Moving Through Florence

Florence is a beautiful city.  I wish I could expound on its history and setting and sound worldly and knowledgeable  but I cannot.

You see when my wife and I were planning a trip to Italy, she wanted to do a tour so we would know what we were seeing and know the history and the meaning of it all.  At least that’s what I thought she was thinking.  As it turned out, not having faith in my honed sense of direction, all she was thinking was to prevent us from getting lost or kidnapped in a foreign country.  Nevertheless, I was able to convince her that we would  be able to navigate on our own and it would be more relaxing.  I’m sure the tours did not stop for gelato every half hour like we did.  I hate looking at watches and having to be somewhere at a certain time, especially on vacation.  We did download a few of Rick Steves’ tours on our iPhone and iPod and that was very useful.

Like Rome, there were some things that amazed me about Florence.  I was struck by the number of people riding bicycles in the city and weaving their way in and out of traffic and through pedestrians, and there were a lot of pedestrians.

As you may be able to tell from my previous blogs, I like to photograph motion.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it is because it requires some skill and technique.  To show motion in a still photograph is pretty cool.  Since the digital age, more and more photography is relegated to the processing programs.  I think I like motion because it still has to be done through the camera lens.

Anyway, I took numerous shots of bicyclists in our three days in Florence.  This shot is my favorite of all of them.  I did it in black and white to give it more feel and drama.  This was taken outside of the Uffizi gallery along the Arno River.

Don’t be fooled by this photo and think all I like to take is motion shots,  I shot a couple of thousand pictures in Italy…one good thing about the digital age.

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

Rome at Night

My wife and I went to Italy in the late summer of 2010 to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  We tried to plan a trip for our 10th, 15th, and 20th anniversaries but something was always coming up and preventing us  from doing so (those darn kids  we have to take care of).  I’m sorry, did that thought slip out?

Rome was our first stop in Italy.  We landed in Rome at about 9:00 AM after a sleep deprived flight from Detroit to Amsterdam to Rome.

Our first clue as to the fast-paced life in Rome would be the taxi ride from the airport to our hotel.

We “spun the chamber” at the taxi stand and hopped in our ride, seemingly an  innocuous event.  The cab was small and did not look like it had enough horse power to match my first car, a 1965 Corvair that would shake and shimmy at 50 mph.  Looks can be quite deceptive.

After informing our driver of our destination, he welcomed us on our first visit to Italy. I did not know we were preparing to embark on a taxi ride that would make the New York and Chicago cab drivers look like they trained behind the reins of an Amish wagon.  While my wife and I were still in a sleepless haze, he shot out of the taxi stand with a sly grin. I felt like Slim Pickens riding the bomb in Dr. Strangelove minus his level of excitement.  We weren’t sleepy anymore.

Can you be terrified and at the same time be impressed?   Those thoughts don’t seem to go together, but oddly enough that’s what I was thinking as exhaustion turned to shock.   We watched our driver perform levels of multitasking heretofore I thought were not humanly possible.   He was talking to someone on bluetooth in Italian, while he was typing on a keyboard in the seat beside him and following the progress of his fingers on a monitor mounted on his dashboard, at the same time turning to pleasantly converse with us in English, all the while driving 70 miles per hour (sorry, 112 km per hour).   He was speeding through traffic along roads that had four lanes painted, however, there were six lanes of cars.  The one task he did not perform was to look in his rear view mirror as he navigated this roving chaos.  My wife and I quit talking after five minutes.  Instead we just looked at each other as if to memorize the face of the one we loved so we could be sure to recognize each other in the afterlife.

Rome is an incredibly wonderful city to visit.   Like that cab ride, I was ever amazed at how fast and furious the city moved.   I wanted to get a photo that showed the movement of Rome.   This photo was taken during our night walk across the city.   I did not have a tripod so I had to hand-hold this shot.   We stood at this intersection and watched the traffic for a few minutes while I contemplated  how I wanted to compose the shot in the camera.  I was pleased with the result since I had to hold the camera and shoot at 1/25th of a second.  It captured the movement of the traffic while keeping the buildings in focus.

We stayed in Italy long enough to make us long to return.

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

Morgan County Courthouse

In the summer of 1979, I worked on a crew that started restoring the Morgan County Courthouse.  It was my first summer of really hard work.  My previous summers were spent as a life guard at the West Liberty Kiwanis swimming pool.  Now some of you may think dragging yourself out of bed at the crack of 11:00 AM and rushing out to the pool to sit in the sun, listen to music, drink your fill of cold Cokes, and eating hot dogs, chips, and ice cream most of the day constitutes hard work, then so be it.

Okay, maybe I left out the part of having to deal with screaming kids, cleaning filthy bathrooms, and actually being on guard to prevent those same screaming kids from drowning.

The summer I spent working on the courthouse was a great summer.  I was employed by a local builder and worked with a knowledgeable, professional, and hard-working crew…well, except for me.  I will always be thankful for the patience they showed a former lifeguard with no experience in working at real man’s work.  Even though I was the low man on the totem pole (can we say totem pole now in classic American literature such as this?), it was a great summer job.

Most of our conversations went something like this, of course names are changed to protect my children’s inheritance:

Foreman to carpenter, “Bring ten of those shingle bundles up to the roof.”  Implicit within these directions were the facts that the bundles weighed eighty pounds each and the roof was a ladder destination about fifty feet in the air.

Carpenter to experienced laborer, “We need ten bundles of shingles up here on the roof.”

Experienced laborer to me, “Kent, go get ten bundles of shingles and bring them up to the roof.”

I can never say enough good things about the crew I worked with that summer.  One thing they taught me was to finish college because I was not cut out for this kind of work.

There have been many courthouses on this site.   Built in 1907, this particular courthouse is on the National Register of Historical Places.  Once condemned with a fence around it and awaiting a wrecking ball, a group of concerned citizens led the fight to save it.   I’m glad they were there to save the building.

As a young boy I remember the whittlers and knife traders on the courthouse square. I also remember the Saturday Night Jamboree from the courtroom.  My uncle tells about having his tonsils removed in a make-shift operating room set up in the courtroom.

On the night of the tornado, I was glad to see the courthouse still standing, knowing it had taken all the storm had to give.  As I stood for a moment and gazed at the battered building, all of those memories of working that summer came back to me — I was filled with relief the crew had had the good sense to never let me drive a nail.

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


The Doughboy stood as a sentinel on the Morgan County Court House square for over eighty years.  Since the 1920’s when he came to West Liberty, KY and began his watch over our community he had witnessed many changes and through it all he remained steadfast….until March 2, 2012.

He had seen horse and buggies and A-models on mud streets through the depression. He witnessed young men, like himself, go off to war from the bus station across the street, knowing they were full of patriotism and a sense of duty mixed with a lot of anxiety and wondering if they would see their families again as they looked out the windows at the back of the bus.  He silently rejoiced as most returned, victorious in battle.  He also mourned for those families that experienced the loss and sacrifice of their sons.

He saw the jubilation and carefree times after  World War II and into the fifties  as the cars going by changed from bulkier sedans to sleeker, longer styles, some having fins. He never blinked when the muscle cars of the sixties and early seventies sped by and he wondered if they ever noticed him.  Recently he has seen helicopters fly in and out of the hospital on the hill across the Licking River.

He saw many sixteen year-olds learning to parallel park on Main Street.  He probably chuckled to himself as he saw one particular frustrated teen feebly attempt to perform this arduous task three weeks in a row in pursuit of his driver’s license.  That name shall remain off the pages of these scholarly ramblings.

I have taken many pictures of this World War I monument over the years.  For some reason I have always been drawn to his face, having been struck by the lifelike features and youthful appearance.  Whenever I would look at him, I thought of my grandfather who enlisted  in the Navy near the end of World War I.  He met my grandmother while in training at the Naval training center in Chicago.  She was fifteen and he was eighteen.  They eventually married and he brought her to West Liberty from Chicago.  I admired her courage and her adventurous spirit.

I like to think the Doughboy “fell on the grenade” that fateful night trying to protect the community he had watched over all those years.  As he absorbed the direct force of the tornado that toppled him from his post and severely wounded him, I hope he felt the love and respect of the community for those many from Morgan County who have served this great nation and for whom he stood in honor.

The Doughboy is being repaired and eventually will be back in the community he loves so dear.  Like that officer that has earned a cushy desk job, he will be performing his duties inside one of the court buildings. I will be glad to see him back in town.

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

West Liberty, KY…My Hometown

I was born and raised in West Liberty.  This is a nice small town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in eastern Kentucky.  Like all small towns across America, West Liberty has some incredibly wonderful people and some real characters.  It was a great place to grow up and to be from.  I have always been proud of my hometown.

I always thought that West Liberty  was the closest thing on earth to Mayberry, so much so that when my oldest child was getting ready to start school, my wife and I decided to move back to West Liberty to raise our children.  You see my wife was not from West Liberty and she was moving away from her hometown area — it was not an easy decision for us at the time.

I think growing up in a small town is wonderful, because you learn how to deal with people.  You can’t isolate yourself like you can in a city.  I think it is easier to take a small town raising and move to the city than vice versa.  However I still had some reservations about this move because I thought I had become citified. I was reminded of the Gomer Pyle, USMC  episode when Gomer came back to Mayberry on leave from the Marines and he wanted to surprise his friends only to show up and no one was there.

Only a few people know this about me ( and after this blog, that probably won’t change)…I have written a few songs.  I am not a songwriter but occassionally one squirts out of me.  I tried to write a song about moving back and I used the above episode as a theme, wondering what Gomer thought about coming back to Mayberry.  The only words I could come up with…so far…

“Gomer don’t go back home

Mayberry ain’t what it use to be.

The buildings still stand,

Your friends you will see

But you are the one that has changed.”

Those few lyrics did not prove to be the case with me because it was a smooth transition back home.

However, it hasn’t been so smooth in these last six months since the tornado tore everything up. The buildings don’t still stand anymore and a lot of my friends I don’t see as often because routines have changed. I sometimes wonder if the tornado changed me also.  I hope this is not the case.  West Liberty will always be a wonderful small town and I know, again, it will be a great place to be from.

I took this shot of Main Street at night this past winter about two or three months before the tornado.  Most of these buildings are gone now. I am glad to have this picture. Like looking at friends in old school yearbooks, it will be easier to remember what this old friend looked like. But as we all change from year to year in those photos, it will be great to see West Liberty fully grown up again.

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

West Liberty Methodist Church

I will never forget running up to Main Street after the tornado went through and seeing the steeple of the Methodist Church sitting in the middle of Route 7.  I know there are some images of this terrible event that will forever stay with me and that sight will surely be one of those images.

The West Liberty Methodist Church has always been a focal point of our town, with its beautiful steeple and white brick contrasting the blue sky.  This was the picture I wanted to capture  when I took this photo.  Now because of the numerous power lines that were in front of the building on the corner of Prestonsburg and Main, it made getting a good shot of the church building very difficult.  Not until I bought a 7 mm fish-eye lens was I able to photograph the church building by standing inside the power lines.  If you notice, I still had the shadows on the front of the building.  The afternoon light shining on the building gave a better definition of the white brick.  I like the black and white because it showed more contrast with the dark blue sky.

When I was in my pre-teen and teenage years, going to church was important.  I had many friends that went to the Methodist Church and I went to the Christian Church just up the street.  When we were old enough to venture out on our own, we would have a quick assemblage between Sunday School and “church” at Don’s Restaurant located conveniently between the two churches. This was about as close to rival gangs as there were growing up in West Liberty in the sixties and Don’s was our turf battle.  I would get a cherry coke at the fountain and a box of Luden’s cherry cough drops to get me through the next service.  On some occasions I would be late for church due to an intense philosophical discussion with my rival friends on the differences of our two theologies.   The dogma we usually argued about was which minister could get us out in time to get the good booths at Don’s for our afternoon meal.   We, at the Christian Church usually lost that battle for we were always watching the Methodists eat first and head out the door with that “I-told-you-so” condescending smirk across their gravy-stained faces.  As you can tell, I am still dealing with some issues from my past.

I will miss standing on the south end of Main Street and looking down the street and seeing the white-bricked Methodist Church building with its steeple rising  majestically against a blue sky.

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

Can’t Wait for a Peanut Butter Shake…

For those few of you who will read this blog, please forgive my indulgence into my past and please forgive my somewhat public therapy sessions on the proverbial couch as I work through the difficulty of dealing with post-tornado stress and depression.

This is a photo of the Freezer Fresh in West Liberty, KY.  I took this shot one summer night.  I wanted a night shot to get the movement of cars driving around the small dairy building.  I sent my two children to the window for an order after I  set my tripod up across the street.  I set my camera up for a long exposure and hoped my kids didn’t move too much.

The Freezer Fresh was built and opened by my dad in 1957.  It had been a popular hang-out in our town for over fifty years, that is before the tornado, or as the people of Haiti refer to the devastating earthquake simply as “the event”.

As I made my way down Prestonsburg Street that fateful night on March 2, 2012, one of the sights that affected me the most was seeing the Freezer Fresh in ruins, with the ice cream machine oozing water…seemingly gasping its last breath.  My son walked over to turn it off as if to put it out of its misery.

For me, the Freezer Fresh was a kid’s greatest treasure. Since my dad was the owner,  I could go and get free ice creams and shakes and big wheels and brown derbys and sundaes and hot dogs and barbeques.  For those few years of my childhood I was Caligula of the dairy products, spending my summers in a lactose indulged haze and I did not care who knew it.

My kingdom of that summer dairy world  came to an end one fateful night when I saw two gentlemen in my family room talking to my dad.  I later learned that he had sold the Freezer Fresh to those two fine men that I had known all of my life and suddenly, I was jealous of their kids who happened to be good friends of mine.  My rule was over, forced from my throne, chocolate dripping from the corners of my mouth, in a state of depression  that lasted til the day I finally passed my driver’s test and went to the Freezer Fresh with a sparse amount of change in my pocket and experienced something I had only read about…sweet freedom.

I pulled my dad’s Plymouth Valiant   into the Freezer Fresh parking lot and ordered me something, I don’t even remember, but I know it spoiled my supper. It began a time of revelry into burning gas mixed with  hot dogs smothered with chili and slaw, a combination of biofuels that kept me going well into college.

The Freezer Fresh has had four owners since 1957, all of them wonderful people. They have seen teenagers come and go, starting out their working careers and professions slogging dairy products and double-deckers across the small linoleum counters. They have seen loves develop into marriages, Road Runners peeling out, a few fights, and a lot of smiles.

The Freezer Fresh is going to open again soon…the glorious kingdom returns.  PEANUT BUTTER SHAKES FOR EVERYONE!!!!!!

If you like this photo, there are more of my photos here.

And They’re Off…

This is my first blog.

I felt like this photo was a good start, because it symbolized a beginning, the beginning of a rebirth for our community after devastation.

The West Liberty Kiwanis Club celebrates July 4th on Main Street, a tradition that has occurred longer than I can remember.  This particular celebration was very special. It was the first event held on Main Street since a horrifying tornado hammered us on March 2nd of this year. The tornado virtually destroyed all of Main Street and the rest of the business district.  My office was one of the buildings destroyed.  There were many homes and residences destroyed and people were displaced.  There were six very good people killed in the rural areas of our county.

West Liberty was settled close to two hundred years ago but now it seems that we will have a new beginning.  This photo somehow to me represents that beginning.

The photo was shot at the start of the race with a Canon EOS 40D and a Vivitar 7mm fish-eye lens.  I wanted to capture the start of the race with a blur to show motion, so I set my shutter speed at 1/30th of a second and aperture of f-22.  The shot was hand-held above my head to give the elevated perspective.  I wanted a view of Main Street and the crowd with the start of the race.

The people had a wonderful time and it was one of the best 4th of July celebrations that we have had.  I hope West Liberty can recover and surpass its past.

If you liked this image, there’s more here.

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