Old Fort Myers Apartment

 

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Sometimes you find the pot o’ gold without chasing the rainbow. Sometimes you stumble upon the “X” without possessing the treasure map.

My wife and I recently returned from a visit with my in-laws near Ft. Myers, Florida.  I took this photo of an upstairs apartment in old Fort Myers Beach.  I like the colors and the feel of days gone by in an old beach town.  This however was not the discovery.

My discovery occurred when I stumbled out of the back seat of my in-laws car in a dazed stupor after a less-than relaxing ride over to Matlacha, Florida.  We pulled into another island trinket shop and all of a sudden, the clouds opened up and there was this heavenly aura around a small restaurant called “Island Pho and Grill”.

At this point, I had two choices.  I could go into a store that caters to adolescents, tweens, teens, and middle-aged women with a condition that can’t be explained by anyone with a certain level of testosterone coursing through their body, or I could eat something completely foreign to me.

I made a mad dash across the traffic, my wife made a mad dash into Ye Olde Shoppe of Island Minutiae.  Of course, I can’t explain why she would.

Every culture seems to have their own version of comfort food.  That statement alone seems to sum up my new love for food…it gives me comfort.

The Jews gave us chicken soup. The Germans, who gave me my lovely wife, gave us sausage and sauerkraut.  In eastern Kentucky we seem to gravitate to soup beans, cornbread, and fried potatoes.  The Vietnamese have given us pho. As best as I can figure it is pronounced “fuh”…rhymes with “duh”.

Now bear in mind there is some sort of squiggly accent mark that accompanies the spelling that,  one, I can’t find on my English keyboard and two,  I can’t find anyone who knows what that squiggly line does to the pronunciation of the word.

I ordered a bowl of vegetarian pho, since we were going to eat supper in a few minutes and my mother taught me,”Don’t spoil your appetite.”  I have disregarded this advice since I was about 16, for it seems I always have an appetite now.

The taste of this Vietnamese delicacy led me into a state of palatable bliss that I haven’t experienced in a long time.  Maybe since my first potato chip or first bite of a chocolate doughnut.

I called for my brother-in-law to come and share in my savory fortune.  He looked at me as if I had gone daft.  Then he informed me of my daftness for Vietnamese cuisine wasn’t too high on his bucket list.  But once he imbibed in this dish, he was taken in by the wonderful flavors.

My wife came out of the Island shop and much to her surprise, she saw my brother-in-law and me up to our wrists in pho, looking like piranha feeding on an unsuspecting water buffalo who happened into the Amazon for a leisurely soak.

I don’t know who was happier at that moment, me or the store owner counting his fistful of cash as my wife and her sister were walking out of the store.

I will be pho-ever be grateful for discovering this new-found delicacy.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my photography here.

 

 

 

Reflections on the Louvre

IMG_2887 2 (1)Ah Paris, la ville des lumieres.

My dad sent me an email while ma jolie femme (my beautiful wife) and I were in Paris last summer. The email came on the last day we were in Paris. He said, “It must be beautiful there at night. I always wanted to see Paris at night.”

It suddenly dawned on me…

We had not really seen “The City of Lights”.

Paris was given the above nickname, La Ville des Lumieres, because it was one of the first European cities to use gas street lights and it was prominent in the Age of Enlightenment.  Now we did not see much of the physical lights of Paris and considering our lack of awareness as to our location most of the week, we did not feel too enlightened.  Nevertheless we had a good time slogging through the streets of Paris in hot and humid conditions, sans lumieres.

The previous week we spent in London, where the skies did not darken until about 10:00 PM. We were not accustomed to this, even with the much-anticipated switch to Daylight Savings Time in eastern Kentucky, where it gets dark a little after 9:00 PM. We still do the time change to aid the farmers, or the late-day yard mowers.  I belong to the latter group.

I thought in Paris it would get darker sooner since we were east of London. However, my internal compass could have been playing tricks on me since in Kentucky, Paris is slightly west of London. So give me a geographical break.

The summer days in Paris are llllooooonnnnggg and hot.  Due to the heat and humidity, and my 60+ yr-old body tiring more easily, we were back in our hotel room by the time it got dark.  The only lights we saw in Paris were generated by our handheld devices.

This last night, we tried to stay out past dark. As we were eating our last Parisian meal at a cafe called Le Petit Suffren.  I was about to fall asleep in my plate of tomatoes with mozzarella and pesto.  The beautiful Missus was dazed as she finished her chicken crepes.  We were both sufferin’.

We did see some lights of Paris during the day.  I took this picture while we were on top of an open air bus.  It is the reflections of light off the pyramid at the Louvre.

We actually were walking in Paris after dark the first night we were there, but we were lost and looking for our hotel.  We did get a glimpse of La Tour Eiffel dans les lumieres that showed itself between buildings. However, my wife playing the part of femme fatale in our little street drama was putting me in a compromising position of choosing between setting up a tripod for a photo or…actually there was no choice.  She was tired of walking and wanted sleep. When I slowed to a stop to reach for my camera bag, I saw the look.

No amount of French could pretty-up what she was thinking.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

 

 

Bridges on the Seine

0ea2acee15a73723b7c6d5213d092dc5_10864123Mon chocolat a fondu!!!

This does not mean I am having a chocolate fondue party on Monday.  This is French for “my chocolate has melted”.

My wife and I visited “la capitale francoise” this past summer.  Now let me tell you, it was hot that week.  I now have a theory of why the French Revolution started in July of 1789…everyone was hot.  They were wearing those powdered wigs and heavy clothes. This provided a boiling cauldron-type atmosphere of discomfort among the commoners and the buorgeoisie society and set the city on an emotional precipice.  Inevitably one day, too many chocoholiques, wanting to savor their recent purchase in the shade by the Seine, discovered, ” MON CHOCOLAT A FONDU!!!!!”

At about the same time Marie Antionette was summering in a cool cellar in Versailles eating her solid chocolate and enjoying it so much she tweeted a photo of her bliss.  Well, needless to say, her head may have been the first thing dipped in chocolate.

The heat was oppressive that week in Paris, much like the French monarchy of the 1780’s. My wife and I did two days on the Batobus instead of the one we originally planned.  This is a water taxi that travels the Seine and drops off a boatload of tourists at advantageous locations to tour the city.  The second day, we never got off the boat except to eat. It was the most relaxing day we spent in Paris.

The above photo was taken on our second day on the Batobus.  It was late afternoon and the sun was reflecting on the Seine.  I like the lighting and the silhouette of the bridges.

As far as the chocolate goes, we spent most of one day in Montmarte and as we were working our way down the Street of Martyrs, we found Henri le Roux chocolates.  We bought a small assortment, because we belonged to the commoners.

We decided to wait until later that night to nosh on our treasured purchase.  We found a small table outside our hotel on the street. With much excitement, we opened the elegant little box.  “Mon chocolat a fondu!!!!”

Maybe we should have heeded the advice of Ms. Antoinette and ordered cake.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

Riding Through Port-au-Prince

haiti-2011-125-2-1He was waiting there, like he always does.  Just standing…and…waiting…

I have been cycling (this sounds more manly and adult than saying “riding my bike”) for about three years now. This is because my almost sixty-year-old knees remind me every day they are almost sixty years old. Riding a bike doesn’t make them feel almost sixty years old.

I love riding through the eastern Kentucky countryside,  riding through woods and past streams, riding past newly cut hay fields, and fields of cattle and horses. We ride past tobacco in the fields and in the barns, a wonderful smell that brings back memories of fall in Kentucky. We ride past fields of wildflowers.

What an idyllic experience to cycle through eastern Kentucky.

Until…

Many times we are snapped out of this pastoral bliss by the canine consternation, when your body goes from producing hot sweat to cold sweat.

Many people have dogs that protect their property from dangerous, middle-aged bicyclers that roam the rural routes, usually in packs, looking for free air to feed their flat tires.  Most of these mutts are not a threat. However,there are those who are threatening and we get to know those very quickly.  We ride many of the same routes and we know where the dogs come a-runnin’.

One particular mongrel stakes out his spot in the middle of the road when he sees us coming.  We lovingly refer to him as “Cujo”.   He has mastered the game of “chicken”, because he will not move.  He makes us decide the path we will ride, then the chase begins.  He is big, about mid-tire high, and muscular, a bad combination for possible contact with your high velocity velocipede.

Last week the aforementioned happened.  Cujo decided he wasn’t going to chase me, so he decided to stop me. He blocked my path like Dick Butkus plugging a hole.

My helmet now has a dent in the side after hitting the pavement with my head inside.  There was various scrapes and blood. There was groaning, but I didn’t cry.  Even now my insides feel like that side of beef looked after Rocky pounded on it in the meat locker

I took this photo of a man calmly riding his bike through the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  There can’t be a calm ride through these streets.  It is ultimate chaos.  He has to dodge cars and trucks and motorcycles and buses and other bicycles navigating without lanes, carts pulled by animals, and  tap-taps (Haitian taxi’s) loaded with people and their belongings.  He also has to avoid goats, pigs, chickens, oxen, and “lions, and tigers, and bears”.  Oh MY.

Every day he is playing a real-life Frogger navigating the streets of Port-au-Prince.

I just had to miss one dog in the middle of the road in peaceful Stacy Fork.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

 

Street Sax Musician

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“I’ve got two extra tickets!”

Oh how we love that phrase.  Nothing activates our dopamine like someone having two extra tickets to an event we desperately want to see.

The thing is,  I didn’t desperately want to see this event.  In fact I had never heard of this person.  Is he a singer? or a magician? or a poet? or a psychic? or a self-help guru? or an evangelist? or a fund-raising politician?

My first reply was “Yes, I will take the tickets.”  My second response was “Who is Sturgill Simpson?” I guess that is why they call it dope-amine.

It wasn’t until after I accepted the invite, that I asked my wife. She was in the throes of PMS…Post Mental Shutdown, since it was after 10:00 at night. She did not put up a fight.

As we neared the destination of the concert, I reminded her that the tickets cost $40.00 each.  She did not recall that conversation from the previous night.  She then put up a fight.

We found our seats in the balcony, behind what I could only describe as a bigg’un. This guy was wearing a local motorcycle group’s shirt that had to be made by a local quilting circle.  If a Vietnamese child would have made this shirt, she would have taken it home to be the new roof of her house.

Bigg’un was waving a fifth of bourbon for all to see.  Amazingly, the liquid was reduced  down to a few tablespoons.  It didn’t take long to know where the rest of the missing libation was residing.  He turned out to be entertaining, just part of the ticket price.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sturgill Simpson and his band.  I tried to describe his music that night to a friend.  It was as if the tour buses of Dwight Yoakum, Tower of Power, and Southside Johnny collided at a New Orleans intersection.  There was a mixup and these musicians staggered onto a bus and kept touring.

I took this photo of a street musician in Boston near Faneuil Hall.  I love to listen to good street musicians.  They add so much to the essence and spirit of the city.

I like the fact that the musician’s face is hidden, that it could be any street musician.  Also since I did not get permission to use this, my attorney was happy that the musician can’t be recognized.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

 

Cupola at Sunset

image_1As a photographer, what happens when your worlds collide?

I am talking about your photographer world and your loving husband world.  It’s the age-old  case, the classic moral dilemma, the situation ethic, the ego vs. super ego, good angel on the right shoulder and demon on the left.  What is a photographer to do when faced with this paradox that could end all of humanity (or at least his humanity)?

My wife and I were driving through  the University of Kentucky’s campus in Lexington, KY last evening.   There had been a storm that had just passed through and the sunset  that followed was beautiful and there was dramatic lighting all over town.   So in photographer world, there is a great need to park the car and start taking pictures of something… anything… in this lighting.

Unfortunately, we were road- weary from a long drive and wanting to get home.   We had to make a stop in Lexington to drop off some precious cargo and we had just started back on the road.  In the loving husband world, we were trying to get home to watch a) the recorded seven-hour US Open golf championship or b) the newest episode of “Madmen”.   Both were equally important  but not exactly in the same order for each occupant of this automobile.

Now I have had much experience in the past in dealing with these emotional- erupting,cosmic calamities.  I am usually able to avoid them by focusing my telescope on the beautiful heavenly body sitting in the passenger seat and gauging the path of her orbit.   It usually has to do with the level of gamma rays emanating from a face-melting stare that gives me a clue as to whether I should stop for that photo.

I am sure photographers have been faced with this unfortunate situation since the dawn of man, when Og would stop the family mammoth on their way to the in-laws for Thanksgiving and chisel out a beautiful sunset on the ol’  Kodak Kodastone.

One particular world-colliding event my wife and I survived had been on a trip to California.   We were driving on the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway on a sun-bathed day.   We were heading to San Francisco.  My loving radiant wife was a few months pregnant with our first child and had that other-worldly glow.   We came upon a Winnebago that was moving at the speed of my ability to determine changes in my wife’s mood.

With some deft driving skills I passed the mammoth-like vehicle on the curvy road…only to find a spot to pull off for a once-in-a-lifetime photo.   As I was putting my camera back in the bag, my heart sank as I saw that Winnebago drive slowly by.   My wife had a loving, eye-rolling smirk…so cute.

Again I found myself behind this slow moving behemoth and after drafting him for about ten miles at about ten miles per hour, I finally made a move reminiscent of James Bond on an Italian mountain road.   I waited until I knew I had put enough curvy black top between me and the Winnebago and pulled over for another once-in-a-lifetime photo.   Much to my surprise, the Winnebago went lumbering by.  My wife had lost the smirk… and the eye roll.   Now it was just eyes without the roll.

I swore to my wife I would make this good and maneuvered my powerful four-cylinder rental around this bliss-killing  sloth a third time.   When I pulled off to take another once-in-a-lifetime photo, I did not have to see my wife’s expression…I knew.   She said something about Shirley MacLaine not having as many once-in-a-lifetime photos.   Meanwhile there went the Winnebago….and there went my wife’s glow.

I took this shot yesterday of the cupola atop the Lexington Theological Seminary.   I only tweaked the contrast and exposure during editing.  The colors are natural.  My wife was supportive because she was already asleep.

This is not a once-in-a-lifetime shot.  I am not allowed to take anymore of those.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.

Silhouetted Saints

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While the world is focused on the conclave in the Vatican in anticipation of the next pope, I thought I would get as much mileage as I could out of my photos from Rome.    I have over 1500 photos…………… I can wait out the Cardinals.

This is a shot of the statues atop the colonnade surrounding the piazza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, Piazza San Pietro.

There are ninety-six statues of saints and martyrs, designed by Bernini, that stand above the colonnade.   These statues are, left to right,  St. Leo the Great, St. Alexander of Alexandria, and St. Ignatius.   They have peered down on the parishioners and pilgrims for over five hundred years.

When my wife and I were in  the Vatican, it was late afternoon and the sun was behind the massive structure.    I could not get a good photo of the front of the church so I reverted to my old standby of silhouettes…making lemonade when you have lemons…putting on my big boy pants…sucking it up…walking it off…”stop crying Nancy”, sorry just remembering some comforting words from the past when things did not go as planned.

As I have mentioned in previous writings, my wife is of the Catholic faith and I am not.   This has led to some interesting conversation over the years, usually ending with me asking too many “why” questions and she questioning my motives and rolling her eyes and muttering under her breath as she leaves the room.

By and large, we have handled this difference in our faiths pretty well over twenty-seven years of marriage.    We mainly focus on what we have in common and that is a shared belief that Jesus is Lord and He died for the sins of all mankind and He rose again.   However it has led to some moments of entertainment for her before I learned the details of the Catholic Mass, such as the time I decided to take communion for the first time one Sunday morning at a Mass in Dallas.   I was unaware of the protocol during this beloved part of the Mass.   Evidently you are to respond, “Amen”, when the priest offers, “The body of Christ”.    My lovely wife left out this little nugget of information as we were waiting in line to receive communion.

When I approached the priest, he offered me the host and said, “The body of Christ”.    I stared at the host, then up at the priest, then back to the host, then back up to the priest wondering why this was taking so long.    As my wife turned and walked away, I felt my life-line slowly leaving my desperate clutches.    I was like that astronaut who, after deciding to skip the spacewalk class, found himself  adrift in space, wondering why he never asked a few more questions.

At this point, I realized that I was to respond.   Panic set in for I had NO IDEA what to say.    Before I could verbalize something that would make it even more obvious of the “NC” at the altar, (that is” non-catholic” for those of you who don’t have my extensive knowledge of the Catholic faith), the priest had mercy on a troubled soul and handed me the host, probably thinking he was being presented with one who was not in control of all of his faculties.

This led to a rather lengthy discussion between Mr. NC and Mrs. C on the ride home.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe

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I was distraught when I read Lynn’s Paradise Cafe had closed its doors. My wife and I loved eating breakfast at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe when we were in Louisville, Kentucky.

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe was one of those restaurants that was special. It was loud because people were having a good time and eating exceptional food. Usually the tables were filled with families and large groups of friends. The decor was unlike any restaurant I had experienced. It was artsy and gaudy and over-the-top…so nouveau kitsch.

It was so enjoyable eating at Lynn’s, like eating at the fun aunt’s house, you know the one that never married because she had a career in the city and wanted to spread her wings and saw a life beyond what she knew from her upbringing. She traveled. She cooked exotic foods and didn’t care if you dropped stuff on the floor because it would be a treat for her two dogs and four cats.

My wife would order French toast at Lynn’s, the portion being the size of a beret worn by a big, bulbous-headed futuristic Frenchman. I would have an omelette as big as a small hen-house.

I love to eat. My sister-in-law calls me “the locust”. I informed her on a recent visit that I have started fasting on Sunday morning. She reported this surprising development to her husband who responded,”Does that mean he wants only two pancakes with his eggs and bacon?”

We plan our vacation destinations on the availability of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and only travel during the times when the “hot” light goes off. Whenever we go to the southeast coast we time our travel so we will be eating lunch at Maurice’s Bar-B-Q (also known as the Piggy Park) in Columbia, South Carolina.

My son was about six years old when he first dined at Maurice’s. We were driving to the beach from our eastern Kentucky home. I kept telling him how wonderful the food was at Maurice’s as we passed the hours on the road. He was a picky eater, as most boys are at that age. I knew he would not want the barbecue. He only wanted a plain hot dog.

I don’t know if it was the 8-hour build up or the excitement of going to the beach, but he proclaimed to all who would listen that “this is the best hot dog I have ever eaten!”.

I took this photo of Lynn’s Paradise Cafe one morning last April as we were waiting to get a table. I will miss Lynn’s. I hope she will reconsider her decision. I don’t think France’s economy will survive the loss of income from exporting their toast.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my photos here.

Morgan County Courthouse at Christmas

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I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

As most everyone does at this time, I always look back on the current year and do some reflecting. It seems like this year has been a lot harder upon which to reflect.

I realize in all years there are difficulties, strife, and calamities. We lose people through the year that we are close to and remember them more at this time. We pray for those who are grieving and lonely and missing family members.

Now we as a nation mourn the loss of children, teachers, and one mother who tried to raise a tormented boy into adulthood and hoping, one day, he would be able to function in society. It seems as though they have replaced, in our thoughts, the previous senseless deaths at the hands of other demented souls in Oregon, Colorado, and places that don’t make the front pages and 24 hour news cycles. While it is hard, we should mourn for those who pulled the trigger, and somehow hoping, they had no idea what they were doing.

Here in West Liberty, Kentucky we are still feeling the effects of a tornado that devastated us and while we are making progress, we see reminders everywhere and think of the families that had ones they love taken away. The folks in the northeast also are going through a similar and more recent experience.

However, while we reflect on Christmases of the past, there is really only one Christmas that should be foremost on our mind and that is the first Christmas. A loving God entered into His creation He cherished so dearly. He did not wait for all of humanity to come to Him. He came to us.

I took this photo of the Morgan County Courthouse last Christmas. I know the courthouse will one day be just as beautiful as it was in this photo.

May your Christmas be filled with love and peace. May those who lost loved ones this year have fond memories and those memories will somehow give them comfort and joy. May we be filled with the wonder and awe of those Bethlehem shepherds. And may the world come to know the loving God who came in the form of a little baby and showed the world how much He loves us.

Merry Christmas.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.

Sometimes Haiti is a Blurrrrrrrrrrrrr

What happens when you combine chaos and potholes and put them in a centrifuge along with yourself, oh, and add chickens, roosters, goats, and an occasional pig… then hit spin?  Oh, not just spin…hyperspin.  You have a typical street scene in Port au Prince.

I loved being a part of it.  Of course I wasn’t driving the bus.  That bus was a renovated Morgan County school bus that was shipped to Haiti to serve a pastor and his churches.  You can see it as the background blur in the above picture.  It was sitting on the side of the street because a rather large rock was wedged  between the back two tires on the driver’s side.  It took a while for my friends to hammer it out.  I, of course, went across the street to take some shots of the moving traffic.  This particular shot I really liked because it shows the movement of the street and it was so typical of Haiti, yet so atypical of America.

This was my first trip to Haiti.  I tried to learn some Haitian creole before my trip.

During one particular conversation on the above bus, I was trying to communicate with some locals we were transporting to a church service.  We were in the back of the bus being tossed about like the crew of the S.S. Minnow due to the less than immaculate road conditions.  I was trying to convey to them in my fluent creole that the ride was not smooth, as if they were not aware of the situation.  I kept saying the same phrase over and over hoping to get some sort of acknowledgement.  All I received was blank stares.

Later, as I was sitting in the church service, wondering why my exquisite creole did not register with my bus companions, it suddenly hit me.  I was telling them, “My name is bumpy”…over and over and over again.

If you like this picture, you can see more here.