A MOMENT WITH WALTDSGIRL
Waltdsgirl and Walter at Gulf Shores, Alabama
It's so nice to be back in the Natural State. Arkansas is so pretty, especially in the fall. There are few things as beautiful as driving along the country lanes and seeing the foliage changing from green to orange and brown as winter sets in. As I drove through only a small part of the 1.8 million acres of the Ouachita National Forest, with the Boston and Ouachita Mountains in the distance, I was humbled by the sheer splendor and majesty of so much untouched wilderness. Now, I understand this state's nickname.
I spent some time here years ago when I had the pleasure to meet our own Anicole (A Moment With Anicole), and it's nice to be back in the south. There is something refreshing about places where the streets are rolled up at 7 pm, people actually stop and say hello to strangers, and patriotism still runs strong through the veins of its citizenry.
Arkansas lays claim to quite a few famous people. Among her more notable native sons and daughters are Helen Gurley Brown, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan from 1965 to 1997; American porn star Gauge; James Robert "Jim Bob" Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting fame; John H. Johnson, the first African-American to appear on the Forbes 400 list; and Charles Portis, author of the 1968 classic Western novel, True Grit. Add to this list YPF's very own Waltdsgirl.
I met up with Waltdsgirl after her shift at the hospital. We met in the hospital's cafeteria; I got vanilla pudding with that little dollop of whipped cream in the center, and Waltdsgirl got a strong cup of hot tea. We looked for a place to sit, but all of the available tables were filthy. Why are hospitals—places that are supposed to be sterile—always so dirty? So, with snacks in hand, we wandered back down the corridors, toward the courtyard. As we walked, I spied the art on the wall. Some of it was quite exquisite; some of it...well, let's just say I was glad I was in a hospital. Waltdsgirl explained to me that the paintings were created by local "artists." We went through the doors at the end of the radiology ward and alit into a cheerful, sunny courtyard. There were two ginormous oak trees on either side of the courtyard providing ample shade on this particularly warm autumn day. We sat at one of the several picnic tables and commenced our conversation.
JC: Let's begin, like most of my interviews, with the basics. Tell us where your username comes from.
WG: It's pretty simple, really. My husband's Walter, and I'm his "girl."
JC: Now, thanks to Twitter and short attention spans, please tell us in 140 characters or less about yourself.
WG: I am determined, dedicated, devoted, complicated, and compassionate. I'm also a nurturer and animal and nature lover.
JC: While your describing yourself, please tell us, if you were a fast food, what would it be?
WG: A burrito.
JC: And if people still used CBs, what would your handle be?
WG: That's easy. Sparky. That was my handle when I was a kid. My dad was in a CB radio club. A lot of great memories from those days!
WG: Oh, no. I am originally from El Dorado, Arkansas. I moved all the way up here for my job at the hospital. The people are so much nicer here than where I was working before.
JC: And what is it that you do here at the hospital?
WG: I am the manager of Diagnostic Imaging and an X-ray technologist. I have also worked in ultrasound and the heart catheterization lab.
JC: That's very cool and sounds like quite rewarding work. It must be nice to help so many people. Good for you. Let's move into the realm that everyone is most interested in…photography stuff. Since your camera defines who you are in this hobby, let's begin with that. What was your first camera?
WG: A Canon AE-1 was the first camera I bought for myself. That was about 30 years ago. I still have it. Unfortunately, I never used it to its full ability because it was too expensive for me to learn manual techniques when using film.
JC: And what are you currently shooting with?
WG: I have a Canon Rebel EOS XSi. My only glass is the 55mm lens it came with and a 75–300mm telephoto. I love my camera. It more than suits my current level of photography now.
JC: Tell us what your dream kit would consist of.
WG: Right now, I am fine with the camera I have, but I would love a macro lens and a 500mm telephoto lens. I won't let myself dream about better right now. I have too much to learn with what I have.
JC: I can definitely relate to that. Let's get back to learning more about the real Waltdsgirl. Tell us, what is your favorite restaurant?
WG: Steak and Ale. We no longer have one here, but it was phenomenal.
JC: There was one by my grandmother's house. I never made it there. How about your favorite genre of food?
WG: Fourth of July.
WG: Paris. It's the most beautiful city I have ever seen.
WG: The Louvre.
WG: Classic Rock.
WG: Steven Tyler.
JC: TV show?
WG: Johnny Depp. Is there anyone else?????
WG: MAD Magazine, just kidding!
JC: Card game?
JC: Board game?
[Read the original story here.]
JC: How did you find YPF?
JC: What's your favorite picture you've taken?
WG: I'd have to say my Old Mill picture since I sold a copy of it. Profit is always welcome!
JC: Can't fault the lady for that! And what would you say was the dumbest or most dangerous thing you've done to get the perfect shot?
WG: I guess that would be driving around in the more seedy parts of Little Rock…alone.
JC: Was it worth it? Did you get some decent shots?
WG: Yes, it was worth it because I have found amazing architecture and histories that I would have otherwise missed. I guess I should add one from this weekend…ended up in a parallel universe with what I believe were skinheads. Not worth it at all—no good shots there.
JC: That sucks. So, let's get a little more detail on you. We know you're married, but do you have kids?
WG: Walter has a beautiful daughter, Lauren, who is 19.
JC: You seem to like you work here at the hospital, but if you could do anything, what would it be?
WG: I have a list…archeologist, geologist, volcanologist, meteorologist (in the field, not TV), forensic scientist, or National Geographic photographer. I love research.
JC: Me too. History is so much more fun than people give it credit. And speaking of history, how did you get into photography?
WG: I've been interested in photography since I was very young, but didn't devote any serious time to it until a few years ago. It was after the purchase of my Canon Rebel EOS XSi that the obsession grew. Photography is kind of a natural extension of my career choice too.
JC: I can see the similarity between sonos, X-rays, and photography. In fact, I remember reading about X-ray photography in a recent issue of National Geographic. If you could go anywhere in the world to take the picture of a lifetime, where would it be and what would it be of?
WG: The Galapagos Islands and hopefully photograph a beautiful creature not yet known to man.
JC: So, tell me honestly, just between the two of us, how much did you have to pay JonMikal for your four awards?
WG: An undisclosed amount that he can live off of comfortably for the rest of his life!! (He wishes!)
JC: Seriously, though, which of your 4 award-winning images do you like the most?
WG: I think I am still most partial to the first one. Trudy is the second oldest gorilla in North America at 54. I've always had a fascination with gorillas and chimps.
JC: What's your favorite thing to take pictures of?
WG: Landscape and architecture for the beauty. And animals for the challenge!
JC: Beside photography, what other hobbies do you indulge in?
WG: Reading, horses, hiking.
JC: And which is your favorite?
WG: Reading is probably my most favorite besides photography…goes back to the research thing. I enjoy reading about my interests rather than novels.
JC: So, sticking with the written word for a moment, if you wrote a book, what would the title and subject be?
WG: It would probably encompass my obsessions around photography—landscapes, churches, barns, outhouses, dilapidated houses, turn of the century homes, cemeteries, etc. It would include tidbits of little known history about each place. A title escapes me. That would be the hardest part of the book.
JC: I would think finding tidbits of little known history about outhouses would be the hardest part of the book. So tell us, which do you prefer, email or snail mail?
JC: Social media or just social?
WG: I'm on Facebook, but you just can't replace face to face.
JC: Mac or PC?
JC: Digital or film?
JC: HD or standard?
JC: Cable or rabbit ears?
WG: CABLE! Never so glad to see the ears go away…
JC: Beer or wine?
JC: Skirt/dress or pants/slacks?
JC: Rings or necklaces?
JC: Couch or sofa?
JC: Art or science?
WG: Hmmm…I like using both sides of my brain.
JC: Now or later?
WG: I confess: later.
JC: Beard or mustache?
JC: Back or shoulders?
JC: Long hair or short?
WG: Long hair on both men and women when it's taken care of.
JC: Stick or automatic?
WG: Sticks are so much more fun!
JC: Shoes or sandals?
JC: Day or night?
JC: Baseball or football?
JC: If, God forbid, you should disappear off the face of the Earth right now, what would you hope people most remember you for?
JC: What's your fantasy vacation?
JC: Sticking with fantasies for a moment, if you could invite anyone (alive or dead, real or fictional) to dinner, who would it be?
JC: Where would you meet Twain?
WG: On a river boat on the Mississippi.
JC: And you would serve…?
WG: Steak, cornbread, and fresh vegetables…his favorites
JC: Who is your biggest hero?
WG: Anyone who puts his or her life on the line for others. Those who have provided our freedom and those who still fight to defend it.
JC: Nicely said, especially since it's still November, the month of Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. OK, switching from being thankful to being evil, If you could ban anyone on YPF, who would it be and why?
WG: Anyone that gives degrading comments on images in the guise of "constructive criticism." I've had critiques on my images, but no one here has ever been anything but encouraging and insightful.
JC: What do you feel you still most need to learn about photography?
WG: Portraiture, lighting, and proper technique.
JC: You've been on YPF for a number of years now, who's work would you say has progressed the most over the years?
WG: Hmmm, perhaps Old Fire Guy. He has really honed his skills, and as Judy says, he "really tells a story" with his images. Particularly his images of people. He truly captures the essence of the person and breathes life into the still image.
JC: What's your best piece of advice about life in general?
WG: Pick your battles. Some things are better left undone or unsaid.
JC: And finally, what's your best piece of advice about photography?
WG: Strive to learn new things and try to see things from a different perspective.
It was starting to get cold in the courtyard, and I could see the neon lights starting to come on in the windows facing into the little yard. Day was turning quickly into evening, and a new crew of doctors and nurses were taking up stations in the hospital as the day shift transitioned into the night shift. Waltdsgirl and I headed back through the corridors, making our way to the main entrance. When we got to the parking lot, we said our good-byes. I watched as her red taillights faded from view; she was heading back to her husband and her home. I turned to my rental and headed to the airport, destination unknown.
A MOMENT WITH JUDY AND SNAPSHOOTER
Judy and SnapShooter at home
Texas. The Lone Star State. The 28th state. The second largest state. Meaning friends or allies in Caddo, Texas is 268,820 square miles and contains 24.7 million residents with 24.7 million stories. This is the story of 2 of those residents: Judy and SnapShooter.
I caught up with the couple one sunny afternoon while passing through the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. SnapShooter suggested we meet in the park behind their home between the saber tooth tiger and the wooly mammoth. Fortunately, Judy overruled this idea, and instead we met at The Museum, their cozy home, which they built 38 years ago. It's tastefully decorated with all sorts of curios. They still have their 30-year old refrigerator hanging around. I saw an ancient radio (that's the original way to receive information wirelessly for you kids—and no, it doesn't have a touch screen, it has a dial you have to turn, and it used tubes instead of microchips) that belonged to SnapShooter's grandmother. All around are all sorts of trains ranging from G to O and an N or two in-between. Sitting on the side table next to the chair I'm sitting in is an old buggy lantern. It's glowing faintly, and I can't really tell if it's the way the sun is hitting the lens or if there is a candle or bulb inside. The kitchen door is propped open with an old cordless iron. I wonder if they heat it on the Harvest Gold stove they still have.
We've been talking for about an hour, mostly about trains, photography, and Aunt Millie's button up shoes, which sit in the corner near the stairs. It was a nice relaxing afternoon, the kind that you enjoy because when it's all over you look back and feel that it's lasted hours longer than it really has. It felt like it must have when the Jews fought the Amorites and Joshua stopped the sun from moving across the sky. I learned a lot about this photographing couple.
JC: Let's start with the basics: what does your username mean?
SS: I take really great snapshots.
JC: What 5 words would you use to describe yourself?
SS: Only one…Perfect!
J: Happy, positive, married to Perfect!
JC: What was the first camera you owned?
SS: I honestly can't remember. It was most likely a Brownie.
J: I believe that that is true for me as well.
JC: What do you shoot with?
JC: And what would your dream kit look like?
JC: How did you become interested in photography?
SS: My mother was interested in photography, and I guess I inherited it from her.
J: Are you kidding? I'm married to SnapShooter! Seriously, I've always enjoyed taking what I've always considered to be snapshots…until 3 years ago anyway. One morning after we had a little rain shower, I took my Sony P&S out of my purse and took some close-ups of my roses. Then I emailed them to our daughter. I quickly received a reply saying, "Mom these are as good as Dad's!" Well, after I picked myself up off the floor I took another look at them. They sure didn't look like anything I had ever taken before! Thus The Father's Creations was born!
JC: I'm sure that it was love at first sight. So, Judy, how did he propose?
J: Actually he didn't. We just talked. Actually, SnapShooter says that I talked and talked about getting married. But I think we knew we were going to do it.
JC: That's very sweet. Sort of like me and my wife. We sort of knew after our first date. So, SnapShooter, you said that you transferred from PA. Where are you originally from?
JC: And Judy, do you hail from somewhere other than here.
JC: Getting back to photography for a moment, what's the dumbest thing you've ever done to get the perfect shot?
SS: I have no idea! I’m dumb 24/7. Can’t help myself! :)
J: I guess I'm still waiting for that perfect shot!
JC: What's your favorite stuff to take pics of?
J: Nature, Nature, Nature!
SS: Aside from my grandkids, about anything with a motor (lawn equipment excluded).
JC: So, SnapShooter, I'm always curious how people find their hobbies. How did you get into trains?
JC: Do you consider yourself a trainspotter?
SS: Heck NO!
JC: OK, great. I feel like we're really getting to know you, but I think a great way to get to know people is through word association. So, when I say, "Spring," you say…
JC: Smoke box
SS: Steam locomotive
SS and J: [at the same time] Paradise. Heaven on Earth
J: The Father's Creations is the name of my photography business. Nature is God's canvas for His masterpiece! I have always loved nature…trees, flowers, clouds, water, mountains, green grass, butterflies, etc, etc…and as I grew so did my love for nature! Thus The Father's Creations. I take photographs of nature, add scriptures or inspirational messages, and frame them for sale. These are beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces that make lovely gifts or additions to your home or office.
JC: Who would you say your greatest hero is?
J: Actually, I would say SnapShooter is! He is kind, loving (most of the time anyway) , generous, a hard worker, and a perfectionist in his work. He is a great father, adoring PawPa, loving husband, and my best friend. No, contrary to his belief, he is not perfect; but, he does get closer each year! He is a man of integrity and he really is humble (although you wouldn't know it from his answers!) I think he is a fantastic photographer, but he doesn't! I don't think that he really knows what great photos he takes.
JC: That's a very sweet thing to say about your husband. So, who has inspired you most in life?
SS: I guess I'd have to say it was my maternal grandmother.
J: My wonderful mother!
JC: How about your favorite book?
J: The Bible
SS: Any old B grade western.
J: The Sound of Music
JC: Sports team?
J: Grapes and watermelon.
J: PINK…all shades!
J: All good ones are dead.
JC: Aggies or Longhorns?
J: Longhorns…have to support my grandson's school!
JC: Pen or Pencil?
JC: Cigar or cigarettes?
SS: Gave that garbage up 45 years ago!
J: I quit for good 10 years ago!
JC: Hymns or Psalms?
JC: What's your biggest pet peeve?
J: Snobs, hypocrites, rudeness, and definitely negativeness! They all actually go together as far as I'm concerned!
SS: People who can’t keep appointments! People who can't be on time!
JC: After photography, what's your next greatest hobby?
SS: Family. Then things that have motors (lawn equipment excluded).
J: My Granddarlings.
JC: If you had the opportunity to write a book, what would the title be?
J: Thru My Daddy's Eyes!
JC: What is your dream vacation?
J: To go all around Texas capturing the beauty in all the different areas of this great state.
SS: Tour the USA.
JC: What do you still most need to learn in photography?
SS: Composure…perhaps, but that isn’t terribly important to me.
J: Everything my camera does!
JC: If you could be a YPF admin for a day, what changes would you make?
SS: I think I'd make the “Edit” button on a member's own post last permanently and not disappear after a bit, as it does now!
J: Like SnapShooter said, the "Edit" button would always be available to use on your own post and also a 'delete' button in case you post the same thing twice!
JC: What words of wisdom do you have for newbie photogs?
J: Be yourself! Don't try to copy and imitate any other photographer. God made you unique! Look and see all the beauty in everything around you and capture it with your camera to share with others. I like vivid, vibrant colors and my work shows it. Some think it is too saturated, but I like it and it's my style. That is the way I see the world! Trust your eye and what you see through your viewfinder and how you see it. Be yourself and trust your instincts. We all can look at the same thing and see it differently. I am not a "technical" photographer, I like a photo that tells a story to those who see it. I want others to get some kind of 'feeling' from my work. My prayer everyday is, "Lord, please let me see the beauty around me that You created through Your eyes." And He does!
SS: Do your own thing, and don’t try to mimic someone else’s style.
JC: And finally, what insight into life can you offer anyone who's willing to listen?
SS: You are unique. So be yourself. And don’t concern yourself about what you think you are or aren’t.
J: Life is all about choices. It is our choice what we make of it! Do you see the glass ½ full or ½ empty? We can choose to be happy or miserable. We can choose to be positive or negative. We can choose to love or be indifferent. When we choose happiness, love, positiveness, optimism and hope, we will have a full life and be able to bring sunshine into others' lives. The words you choose to speak are what brings things to pass in your life, so speak words of hope, blessings, love and positive not negative words! And always have lots of laughter in your life. Laughter truly is the best medicine, and it so easy to share. Don't judge others; you don't know where they are coming from or what is going on in their lives. Just love them. God says we are to love others, but He didn't say we had to like them or their ways. Just think…a smile doesn't cost you anything, but it is the easiest thing to share and you can brighten someone's day in one quick moment. When you share smiles you reap a healthy harvest of sunshine.
With that final, positive note, I closed my notebook and switched off my recorder. I gave a good long stretch, just as Serena, their cat, did. Unfortunately, I accidently kicked Saydee, the dog, or was that Bitsie…they all sort of look the same to me. I got up, shook hands with my gracious hosts, and walked to the door. I noticed that Dolly, yet another dog—or was that Dudley? Seriously, they really do all look the same to me—was following, trotting along in that dog sort of way. As I got into my car, I turned and waved goodbye to Judy and SnapShooter. It was a good day, and I couldn't believe that the sun was already sitting low on the horizon, casting long, lazy shadows on the streets. I felt good. I got to meet more members of the YPF family, and they were good people.
I bumped into an old friend today. Well, I didn’t really bump into him as much as type his name into Google and found him. I’m not alone, of course. This is how many people reconnect. Since I got an internet connection in the late '90s, I’ve been typing lost friends in to see if I can find them. And I have. I found some folks who I lost touch with when we left school or moved to other countries. I found others I just sort of drifted away from. Sadly, thanks to Facebook, I’ve even found some I would have preferred I hadn’t. It’s a blessing and a curse to find old friends. It makes you think about who you were, who you wanted to be, and who you are.
So, I found an old friend from my High Seas days. I emailed him and asked if he was the same person who I used to work with on Big Blue. He was, and I recognized his sense of humor immediately when he said that he was going to report me as a stalker. I chuckled at this, but then I realized that he is in fact right. I am a stalker. I’ve spent countless hours on the internet typing lost friends’ names into Google and Facebook. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve sent saying things like “Hi, aren’t you the same John Doe I went to high school with?” or “Jane? Jane Smith? Is that you?” Some are hits, and some aren’t. Each and every hit has added a “friend” on Facebook or a contact on LinkedIn. I have successfully found hundreds of old friends and acquaintances. I’ve even reconnected with some who I didn’t even really know. It’s funny how 19 years later, the mere fact that you shared an 11th grade English class is enough to warrant being friends on Facebook.
To be honest, this is how I got into the whole social networking scene to begin with. There are a group of guys I used to hang out with years ago. They were the first ones that I lost touch with who I desperately wanted to find. I remember being at the computer lab in college and typing their names into long-gone search engines. Finally, about 3 years ago, after typing one of their names into Google, I finally got a hit…on MySpace. Of course, I couldn’t see anything about him, so I had to join. I emailed him, and sure enough, he was the very same person who I used to go to school with. From there, I looked into his friends list and found his cousin. Then, I stumbled onto Facebook and found his brother. Now, we are all friends again (and I even met up with 2 of the 3 of them in February).
Just yesterday, not only did I find my old friend who accused me of being a stalker, but I found another old friend from that same point in life. I was scrolling through the friends list of a mutual friend (who I also found using Google) and there she was…sure, her name had changed, but it was still her. We are now friends on Facebook.
I’ve always considered this “research,” trying to find old friends who slipped away. But I think he was right, and I think I need to accept this about myself. When you have spent almost 20 years typing the same names over and over into Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., you need to recognize and accept that perhaps the desire to reconnect is more of an obsession than mild curiosity about what happened to lost friends.
So, I admit it, I am a stalker of sorts. I’m not proud, nor am I ashamed. It is what it is, and I’m OK with it. I like to think that these people meant something special to me, even if I didn’t recognize it at the time, and there’s a part of me that misses them, misses what I was, what I wanted to be, and by reconnecting with them, I might be able to capture a little piece of that. So, as long as the intent is to find people and say, “how are you after all this time? How’s life treated you? What adventures have you had since the last time we talked?” I think it’s OK to be a bit of a stalker. I’m not out to hurt anyone, and I really am interested in what’s happened to these people.
I, like most post people (which surprisingly includes me mum and dad), have a Facebook account. I have over 100 “friends” on this social networking site, and the list seems to grow every day. The sad thing is that many of them are folks that I haven’t seen since high school, and there are even some that I have no recollection of whatsoever!
We’re talking 1988. 1988 for crying out loud! Did they really want to get in touch with me, or did they just see my name and figured, “hey, I’ll see if Jo Cose will add me as a friend so I can get another name on my friends list”? Seriously, folks, I haven’t seen you in 20 years. If you really wanted to keep in touch and be a part of my life, wouldn’t you have done your best to find me before 20 years had passed? I moved schools, but I didn’t move from my house. And it seems from their Facebook profiles that they still haven’t moved away from the old neighborhood (not that I moved too far from there, but at least I have an out-of-state driver’s license).
It seems to me that that is really what Facebook is all about. It’s not really about meeting new people and building a social network; rather, it’s about showing off by having more friends than others…even if you don’t even know the friends that you’ve friended. And I have to admit that I’m guilty of doing this as well. Otherwise, why would have accepted the invitation to friend people I haven’t seen in 20 years? They email me saying, “Oh my God! Jo Cose it’s been so long. How are you?” And I accept their request…even the ones who I respond with, “Do I know you?” Yes, I’m a hypocrite, and I freely admit it. I’m comfortable with my decision…after all, I have over 100 friends!
I think the thing that bothers me the most about Facebook, though, is that you realize just how un-unique you really are. Everyone has Googled themselves at one time or another, and it’s fascinating to see that there are other people out there with the same name. But, on Facebook, it’s all quantified. I mean, on Google, you see that there are thousands of hits, but as you scroll down, you see that it’s including not just hits where your first and last name appear, but also where just your first name and just your last name appear. It even lists places where both names appear, but not together. On Facebook, however, you type in your name (say “Steve Jones”), and 500 people pop up with the exact same name. That is so much more humbling that when you Google yourself.
I heard a comedian once say that if you lived in China, and someone told you you were 1 in a 1,000,000, there would still be 100,000 people just like you. Now I see that it’s funny because it’s true.
Where do pieces of luggage go when they run away? What does one do when it happens? Should I contact the milk industry to have a picture put on the cartons? Should I tack flyers to the telephone poles? Would John Walsh be interested in producing an exposé on my baggage?
I worked ½ a day on April 10th, then met the Sabra in front of the building formerly known as the Department of Transportation at L’Enfant Plaza. We took the 5A to Washington Dulles International Airport. Once we were at the airport, we checked in at the British Airways desk, deposited our luggage, and headed to security. Once past security, we hopped onto those fun busses they have out there at Dulles—they are actually called Mobile Lounges if you really want to know—and went to the gate to settle in while we waited for the plane. We sat and talked for a bit, availed ourselves of the services (if you know what I mean), and watched the young women who were returning to London after touring New York City and Washington, DC with their school. Once we boarded, we discovered that one young lady was sitting in the window seat next to us. Apparently, she was afraid not of the flying, but of take-off. Several of her school friends came by to see how she was doing, and she said that she would be fine. I offered her the Sabra’s hand to hold during ascent, but she assured us that her stuffed animal would be fine. A few minutes before we taxied onto the tarmac, one of her friends came round and told her that there was an empty seat near her if she wanted to sit there. After the Sabra and I assured her that it wouldn’t be a bother to us if she got up and came back, she did in fact get up, and after we could move about the cabin, she did in fact return to her seat by the window. She put her headphones on and slept almost the entire way.
After dinner and a glass of red wine, I wrapped myself up in an overly staticy blanket and turned on the in-flight entertainment. I watched The Golden Compass. I have to be honest, I was somewhat disappointed. I don’t really remember the book so well, so I’m not sure it followed the script, and to be fair, it was sort hard to hear and the screen was quite small. After the movie, I went to sleep. I woke up about an hour and a half before we landed at Heathrow Airport. During the interim, I watched an episode of Futurama.
Heathrow was quiet when we arrived, and we thought about sitting down and having a proper English breakfast, but alas, we didn’t have enough time for that, and yet we had too much time to do nothing. After finding our gate and going to the bathroom, we walked around Terminal 4 and bought some candy…for little other reason than to use up some quid I had from the last trip to Old Blighty.
The Sabra’s friend who works at British Airways helped us get on the same flights so we could travel together. Unfortunately, the second leg of our journey didn’t work out quite as well as we had hoped. Our tickets said that we were sitting in different rows, so, when the folks arrived to work the gate, I went up and asked if they could help us out so we could sit together. The woman informed me that it would not be possible because a) it was a full flight, and b) I was sitting in a higher class of seats than her. So, poor me had to sit in a nice wide, comfy chair with a foot rest abreast a young, attractive Brit, while the poor Sabra had to sit in the last row of the plane with large, snoring guys around her. I actually felt bad that I didn’t offer her to sit in the better seats. Oh, well.
So, once we were airborne and the cabin crew could deliver food, they did. I ate something hot and tasty, and watched another movie. This time it was Enchanted. It was a cute movie, and I thought it was a clever twist on the same ole same ole. Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure how it ended as I fell asleep almost ¾ of the way through. This is not a critique of the movie, however. I was just very tired from flying for so long.
We finally arrived in the Holy Land. After 16 years of being away, I was finally back. You must understand that I first went to Israel during the winter of 1988–1989. I spent 8 days in country that winter and fell in love. I went back on the same trip a year later. The year after that, I spent 3 weeks, primarily in Jerusalem at Ohr Somayach on their JLE program. Not even a year later, (JLE was in the winter, and I returned in June), I was back at Ohr Somayach, where I stayed for my sophomore year of college. After that, I returned once more the winter of 1992–1993 to visit, and have not been back since. To say that I was overcome with emotion would be stretching it a bit too far, but I was a little saddened that flying on British Airways is a very different experience than when I used to fly on Tower Air, or Chassidish Air as we used to refer to it. Flying with a plane full of orthodox Jews gives a whole new meaning to the expression “a wing and a prayer.” (On one of my flights, someone was transporting a Torah, and it happened to be a Monday or Thursday that we were flying. As such, during the morning services, they opened the Torah and read from it. It is one of my fondest religious memories.) Landing in Israel aboard a Tower Air flight was surreal. As soon as the back wheels made that screeching sound of hitting the ground, people would start applauding and break out into a round of Hevenu Shalom Aleichem. That enthusiasm seems to have died with Tower. I must confess that I did hum to myself. Looking out the window, all I could see was tarmac and the other requisite airport accoutrement, but I know I was back. I knew I was with my people. I knew that I was once again about to set foot on hallowed ground.
After disembarking, we had to separate to go through customs. For the first time since I met the Sabra, I was now the foreigner. We met up again on the other side of customs and headed to get our luggage. As we were walking, we saw a young woman standing and appearing to be waiting for something. As we approached, the Sabra realized that it was her friend who works at Ben Gurion International Airport. I was introduced, and they chatted as I labored to handle our two overflowing bags (Israelis always bring tons of American shit back with them because stuff is so much cheaper here). After I got the bags, we said goodbye to her friend and headed out the door. My heart was beating hard and fast. The moment had come.
As the electric doors that separated international arrivals from their loved ones and hired drivers swooshed open, I spotted her mother immediately. She was jumping up and down with excitement. It had been many months since she had seen her daughter and her first time meeting me face-to-face. She also knew that her son and daughter-in-law would be arriving later in the day (actually the next day—at 3 am—to be exact), and for the first time in about 6 years, she would have all of her children again under one roof. She pounced on us like a cat onto cheese and gave us warm, welcoming bear hugs. It was a great way to meet the family for the first time. We walked over to the rest of the family, and I said hello and shook hands with her younger brother and father.
After pleasantries were done, we headed out into the parking lot to go home. The first things that I saw were palm trees and blue skies. I could smell flowers in bloom and cigarette smoke. I heard birds chirping and people cursing. I felt comfortable, safe; I had returned home. I was brought back to reality: honking car horns and people who were in a hurry shoving me out of the way. Yes, indeed. I was back in Israel.
We got out of the airport and onto the main road. We were heading south to Gedera, where the Sabra is from and her parents still live. I sat in the front with her father, and he pointed out interesting sites along the way: kibbutzim, towns, and other places of interest. When we got to Rehovot, we drove past a Moshav where an old friend of mine used to live (and I spent a weekend). Instead of heading straight home, we swung by the army base where the Sabra did her paratrooper training. I found it more interesting than I think she thought I did. We finally reached Chez Sabra, and we took our bags to our room and unpacked some of the gifts we had brought.
It was late in the day, but the Sabra and I walked a bit around Gedera. I got to see the oldest building in town, the street with some restaurants and new stores, and one of the main parks, Gan Bilu. We also went past the school that she attended as a child. The school and the street on which her parents’ house sits are named after a famous Zionist leader, Rabbi Yehiel Michael Pines. This is not particularly interesting until you understand that while his name is spelled Pines, it is pronounced with a long i, and a short e. As such, when saying it aloud, one does not pronounce it like the tree, but rather like the male genitalia. As an immature American, I giggle every time I ask the Sabra where she lives in Gedera.
After our walk around town, we returned to the house where her mother was putting finishing touches on dinner: Israeli salad, avocado salad, and bulbonic (a potato kugel that is very tasty and not unlike something my ain dear mammy used ta make). Since her dad needed to be up ridiculously early to pick her brother and sister-in-law up from the airport, we went to bed relatively early.
On Saturday, we got up and walked around some more. This time, we walked the other direction and strolled through Moshav Kidron. There are some new, hip looking houses there. We saw a house for sale when we crossed back into Gedera, and took down the number to call the realtor on Sunday (alas, it was already under contract). We got back in time to help clear the table and get ready for lunch. We had barbeque. It was insane. There was so much food, and I wasn’t shy about eating, that’s for sure. It was all so good, too.
After lunch, the Sabra, her 2 brothers, her sister-in-law, and I headed over to Ashdod to go down to the beach. It was a beautiful evening with a warm Mediterranean breeze blowing off the water. It was also packed. There were a ton of people at the picnic area grilling on small, portable grills, and equally as many people strolling along the promenade. Everyone seemed so calm and at peace. I took a bunch of pictures, but it was cloudy, so this shot was the best I could come up with (although I do like this one as well). After the beach, we went home, chatted a bunch, then went to bed.
Sunday was a big day—it was the Sabra’s grooming day. It started with walking to the post office to get money changed, then to the manicurist so the Sabra could get her nails done. That was weird. I sat in the waiting room (which was really the dining room of an apartment that had been converted into a manicurist’s studio. She tried to talk to me several times, but as I don’t speak the language, it was kind of hard to understand her—not to mention that everything is made of concrete in Israel, so sound echoes a lot in empty apartment dining rooms that have been converted in to waiting rooms for manicurists’ studios. After her nails were done (French manicure), we returned home and headed out to Rehovot so the Sabra could get her hair done. I chose to hang with her brother and sister-in-law. We ended up at the mall, which wasn’t exactly what I was looking to do, but it was fine. I did find strawberry Bamba. I didn’t think Bamba could get any more disgusting…I was wrong. We returned home and picked up the Sabra’s parents and headed to Ashdod. Since it was her mom’s birthday, we went to lunch there in an Argentinean restaurant. I got pargit (young chicken) kabobs. After lunch, we headed home for a bit, and then went back out to pick up the Sabra’s younger brother from Beit Noam in Kiryat Ono. Then we had to get ready for the party.
As I mentioned, Sunday was the Sabra’s mother’s birthday, so we headed out to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, where they had rented the café. The catered food was amazing. It was all vegetarian (so the Sabra was pretty happy). Everyone seemed so excited to be there to help the Sabra’s mother celebrate her birthday. It was a little overwhelming for me as I got to meet the extended family for the first time. Fortunately, the Sabra’s cousins were there with their new baby, so they were more the center of attention than I was. I sat next to a couple who were quite fluent in English (in fact she was from the UK, and he had studied there), so that was nice. After a long day of eating, we ended the night with a nosh and then it was off to bed.
After coming downstairs from showering on Monday morning, I discovered that there was a bit of a to-do in the house. Apparently, one of the presents hadn’t made it home. Now, I was responsible for transporting the gifts from the café to the car, and from the car to the house, so I felt a little guilty as I was afraid that I was responsible for losing it. So, the Sabra, her friend, her brother, her sister-in-law, and I went back to Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and checked with the folks in the café. To my relief, it was there behind the counter, waiting for us to pick up. Since we were at the Weizmann Institute anyway, we decided to head over to Beit Weizmann where Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, lived. After going through the house and seeing his grave, we headed back to the mall, and I had a very authentic, Middle Eastern lunch: KFC. We went to a local schwarma place for dinner and got some lafa and brought it home to eat. It was D-LISH!
Tuesday finally came, and I was so excited because Tuesday was to be Jo Cose’s day. The Sabra’s friend (the same one who met us at the airport) came by and picked us up. And we were off, racing up the highway on our way to Tel Aviv. We started our adventures in Yaffo because I wanted to go through the Shuk Ha-Pishpishim. We tried on some fezzes, I bought a mezuzah for my nephew, and the Sabra tried on some pants that she didn’t buy in the end. I was looking for some Christian-type stuff from a friend at work, and the guy was doing his best to see it to me. He told me that he was a Cohen and wanted to get of all the non-Jewish stuff he had because he wasn’t comfortable with it. I chuckled, and the Sabra got mad at me. I doubt he was really a Cohen, and who knows if he was even religious (even if he was wearing a yarmulke). Again, I only got 2 good pictures at the Shuk, this one and this one. We walked around the port some more and ate lunch at Dr. Shakshuka. I’m not a big fan of shakshuka, but 1) the Sabra loves it, 2) Dr. Shakshuka is one of those world famous restaurants, and 3) it’s a Tripolitan restaurant, and I’ve never had Libyan food before. Like many places, they had an open kitchen, and they had 4 burners set up so that the cook overlooked the customers (clearly designed for us to watch the cook make the shakshuka. The guy who was cooking was definitely hamming it up. He’d crack the egg, then fling it into the pans from across the burners. Naturally, I pulled out my camera and started snapping away. Sadly, none came out. After the cook had made the order he was making, he came out into the dining area. I stopped him to show him the pics I had of him, and he dragged me up into the kitchen. They took my camera, placed 3 pans on the burners, then showed me how he flung the eggs. I did my best to copy him, and succeeded on my first attempt. A group of German tourists who were watching started applauding. Then I tried again with the next pan, and f’ed it up bad. I got nervous, so I cracked the egg too hard, and the shell shattered in my hand. Clearly the cook was afraid that I’d get shells in the shakshuka because he pushed me out of the way and cracked a new egg into it. Either way, I can say that I made shakshuka at Dr. Shakshuka. We also got to see Dana International, who definitely has an interesting story. We didn’t talk to her, but I got a picture of her back. After lunch we went back to the car because the Sabra’s friend had to get to work.
The Sabra and I started walking toward Dizengoff Square, but got sidetracked when we got to the Nahalat Binyamin Market. We walked up and down the sidewalk looking at all the crafts. I bought my nephews some hand-painted Hebrew letters that spelled out their names. We bumped into the Sabra’s brother, sister-in-law, and her brother’s friend. We chatted with them for a few minutes, then we moved on.
We got a cab and headed to Ramat Gan to meet up with an old friend of mine from my yeshiva days. It was really nice to see someone that I hadn’t seen in 16 years, but it was also a little awkward. I wanted to reminisce, I wanted to have a good laugh about the old days. Unfortunately, he didn’t have quite as fond of memories as I did, so it didn’t work out so well for me. No matter, it was still a lot of fun to hang out and talk and see someone that I hadn’t seen in 16 years.
After chatting for a bit and having some cake and drink, we piled into my friend’s car and he drove us back into Tel Aviv and picked up a cab to head over to the Sabra’s friend’s apartment. From there, we drove to Herzliya for dinner. We met 3 of the Sabra’s friends from college. They all lived together in the dorms, and they have remained friends ever since. We went to a place called Bleecker, which is right in the marina, so all the sailboats were lined up. It was a beautiful night, and the sliding walls were all open, and people were sitting outside, but we were still a little chilly, so we sat inside. I had schnitzel. It was mediocre.
Of course we missed the last bus back to Gedera and of course it was my fault for not keeping track of the time. So, we went back to the apartment and waited for the Sabra’s father to drive up and pick us up. As I mentioned, it was a beautiful night, and there was no traffic, so it was a good night for driving.
On Wednesday, we headed back to Ashdod. The Sabra’s father had a meeting there, and the Sabra had a doctor’s appointment. I tagged along. We got dropped off at the mall, right by the guy who thought that urinating on the side of the building in front of God and Country was an appropriate place to whip out his manhood and relieve the pressure on his bladder. We walked through the mall and into the business section, went up the elevator and into the office. I sat in the waiting room where the young (attractive) woman behind the desk asked for my help. She needed me to carry the heavy bottle of water from the storage room around to the water machine and put the bottle in place. Now, this young (attractive) woman was clearly not long out of the Army, so why is she asking an old man like me to do such laborious labor?
After the doctor, we headed back through the mall looking for food. We ended up at a place called Roast Beef Bar. It was like a Subway, but so much better. We sat outside and ate. Meanwhile someone who the Sabra went to school with came walking by with her kid. They exchanged pleasantries, and then the woman and kid went on their way. When we finished, we called the Sabra’s father to come and get us, and we while we waited, we went and bought watermelon seeds (mmm mmm mmm, I loves me some watermelon seeds!).
That night, I got to experience what it was like to be Joe Israeli. We went to the supermarket at Bilu Center in Rehovot. The grocery store was weird! They had normal stuff you’d expect to see at a grocery store, like, say, groceries, but they also had electronics and refrigerators and washing machines. It was quite odd. I bought some yogurt for breakfast and some strawberry Bamba because after seeing it the other day, I had to try it. The Sabra bought some Bamba for my nephew who loves the crap, and I bought some chocolate for the office.
Thursday was by far the highlight of the trip! We took the bus to Jerusalem. When we got to the central bus station in the Holy City, we called another friend of mine, the Gib, that I hadn’t seen either for 16 years. The Sabra and I walked to Machane Yehuda where we met him. We walked through the market, then down to Zion Square in downtown Jerusalem. We walked past the Underground (which, by now has closed its doors for the last time), and had some lunch in a pay-by-the-pound vegetarian place (the Sabra was happy about that). After that, we walked down Ben Yehuda Street past Meah Shearim on our way to Yeshiva. It was absolutely crazy to be there after 16 years. We had to leave the Sabra outside (the have gates now and only one entrance) since she’s a girl and all. We saw the guy who was (and still is apparently) in charge of the dorms. He remembered me pretty quickly, but not the Gib…at first anyway. Once he got it, it all came flooding back (in fact, we think he sniffed the Gib to see if he smelled of herb). He gave us a tour of the place…it’s changed so much since we were there. There were a few bochers around (it was erev Pesach, so it was pretty dead), and they seemed a little frightened. We saw the old cook who also remembered me, but not the Gib (who was somewhat offended, I think). We had a great time talking about the old days and what we did where and with whom. It was exactly what I was looking for. Finally, the tour was over, and it was time to leave. We headed back out, and the Gib took pics of me and the Sabra touching each other in front of the Yeshiva (scandalous!).
From the Yeshiva, we headed down Highway 1 to the Old City. Before we got there, we stopped in the travel agency where another Gibraltarian I went to school with works and hung out with him for a bit before pressing on. We walked through the Armenian Quarter then on into the Arab Quarter before finally passing into the Jewish Quarter. We walked through the shuk and haggled with some of the vendors. I bought my nephews little green shirts with the IDF logo on them. I also bought postcards for them, and I bought a box of holy water, holy dirt, holy incense, and holy spice for a friend at work. The Gib and I went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Deir es-Sultan, an Ethiopian church I never even knew was there. It was pretty cool. Finally, we made our way to the Western Wall. For such a drab, old wall, it really is one of the most beautiful sites in the world. I don’t consider myself to be particularly religious or spiritual, but there is something about seeing that wall and knowing that my peeps prayed behind it 2,000 years ago is pretty amazing! I put the prayers that folks from the office gave me into the cracks, and gave a little charity and got a red string to tie around my wrist to protect me from the evil eye.
Finally, we headed out of the Old City and walked to a café to get something to drink. I got tea with fresh mint leaves in it…yummy. The Gib and I continued to entertain the Sabra with our stories from our yeshiva days. I’m sure that we entertained a few folks sitting around us as well. Sadly, the Gib had a party to go to and we had to part ways. We promised that we would see each other again before another 16 years were up! The Sabra and I walked back to the bus station and went home. It was bittersweet to get into bed that night. On the one hand I was so friggin’ tired from all that walking that I was so happy to finely hit the pillow, but I was sad because I didn’t want to leave Jerusalem.
I woke up Friday and decided that I wanted to go back to Jerusalem. An old friend of mine (if you are guessing I hadn’t seen him in 16 years, you are wrong—it had only been 15 years) had called me when we were in Jerusalem on Thursday, but we didn’t have time to hook up and I really wanted to see him. So, the Sabra’s father dutifully took me to the bus stop, and it turned out that we missed the bus at that stop, so we jumped in the car and started to drive to the next stop. From out of nowhere, the bus pulls up behind us at a red light, so now we are racing to get to the stop before the bus does. Fortunately, we made it, and I was again on my way to Jerusalem, this time all by myself. When I got to the bus station I called the Costa Rican, and we arranged to meet for lunch. I had a few hours to kill, so I walked back to Machane Yehuda and took some pictures (see here and here and here). I took the bus down to Meah Shearim and impressed myself because I was able to talk to the bus driver all in Hebrew. In Meah Shearim, I headed over to see if the Olive Wood Factory was open. Sadly, since it was erev Shabbos and erev Pesach, most of Meah Shearim was closed (what wasn’t was all hustle-bustle buying last minute stuff for the holiday and burning chumitz. I didn’t remember so many bonfires to burn your bread [see here and here and here and here]). I decided that I would see if my memory was still as good as I thought. I turned out that it was. I was able to find the back route that we would take to get from the bars back to Yeshiva. Needless to say, I did indeed find my way. I was so impressed with myself.
About the time I found myself back at the Yeshiva, the Costa Rican called me to see where I was. I told him, and we decided on a place to meet. He picked me up, and we headed back into town to grab some lunch. We stopped at a liquor store to buy some wine (which I also did for the Seder), then we went to some hole-in-the-way place where we got hummus and falafel. We talked and talked and talked and got caught up on the past 15 years. Then he drove me back to the bus station, and I headed back to Gedera. I asked the driver to let me know when we reached my stop, but it was still one of the scariest bus rides of my life. When I was going to school there, I would travel from one city to the next, but it was generally from one central bus station to the next. This trip was to a random bus stop I the middle of the street in a random town. But, I did good, and got to where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to.
Saturday was busy with all the last minute stuff for Pesach, which finally came. The Sabra’s extended family came and soon we were gathered around the table, ready to start. Her mother went out and bought 2 Haggadahs that had English and Hebrew: one for me, and one for the Sabra’s sister-in-law. We went around the table reading, and when it came to the two of us, we read in English while everyone else read in Hebrew. Yea, it was kind of awkward, but it was OK. Dinner was, of course, delicious, and everyone had a great time.
Sunday was spent hanging out and packing.
Sadly, Monday came, and it was time to go home. Of course, Monday had barely come. The Sabra’s brother and sister-in-law’s flight was crazy early in the morning, so instead of making her father drive to the airport twice, we got up early and went with them. We left the house around 4:30 in the morning. It made for one long day. The flights were pretty uneventful. I watched National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which was OK. It was, like most of Nicolas Cage’s movies, exactly what you’d expect. Not too great story, not too great acting, but thoroughly enjoyable. After that, I watched Juno, which I wasn’t expecting to like, but Ellen Page is a hottie, and a good actor. I also fell in love with the soundtrack.
We finally made it home to BWI. My one brother-in-law was supposed to pick us up from the airport, but it turned out that my other brother-in-law was in the neighborhood, so he got us instead. When we got to the curb to meet him, we were 2 suitcases lighter than when left Ben Gurion International Airport. We filled out the paperwork for them to deliver our bags. We headed back to my parents house to see my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew who live in Oregon. They were on this coast for Pesach. Finally, after God knows how many hours, we finally went home and went to bed.
Tuesday came and the Sabra’s luggage showed up. Mine didn’t. But, after 2 weeks of calling British Airways every day to find the status of my luggage and over $200 in replacements, I did finally get my bag back. It was wet and my clothes smelled of mildew. One of my gifts was ruined. All I got from British Airways was “Thank you for flying with British Airways.” Not even an “I’m sorry.” These idiots admitted that until my bag got back on a plane, they had no idea where (literally) in the world it was. They thought it was in London, but it could have just as likely still been in Tel Aviv or even in Timbuktu. Now, I have to play the waiting again. I submitted my receipts for reimbursement, but it can take 6-8 weeks for them to process my request (and that’s before they decide if they are in fact going to grant me the privilege of reimbursing me). I was just told today that I can’t call that department, I can only fax or write them a letter…like they’re really going to respond.
BUT, even though I didn’t have my luggage for 2 weeks, and even though it was a short trip, and even though I didn’t get to do as much traveling and touring as I would have liked, I had a great time, and I’m so glad I went. I just hope that it won’t take me 16 more years to get back.
I recently joined Facebook (while I have a Jo Cose account, I also have one under my real name. If you are interested in being as nerdy as me, shoot me an email), and I am going through trying to find old friends. Well, I found one from a long time ago who I'm glad I found. He was a great kid, and I'm really glad to hear that he's doing well.
We've been emailing, catching up, and here's something that he wrote me. I am very happy for him, but it makes me kind of sad to think that it's not me writing the same to someone else:
the truth is that i'm very honored to have this job. I travel all over europe all the time, and i get to have the satisfaction of educating young [people]... i love it! :-)
A MOMENT WITH ALYESKA
It took me longer than I expected to get out of the cemetery. I wandered the grounds for days. I walked past broken headstones. I passed faded and forgotten names: these were once mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children. It was a grim reminder of what’s to come and the vicious cycle of life. Indeed, these were once people who loved and were loved. There’s no doubt that at those eulogies many a voice swore that the newly departed would not be soon forgotten, yet, who remembers Sarah, Joseph, or Carolyn? Who lays a flower upon the grave of young Stephen, born 1846 and died 1848? I realize that this will soon be me, and who will mourn for Jo Cose 100 years hence? I am reminded of Pozzo’s exclamation that “they give birth astride a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” The only thing that would complete this macabre melancholy into which my current environs have hurled me would be the appearance of a shiny, black raven, whose single utterance of “nevermore” would peck deeper into my chilled heart than his razor-sharp beak could into my mortal flesh.
Fortunately, I am saved from spiraling out of control to the only possible outcome, and a lifeline appears in the form of a messenger with a telegram:
YOUR SERVICES ARE NEEDED ASAP STOP REPORT TO AIRPORT AT YOUR EARLIEST STOP TICKET WAITING TO TAKE YOU DOWN EAST STOP
I have no idea who sent the telegram, what will await me Down East, or how this young messenger on a bicycle found me in the middle of the cemetery, but I was grateful that she was willing to show me the way to the airport. As the telegram predicted, a ticket was waiting for me upon my arrival, and I couldn’t help but feel that I was no longer in control of my destiny. Nevertheless, as the plane climbed into the beautifully peaceful blue northern sky, I could feel my spirits lifting as we ascended to 50,000 feet above this small, insignificant Blue Marble that we call home.
I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we began our descent, whereupon I discovered that I was refreshed and ready to face this new adventure. After disembarking and getting my luggage, I saw an older man in a chauffeur’s hat and a sign that read “Jo Cose” I dutifully followed my driver to the waiting car, and we drove and drove. The road we were on narrowed down to a country lane, and as I looked upon the passing houses, I noticed the architecture—Colonial, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, all sitting side-by-side—that is so unique to this area of the country. The Widow’s Walk atop each house in which countless wives looked seaward in the hopes of spying their captain-husbands’ ships returning, sitting low in the water with their bellies full of fresh fish, whale oil, or seal skins. How smooth were the floorboards from the centuries of pacing women? How warped were those same boards from centuries of tears?
As the houses began to thin, and the grass turned to reeds, and the land turned marshy, we made a right onto a little dirt road and wound our way to the shore where an old decrepit wharf stuck into the Atlantic Ocean like a finger accusingly pointing to the sea as if to say, “You! You are the cause of so much grief and heartache.” As I stepped out of the car, I could once again smell the salt in the air, see the foam of the ocean, and taste the longing to return to the water—a magical place where time seems to slow and cares are washed away on the surf with the phosphorescence.
Around me lay a tranquil and idyllic landscape. To my left a few miles up the coast stood a well-built and proud lighthouse, a symbol of an almost forgotten time when seamen relied more on instinct and courage to beat Mother Nature’s fury than technology and gadgets. Closer to the wharf, a few sailboats were anchored offshore, and a little red tugboat lay at the wharf, waiting for the call to assist a ship over the bar. At the end of the pier were two chairs. I made my way down the wooden structure, and sat down next to Alyeska. It seemed I’d discovered who I would be interviewing next. We sat in silence a few minutes longer, drinking in the majesty of the vista before us. Finally, I turned on the tape recorder and began to get to know Alyeska a little better.
JC: Let’s begin with my usual beginning point: could you please describe yourself in 15 words or less.
A: Ohhh gosh. I’d say artistic, creative, funny, klutzy, caring, understanding, a good friend.
JC: And what product’s slogan best describes you?
A: “Takes a licking, but keeps on ticking,” you know, Timex
JC: I’m curious about your username.
JC: Where were you from?
A: I was born in Hyannis, Massachusetts, grew up here, and after high school, I went to Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida. I moved back to the Cape for a time, then Boston, London, and Austin. I came back to the Cape about 11 years ago, and I currently live about 12 miles from Hyannis.
JC: And for the eligible folk here on YPF, what about some vitals?
A: I’m single. No kids. One very loveable sweet cat named Max.
JC: I see. So that leads to the next logical question for the creepy stalker-types we seem to attract here, what’s your sign, baby?
A: Leo, and it suits me well.
JC: What was the first camera you ever owned?
JC: What’s your current setup?
A: Currently I have a Canon 400D with the kit lens, the EF 28-135 IS, and the EF 70-300 IS, a couple of extra batteries, UV filters, PC filters and tripod, a Tamrac Expedition 6 case. I also have my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 and a few filters for that as well (now my backup camera).
JC: That’s some serious stuff you got going there. How did you get into photography?
A: First time around, when I was a child, my grandfather got me interested in it. I shot pretty steadily and often until life took over, and the cost of processing got to me. Most recently, I bought the Panasonic in February 2005, and it’s reawakened my love of photography.
JC: Who’s your favorite photographer?
JC: How did you happen upon YPF?
A: Chiller invited me to join.
JC: If you could go anywhere in the world to take your ultimate picture, where would it be, and what would it be a picture of?
A: I would have to say wildlife in Alaska. I wish I had owned a digital camera the times I was there.
JC: As a way to steer the conversation away from photography for a few minutes, what other hobby most consumes you?
A: Kayaking, I took up the sport about 8 years ago and can’t get enough of it. It’s almost as expensive and consuming as photography. I find it to be a very Zen sport, very peaceful and it brings me back in touch with nature and myself.
JC: What are you currently reading?
JC: Who has most inspired you in life?
A: I’d have to say my mother. She raised me—as a single parent—in a time when single parents were not the norm. She taught me strength and purpose.
JC: Here’s another one of my staples: if you could invite anyone, alive or dead, real or fictional, to dinner, who would it be, where would you go, and what would you have to eat?
A: I’d invite my friend Heidi who passed away 5 years ago after fighting cancer for 7 years. We’d go to Cook’s Fried Seafood and stuff ourselves silly with fried clams. We’d laugh and cry and promise to do this again when we’re old ladies.
JC: You say in your profile that you love to cook. What do you cook best?
A: I think my best dish is Linguini with White Clam Sauce.
JC: What do you cook worst?
A: I don’t do too well cooking hamburgers.
JC: And what would you love to cook if you could, but can’t?
A: I’d love to be able to cook a roast suckling pig, but I don’t have a large enough oven or grill for it.
JC: We all have talents, skills, and abilities that we are exceptionally good at. If you had the opportunity to write a chapter in a book, what would it be on?
A: Funny you ask that, I’m currently writing a book. It’s a humorous view of my neighbors…in the style of the late Erma Bombeck.
JC: Alright, now’s the point in the interview where we get to everyone’s favorite: games. Let’s start with Word Association. How about Flower?
A: Amazing photographer.
A: Best forum.
A: Pain in the butt.
A: Red Sox.
JC: Tea Party?
JC: New England?
JC: Yellow Pages.
A: My first job.
JC: Let’s try some favs. How about food?
JC: TV show?
A: “The Sopranos.”
JC: Radio station?
A: 107.5 FM, WFCC.
JC: Movie star?
JC: How about a few either ors? Let’s start with photography: digital or film?
JC: Stick or automatic?
JC: Pen or pencil?
JC: LP or CD?
JC: Dining in or eating out?
A: Both as long as food is involved.
JC: Cinema or video?
JC: Mac or PC?
JC: Jo Cose or JonMikal?
A: Even King Solomon couldn’t make that choice.
JC: Coffee or Tea?
JC: What do you do for a living?
A: I’m temporarily retired. I took a leave of absence from my job, as a project director for a hotel management company, which specialized in restoring classic hotels, to care for my elderly mother. It’s been a learning experience and very rewarding. I do miss my former work—especially the income—but I wouldn’t change things for the world. I do look forward to someday returning to the working world, maybe doing something new.
JC: What’s your fantasy job?
A: I’d love to be able to travel and work as a photographer…wow, that would be amazing.
JC: What’s your dream vacation?
A: I’d love to buy a big RV and travel to all the National Parks in North America, photographing all I can find.
JC: Nice segue back into photography. Tell us, what’s your favorite picture you’ve ever taken?
A: Ohhh gosh…I guess it’d have to be this one here. It’s an oldie. I shot it when I first bought my Panasonic. I found this funky pink and yellow dingy—I haven’t seen it since. Been back there many times looking to re-shoot it.
JC: What’s the crazies/dumbest/most dangerous thing you’ve ever done to get a shot?
A: I guess it was standing on the edge of a crumbly cliff here on the outer cape to get a shot of the surf. It was just OK, I’ve taken better shots.
JC: If you could be the admin for YPF for one day, what changes would you make?
A: I can’t think of a thing, I like it the way it is.
JC: What’s your favorite thing to take pictures of?
A: The beach, shoreline, water, birds…
JC: What in photography do you think you’re the best at?
A: Landscape.. I don’t do well with people photography.
JC: What do you think you most need work on in your photography?
A: I would say it’s exposure; I need to learn more in that area.
JC: What’s something in photography you’ve never tried but would love to?
A: I’d love to try underwater photography.
JC: What is it about photography that has made a hobby?
A: It’s reawakened my artistic side, I went to art school in the 1970s and put my art aside to make a living. Now that’s coming back to me full force, and I am trying to figure out where I can put a studio in my home.
JC: Finally, I like to end the interviews with the opportunity for you to offer whatever insight into life you may have, for posterity.
A: Shoot first, ask questions later.
With that, I shut off the tape recorder, thanked Alyeska for spending a wonderful afternoon with me, and leaned back in my chair to listen to the sound of the surf lapping against the beach. After what felt like an eternity just sitting there with my ears filled with the sirens’ song of the sea, I forced myself to stand up and, as I stretched, I saw that a bottle had washed up on the shore. Feeling self-consciously like Gordon Sumner, I made my way down to the beach, sure that the message in that bottle would lead me to my next interview.
A MOMENT WITH CHILLER
You may be wondering why it has taken so long to post the next installment. To say that I’ve been to Hell and back would not only not be a cliché, but it would not even be figurative. I left Tampa and headed east with the intent of spending a little time in Miami. This was not meant to be. I stopped in the thriving metropolis of Clewiston for a bite to eat. This was not meant to be. To say that I looked death in the face is an understatement. As I walked across the parking lot of the restaurant, a black, pimped-out hearse screeched to a halt in front of me. A figure looking like a cross between Charon and the murderer in the Scream movies jumped out of the black car and ran toward me. As anyone would do at a time like that, I reached into my pocket, grabbed the first coin I could find, and stuck it under my tongue. It was to no avail, the Ferryman grabbed me, threw me into the back of the hearse where a soft, satin-lined coffin cushioned my landing, and pealed out as fast as he had stopped. The journey felt like days, but I kept my mouth shut—who, after all, would argue with Death or his minions?
Finally, the vehicle began to slow and came to a gentle stop (as if we had run out of gas). I heard my chauffer getting out of the car, and next thing I knew, I was released from my rather morbid captivity. He held out his hand like a bell hop, and I offered him the shiny (and saliva-y) quarter that I had been sucking on. As he pulled away, I could see the neon letters alongside the hearse, seeming to glow in the foggy night: it read “Lost Souls.” As I looked around to get my bearings, I took in the scene. For one split moment, I thought I was in Transylvania. But the friendly sign clearly told me otherwise. It read, “Toronto Necropolis.” It seemed that I was unable to get away from the Land of Canucks.
As my eyes adjusted to the gloomy conditions of a dense 19th-century-London like fog and full moon, I heard one of the eeriest sounds I have ever heard. It was the squeal of stone on stone—somewhat akin to the sound of nails on a chalkboard. As I oriented myself toward the sound, prepared for anything, I saw that the door to the crypt at the end of the lane (by the “dead end” sign) was slowly opening. I braced myself for…I didn’t really know what—zombies, skeletons, Dracula. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the next thing that happened.
As the door opened, the light of several flickering candles inside the tomb painted preternatural shadows upon the ground. A figure appeared at the door, silhouetted by the dancing candlelight. In that moment, I became Ichabod Crane to this emerging black-cloaked figure’s Headless Horseman, and I shrunk back in fear. From deep within the folds of this Prince of Darkness’ velvet wrap issued a voice as melodious as it was frightening. It said, “Hey bro! Haow’s it gohin’, eh? Haow, aboot thaht pimped-oot Hearse, eh?”
To my great relief, I realized in an instant that I had not been summoned by Beelzebub, but rather by none other than Chiller. Once I had settled my nerves enough to write, I pulled out my pad and pen, sat down on a stone bench with the Chilly One, and began the interview:
JC: So, Chiller, besides “Scary as Shit,” what would you say is the expression that best describes you?
C: I have always believed in the motto, “Everyone has a dark side.” I think it’s true; it’s just that most people are afraid to show it.
JC: Tell us about your username.
C: The name Chiller came to me years ago, while a member of a Halloween forum. A guy I worked with said I was “creepy” because of my fascination with Halloween. He called me Chiller one day, and it has stuck since then.
JC: While we’re talking about usernames, what’s the deal with Ch1ller?
C: I guess I had better tell the truth; I know they are going to read this. Basically, Ch1ller is multiple personalities come to life. They were bottled up inside me, till one day, after an electrical accident at Halloween, the 4 of them came to life and took on my human forum. Now they won’t leave me alone. Sure, we go out and party together sometimes, but most of the time I try to do my own thing. I always have to watch over my shoulder, though, ya know, to see if they are watching over my shoulder too. Click here to see a shot of us foolin’ around one night.
JC: Were you born and raised here in the grave yard?
JC: And what do you do for a living here in Scarborough Ontario, Canada?
C: I’m a warehouse manager for a large format reprographics company. We do blueprints, sell large format plotters, engineering copiers, and media. We started this company from the ashes of a bankrupt company. It has gone from 4 employees to about 35, with 6 different offices in 5 years.
JC: Sounds like it’s pretty cool, and you seem proud of the company, but if you could have your dream job, what would it be?
C: I’m sure most of the folks on the Forum will assume I’m going to say working in a cemetery, but actually, I have always wanted to get into the movie industry, in the special effects departments. Either building miniatures, or designing sets. I think I have watched Lord of the Rings 5 times, and I still don’t know what most of the movie is about. I get too involved in watching how the movie was made. I have always loved building things, and I guess that is one place where my love for Halloween comes into play. Everything in my home haunt was scratch built. Maybe one day....ya never know, I might be doing my dream job.
JC: So what if you won the lottery and never had to worry about money or work ever again. How would you spend your days?
C: That’s a tough question Cose. I know there are a lot of places I would love to visit. I think I would take the time and actually visit them. On the list are Wales, Greece, DC (again), Australia, and New Zealand.
JC: Let’s move over the real bread and butter of this Forum, shall we? How did you get into photography?
C: I just fell into this hobby. I had no idea how deep I would get into it. A few years ago, I decided to take a cycling trip to Niagara Falls. I had trained for many months to make the 320km [198.8 miles] round trip. All I had packed was a cheap point and shoot film camera. After taking 48 pictures, I ended up with about 6 pics worth keeping. That was when I decided to get a “real” camera, a Canon Rebel film camera. Then I just got addicted to taking pictures.
JC: What type of gear do you have in you camera bag?
C: I have the Canon Digital Rebel, 18-55mm, 28-80mm, 70-300mm, 170-500mm, and a Sigma 28-105. Some accessories are 2Xextender, 250d close up lens, Lensbaby, and 17 assorted filters ( I won’t list them all), Sunpak Flash, wireless remote, and my Canon Rebel film camera which I blow the dust off of every now and then…usually when I forget to charge the batteries for my digital cam.
JC: Wow. That’s a lot of stuff. So, when you go out with that small lens store, what’s your favorite thing to take pictures of?
C: Flowers and Babies…nah, kidding, bro! Cemeteries, actually. I find the models here very cooperative.
JC: Right. Of course. So, what’s the one photographic technique that you have never done that you would love to try?
C: HDR. Sometime over the summer, I’m going to try it.
JC: What is your all-time favorite picture?
C: I have to say this one. I call it “The Uninvited Guest.” Mostly because it makes people laugh. Sometimes the pic does not have to be the best technically, but if it creates an emotion, it has done its job. I captured this shot while wandering through Edwards Gardens. There was some wedding photography going on. This dude comes over the hill, takes his shirt off, cracks open a bottle of water and a chocolate bar and plants himself here. I call it my gift shot.
JC: I remember when you posted it. It is a great shot, and I always get a chuckle out of seeing it. Although it’s your favorite, what is your dream shot? That is, if you could go anywhere in the world to take any shot at all, what would it be of and where?
JC: Who is your favorite photographer?
C: I don’t have a favorite photography. I don’t even know the work of any famous photogs. I’m constantly inspired by the photographers on the forum, no matter what their level of photography. I’m always amazed at how people see things.
JC: So who inspires you the most?
C: I’m inspired by anybody who can see an image and make it work. I have never watched the “professional” photographers, so I’m not really up on the who’s who of photography. All of my inspiration comes from the forum. JonMikal’s visions of the DC are an inspiration to anyone. Sir Ray, and his wildlife images, blow me away. Woody’s imagination in The Darkside and his HDRs are all framers. To be honest , the list can go on and on. Everyone has their own eye for photography, and all can be an inspiration.
JC: Photography is interesting and all, but let’s get back to finding out more about Chiller. Who’s the first girl you ever kissed?
C: Karen…I think…Or maybe it was Susan…Or was it both?
JC: Have you ever made out in a (real) cemetery?
C: Not yet, but I have found the place. I just need a willing combatant.
[I would swear that Chiller winked seductively at me after that last comment. I adjusted myself on the bench, and as nonchalantly as possible, I tried to slide a little further away. Then again, it may have merely been the moonlight flicking across his piercing yellow eyes.]
JC: What other hobbies have you tried in addition to photography?
C: Originally, I wanted to pursue a music career. I started playing drums at 13, and I played in various bands around the Toronto Club scene. I tried my hand at cartooning and illustration as well.
JC: I’ve heard the name Kane here and there. Who exactly is he?
C: I met Kane 10 years ago. I had heard about this dog that was living in an abusive home. I took him away, and Kane and I are best friends, and hiking partners.
JC: So, what’s the deal with all the death motif? How did you get into the macabre?
C: I have always had a fascination for the darker stuff. It pretty much started as a teenager. No, I never listened to my metal albums backwards, but I was more impressed by horror movies, and at that time all the classics were hitting the big screen. The screeeeemer movies: Friday the 13th, Halloween, The Evil Dead. They all came out at that time. I have been doing a haunted house for 11 years, I did dress up my parents house a bit. Yeah...they wondered. I really started to enjoy scaring the pants off people back then. The fact that my house backed onto a funeral home helped. My friend Doug’s parents owned it, so we got to wander around inside quite a bit. Still today, I’m as fascinated as I was years ago.
JC: Let’s move to something a little happier, eh? Why don’t you tell us your favorite joke?
C: A horse walks into a bar and steps up to order a drink. The bartender approaches him and says, “hay. Why the long face?”
JC: Er…yea, I’d probably stick with that gig at the warehouse. OK, so moving on. Let’s comment on that unique Chiller look. Have you ever had short hair?
C: Many moons ago. I have had long hair since I was 17. I just can’t cut it. Even my friends and family say I would not be me if I cut my hair. I wish I had a pic I could share. That was before the digital world, and those shots are safely stashed away at my Momma’s place.
JC: If you were given the opportunity to write a chapter in a book on anything you think you are an expert on, what would it be about?
C: Probably creating a Halloween home haunt.
JC: If you could invite anyone, alive or (un)dead, real or fictional, to dinner who would it be?
C: My Dad. I never spent enough time with him when I was younger. I would love to sit and have a chat with him over dinner, and most of all apologize for not spending the time I should have spent with him. I was too busy being cool in a rock band and forgot what you can learn from your father.
JC: Who is the one person who has had the most profound impact in your life?
C: Neil Peart the drummer from RUSH. I spent many an hour learning how to play drums like him. Not only his drumming, but also his way of writing lyrics has always inspired me when it came to music. If it was not for his drumming, I would never have played drums
JC: Let’s play everyone’s favorite: Word Association: Black.
C: Let’s hope I do this right. All those years on the forums, and never once played Word Association. OK, Black…let’s see, how about car.
C: Prime Minister.
JC: You did great. Let’s move on to Choices. I begin with Black and White or Color?
JC: Er…OK. How about Video or Cinema?
JC: Nikon or Canon?
C: Canon...I’m not sure what that other one is.
JC: Digital or Analog?
JC: O or OU?
JC: Eh? or Y’all?
JC: Coffee or Tea?
JC: Rap or Rock?
JC: Shoes or Sandals?
JC: For the ladies: Boxers or Briefs?
C: Briefs (grey).
JC: How about some Favorites: Movie?
C: The Exorcist.
JC: TV Show?
C: “Trailer Park Boys.”
JC: Radio Station?
C: The Rock 94.9 FM.
JC: Vacation Spot?
C: My backyard.
JC: Canadian Province?
JC: US City?
C: Washington, DC.
JC: Historical era?
C: WWII era.
JC: Great. Let’s move back to photography. How did you find your way to YPF?
C: The Coven hexed me.
JC: I know that you, like many of us, have found your way to YPF via several other photography forums. You have been a very active member of all of them, but never in a leadership position. What makes this forum different?
C: I think with YPF it is the people, and the fresh start. I have always believed that you respect the person first. Everyone has their own visions, and a photograph is a reflection of what that person has seen at a specific moment in time. With YPF, I hope we can make everyone feel comfortable, and no one should be afraid to post his or her images.
JC: If you could share one vital thing with everyone reading this, one pearl of Chiller Wisdom, what would it be?
C: Enjoy life every day. Always hug your loved ones, especially your kids, and always love your pets. They are just as precious. All they want is your love. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Your friends are your friends for a reason. Always love them too. We are on this planet for a short time, try to make it the best you can. Love what you have, cause there are people who have less. Never listen to Ch1ller. They think they know everything.
With that, he flipped his cowl over his head, buried his hands deep within his sleeves, looking more like a Prince of the Church than the Earl of Hell. As his cloaked figured glided over the grounds and back to the crypt, I was left to ponder how I had gotten here, what we had talked about, and more importantly, how I was going to get home.
I have met some very cool and interesting people in my short time here on Planet Earth. As the great poet of our generation, Billy Joel, once said, “So many faces in and out of my life / Some will last / Some will be just now and then.” One of those people who lasted is the author of a seminal text in my field of research, Sandow the Magnificant.
Today marks Sandow’s 140 birthday. As such, my friend sent me this email and picture:
Today is April 2, Eugen Sandow's 140th birthday. I've attached a greeting, and I'm sending it to a few people who might appreciate it. The image may be silly, but the intent is serious: to remind us of Sandow and his contributions to both the world in general and our lives in particular.
Happy Birthday to the man who inspired many of us and enriched all of our lives.
A MOMENT WITH DEE
Although it is true that I have begun to tolerate the taste (and texture) of poutine, all good things must come to an end. With the frozen tundra of the Great White North in my rearview mirror, I headed to warmer climes to thaw. Having been as far west as I could go in the U S of A, it was time to head south. I drove for hours, passing through the Heartland of America and into the Sunshine State. Riding down Route 75, I pulled into Tampa just as the sun was setting over the Gulf of Mexico. As it was getting dark, it took me a while to navigate through the town as I made my way to the white rancher with the corrugated red roof. Dee was sitting on the porch swing, waiting patiently for me to arrive.
I stepped onto the porch, she got up, shook my hand, and held the door for me to enter her home. As I walked into the living room, I must confess, not a little fear and concern passed through me. It was as if I had entered an abattoir or a medieval torture chamber. As I looked around me, there were all sorts of instruments of death hanging from the walls, a sickle (reminding me of sadder days in Washington), a scythe (reminding me of the Grim Reaper), crossed swords (reminding me of knights), and an old gun (reminding me of the Civil War), which I later learned was an 1862 Tower Musket. Completely out of place in this macabre setting sat a saddle and a horse collar. When she offered me a seat, I thought for one brief moment she was expecting me to sit in the saddle. Fortunately, she was offering me the rather comfortable La-Z-Boy. As I sat down and pulled my notebook out of my sack, I noticed the largest set of longhorns I’d ever seen outside of UT-Austin’s stadium hanging on the wall over the door that we had come through.
Once my nerves settled from my eerie surroundings, we got underway with the interview.
JC: So, Dee, let’s start with what is becoming my standard opening question. Could you describe yourself in 15 words or less?
Dee: Opinionated, stubborn, funny, kind, caring, uni-tasker (hey! I invented a word!), ditsy, goofy. My real name is Dori, anyone see the movie Finding Nemo????
JC: OK, so that didn’t work so well. Let’s try something different. How about the cliché that best describes you?
Dee: Oh, sorry. I suppose that was more than 15 words. OK, how about this one: Illegitimi Non Carborundum…“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
JC: I like that one a lot. I wish I knew that when I was taking Latin 101 in high school. What food do you consider yourself to be like?
Dee: Peanut Butter. I tend to stick around.
JC: So, tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from and if you have a family.
Dee: I was born/hatched in Germany. in Munich. I grew up in Liberty Hill, TX, where I met my wonderful husband. He is from Minnesota so we moved up there. He then was transferred down here to Florida. We’ve been married for 20 years. He adopted our oldest who was mine from a previous marriage, and we had two more: Jeni, 22; Shelli, 18; and Sammy, 15. Jen just made us grandparents!!!!!!
JC: Mazel Tov! My parents are about to be grandparents, too. So, I know all too well the excitement that comes with that. I guess since you were born in Texas and then moved to Minnesota, that’s where the term “Texasotan” comes from?
Dee: Well....Ah waz raized in Teksus an met mah huzband thar. Then we moooved tooo Minnesoooota wheerrr he grew up, dooon’ cha nooo, eyyy wat? My accent tends to drive people nuts. Unless I get mad then I am ‘Pure Texun’!
JC: And what do you do for a living?
Dee: Up until 2003, I worked in the steel industry, manufacturing structural hangers and connectors. I did CNC programming for presses and drove a killer forklift. I was forced/chose to quit because I was diagnosed with Epilepsy and had to forfeit my driver’s license. Right now, I am a clerk in a dry cleaner. It isn’t too bad except when these stupid customers walk in wanting their clothes when I am trying to shoot something.
JC: If some distant cousin died and left you enough money that you never had to work again, what would you do?
Dee: Well, traveling around finding things to photograph would be great!
JC: Yea, that would be great. OK, that’s a nice segue. Tell us how you got into photography.
Dee: My Dad. He was always taking photos of anything and everything. He started a small business in the late 70s after he retired from the Army. Sadly, it didn’t work out for him.
JC: And what was your first camera?
Dee: A Kodak Instamatic! I photographed my first sunrise with it!!!
JC: What is in your camera bag right now?
JC: If you could go anywhere in the world to take your ideal shot, where would it be?
JC: What’s your all-time, hands-down favorite picture that you took?
JC: What’s the craziest/stupidest/most dangerous thing you’ve ever done to take a picture?
Dee: Standing on a small island in the middle of a busy road trying to take a shot of a kid on a skateboard. The shot didn’t come out.
JC: What’s your favorite thing to take pics of?
Dee: Anything in nature.
JC: What’s the one thing in photography that you’ve never done, but would love to try?
Dee: Infrared! I have always thought it so awesome!
JC: Tell how you found this little forum we call YPF?
Dee: On a search engine. After lurking for a bit, I noticed that all threads are answered in some way or other. No one is allowed to rule, all are made to feel important regardless of skill level. In other words YPF is a level playing field.
JC: OK, here’s were we play some games. Let’s start with word association and the obvious: Photography
Dee: Are not allowed in Texas Chili!
Dee: Sorry Dad!
JC: How about favorites? Movie?
Dee: Harold and Maude
Dee: Anything by Stephen King
Dee: “Hey Jude”
Dee: My Nikon
Dee: The Website for The Schnitt Show, from a local AM radio show
JC: Historical figure?
Dee: Abraham Lincoln
JC: Historical time period?
JC: Ice cream flavor?
JC: And choices: Stick or automatic?
JC: Digital or film?
JC: CD or LP?
JC: Disco or Punk?
Dee: Disco! Showing my age here.
JC: Opera or Musical?
JC: Pen or pencil?
Dee: Pencil, I can erase my boo boo’s
JC: Beer or wine?
JC: Excellent. Who would you say has had the biggest influence on you in your life?
Dee: My Dad. When he would come home on leave he would take me everywhere with him. He never seemed to tire of my endless questions and would answer them honestly.
JC: Where do you get you inspiration when taking pictures?
Dee: From what others have done.
JC: What’s your advice to people new to photography?
Dee: Never compare your work to someone else’s in a negative way, learn from them. Never think you can’t do what another does. Keep asking the same question until you understand the answer. If you honestly look at it, my photos are not as good as many others. All that really means is that I need to try harder and learn more.
JC: And finally, what’s your greatest piece of advice?
Dee: Don’t ever think you know everything. If you do, then you know nothing.
Night had set on this coastal town. As I stepped back out onto the porch, I could hear the ocean crashing on the surf, could smell the brine in the air and taste the saltiness. They say that smell is the sense most closely tied to memory, and it is little wonder that nostalgia for my days working on the water tugged so strongly at my soul. I drove down to the beach and just sat there on the sand, watching the waves as the water was illuminated by the phosphorescence. Before I knew it, the back of my neck was being warmed by the morning rays. I roused myself back to the present, got into the car, and headed to my next destination.