Thursday, October 27, 2016

Found Martha Holbrooke, now what...

Last summer while visiting Mady and Nate on the Cape, I went in search of an old gravestone I took a photo of many years ago, and while looking in the wrong burial ground, I took 2 pictures I liked a lot, (see posting...In search of Martha Holbrooke, 8/16).  While researching the stones, I found out  there is a whole school of study on the typology of old American gravestone etching art.  I also found that for the most part, the illustrative photos in these postings were not particularly good (poorly lit, tilted, out of focus, etc.), which gave me the idea for my next project.  Good gravestone photos.  I had not done this for a long time for personal reasons related to age and personal ethical issues, but I now had a justifiable purpose, and since Jeff and I were heading up to Provincetown this week, it seemed like a good time to spend some time at the Old North Truro Cemetery to see what I came up with.  Unfortunately, the first stone I was drawn to, of the winged head variety, quickly reminded me why I don't spend time in old cemeteries any more.

Abigail Adams, whose stone caught my eye, died in child birth at age 24 in 1774, while her husband Dr.  Samuel Adams stood helplessly by.  I felt badly about finding this tragic event as the basis for my artistic pursuit, and questioned myself about following through on the gravestone project, but as good hearted Jackie pointed out, I have probably spent more time thinking about Abigail Adams, her husband, and their suffering than anyone in a very long time, and isn't the purpose of the stone to keep people alive in someone's heart.  And its true, I only photographed a few stones this day, but I have felt a connection.

Then there is Jemimah Atkins who died in 1778 at age 28.  The winged skull and cross bones style here marks a transition from the last 3 stones posted expressing a sense of loss, hopelessness, despair, and possibly anger over the cruelty of the fates more clearly expressed than in the others. 

The curious case of one Israel Gross was one that interested this Jewish observer.  While the records do not directly indicate that Israel had Jewish roots, in fact the records list him as Methodist, but the first Gross to come over here in the early 1700's was a Simon Gross, Simon being a common Jewish name.  At the time, there were no Jewish cemeteries, and the thought of making a new start in the new world may have led to leaving behind an identity that suffered the slings and arrows of great prejudice in Europe.

Took some more photos over the weekend, but need time to mentally process them and see if I want to go ahead with the project .  There are a lot of mixed feelings now that I did get back and took a few more photos of the winged heads morphing into winged skulls variety.  Maybe thats enough for me for now.  But this does seem like a good place for another orphan picture taken at the Old Burial Ground in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Lark Street, USA

We have spent the last 6 or 7 years driving around and satisfying our curiosity about the US of A,  visiting all of the lower 48 states at least once and have seen more of Nebraska, Florida, and the Southwest than anyone I know, but nary a posting about our home town of Albany, NY.   Not that it is an uninteresting place, but its often the case that you don't see things that are right under your nose (literally).

On April 3, 2015, for example I was walking down Jay Street on the way to the gallery, and there on the sidewalk, a few houses down, were these wonderful old shoes, apparently left by some well meaning neighbor for someone to make good use of.  Used clothes give me the willies but taking a photo is ok.  This one was taken as is, with no effort on my part to pose them, proving the point that you don't need to go to Prague or Venice to get a good picture (although it helps, of course).

Sam's on Lark Street...

Up the block from us is Lark Street, the main drag in our section of the city, an area which has tried, unsuccessfully over the past 20 years, to reinvent itself into some kind of upstate Greenwich Village kind of place, but like most places trying to reinvent itself, it takes one step forward and two, sometimes three steps backward.  There is frequent business turnover, and presently a quarter of the storefronts are vacant, including both stores at the top of our block, and the last real art gallery is closing this month.  Restaurants, bars, tattoo parlors, two or three gift shops, and three second rate pizza places round out the picture.  Late at night as the bars empty, our streets are filled with hoards of squealing,  howling drunk 20 somethings from the burbs who have parked on our block and at 2am are heading back to their Subarus to drive home or to another bar, hopefully far away.   But I'm not here to rant., I'm here to report.   Sometimes I just can't help myself.  Sam's....

Three blocks from our house on Lark Street is Sam's, one of the last authentic greasy spoons in town, where an old guy can find peace and a bottomless cup of coffee in a questionably well washed cup, greasy eggs and fried potatoes of uncertain vintage that may leave you queasy,  even before you've tasted them, and pancakes that photograph well, but were dense, heavy, under cooked, and severely tested Jackie's aversion anything falling outside of her narrow comfort zone.  She was brave enough to accompany me on this dangerous assignment, and has nothing but regret about the food, but did find  the patrons welcoming and the conversation  intelligent and interesting.

The above photo was taken September 13, 2011, when our nephew Billy B. was up visiting for a few days and looking for some action on the wrong side of town.  These days, almost all of Albany could qualify as the wrong side of town so we started the day with breakfast at Sam's.  I hadn't been back since, but did remember the food to be surprisingly good and have looked forward to returning, but maybe 5 years was too long to wait.  The guy waving to us is John who lives across the street from us and judging by his placement in the next photo, he is still there, same seat.

I always kind of liked the 2011 photo and thought I should do a posting on Sam's, but thought it would be incomplete without some food photos, which I never got to,  so now that I convinced Jackie to join me on this urban adventure, the job is complete.  There is nothing cute about Sam's, but if you are in Albany and looking for the greasiest spoon in town, Sam's won't disappoint.

                                                   Bon Appetit  

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Jackson Street Books, Omaha...

If you should find yourself having to spend a few days in Omaha, Nebraska, and find yourself running out of things to do besides eating a lot, which should happen fairly quickly,  and if you enjoy a good used/antiquarian book store,  you are in luck. On Jackson Street, right in the middle of the old market area, you will find a vast, magical place called Jackson Street Books.  Unassuming and easy to pass by from the outside; but once you walk in, BOOM!!  You will be mesmerized.  Prepare to spend hours.

While there, I was drawn to the photograph of the author as a young man on the cover of a copy of Winter Journal, a memoir by Paul Auster, an infuriatingly self absorbed, self referential, hypnotically self obsessed (I use the word self a lot here for a reason), one of a kind Jewish middle class meta-existentialist born 11 days before me in 1947, into the tedium of a suburban middle class childhood which should have consigned him to the stifling mediocrity I struggle against but instead,  morphed him into an award winning international phenomena/ literary enigma who has grabbed my by the soul dragged me into the rabbit hole of his perverse imagination and won't let go.  I have now bought 3 of his books,  am hooked and I don't know why.   But I digress.

You can't tell a bookstore by it's cover.  It would be easy to walk by this place and not even know what you are missing. You will thank me for the recommendation.