackie who is very particular.  After breakfast spent the day walking around.

First Ave. and North Broadway, gives you a good feel for the size and scale of the city...

This is the building to the left in the above photo.  Like its name, it exudes power.

The ticket booth at the Babcock...They put more thought into the design of a ticket booth back then, then people put into the design of entire buildings these days!!!

The Babcock Theater on 2nd Ave facing 27th St was built in 1907 according to their web page and it appears to have been in operation more or less ever since from what I can gather.  The present owners state that they are only the 3rd owner of the place in all those years.  That tent like structure is a permanent installation over the intersection of 2nd and 27th and really ties things together.   Plastered around the city were posters for and upcoming film festival a the Babcock  as big as Montana itself...

Down on Montana street, the first road that runs along the railroad tracks, was the Rex Hotel, no longer a hotel, but it did have a nice restaurant with outdoor seating, but being a vegetarian there was not much for me to eat...

So we ended up having dinner at the Ciao Mambo,  a really good Italian restaurant on Montana Street that I would highly recommend.
This is hardly an exhaustive overview of Billings, but I hope is shows it to be a nice city that did not disappoint.  Wish I had another day or two.