A Chapel in St. Pierre’s Cathedral

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I was alone in a small chapel in St. Pierre’s Cathedral in Paris, France.  I felt His Presence.

My wife and I were ambling around the outside of Sacre Coeur.  I was taking pictures, oblivious to my surroundings while she, unbeknownst to me, went to sit on some steps overlooking the beautiful city.

At one point, amid the many artists trying to coax  pretty American tourists into having a sit-n-sketch pour une somme modique (for a small fee), I turned and saw that I was not in the presence of my pretty American wife.

I wasn’t too worried about her, as she is not a flight risk, so I wondered over to the other cathedral that is hardly ever mentioned when discussing Montmarte, St. Pierre’s.  This is one of the oldest existing churches in Paris.  It was established in 1147 A.D. and has existed through a number of rebuilds until the current cathedral, which was given its final update around 1905.

I was immediately drawn to the light coming through the stained glass windows in the small chapels.  I started taking some pictures of the refracted light settling on the floor and walls.  All of a sudden, I felt this urge to just stop and sit and pray.

I was alone in one of the chapels.  I thought of all the people who had come here through the years to do just what I was doing, praying to the Almighty God and Creator of all things. As I was praying, I felt the eternal nature of God, who has helped so many Christians endure through the ages.

I think God gives us a few moments in life to let us know He is here.  It can come when we least expect it. At this particular moment, I was just wanting to take some pictures in an old cathedral, something I had done a number of times. I feel that God told me, “Sit and be still and know that I am God.”  An overwhelming peace came over me for a short time and it was so comforting.  And then it was gone, the mystery of God at times is perplexing but wonderful.

I dropped a lens out of my camera bag onto the hard floor and I was welcomed back to the reality of my inadequacies.  A sympathetic fellow photog came up and asked if my lens was ok.  He heard it fall a good distance away while standing in the nave. He was startled by a different presence, but a good soul nonetheless.

I left the cathedral in search of my wife.

Now I was sure she was in the presence of some Parisian, Renoir-wannabe, plunking down une mois de salaire (a month’s salary).  But she was in the same place she had been for the past hour, on the steps overlooking the city, eavesdropping on some poor drug -addled fellow, with no job, telling his life story to his Parisian friend whom he was visiting.  He couldn’t figure out why his wife left him.

Not much mystery there…

 

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Store Window in Chelsea

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“Woke up it was a Chelsea morning”…

I was very excited that morning to be going to Chelsea. I felt very hip, literally, because we had been walking so much in London, much of the time with me carrying my granddaughter, that I felt every hip movement.

We left our Kings Cross flat, our haven for the week, and headed out to meet my son-in-law in Chelsea.  He was taking classes in that fashionable section of London with so rich a history of 60’s rock stars.  I was going to look for the tavern that was the Rolling Stones hangout, The Cross Keys.

“And the first thing that I saw”…

Well, the first thing that we saw was a Tube train (subway for us Yanks).  It was jam-packed.  It looked like one of those jars that was crammed with jelly beans and you had to guess the amount. When it stopped for loading, I guessed a gazillion.  It was only loading because NO ONE WAS GETTING OFF THE TRAIN.  The level of angst was rising in my lovely wife, for she doesn’t like to be in fast-moving, narrow cylindrical emcumbrances that move swiftly underground. My daughter, who had her 15-month-old asleep in a stroller, was looking a little sheepish also.

I gently suggested that we wait for the next train. Surely it wouldn’t be so crowded since the rush hour is over. Now I obviously don’t know anything about the sociological aspect or the engineering feats that go along with moving the masses in large urban areas.  My only experience is me having to go to work in a town of about fifteen hundred people in the hills of eastern Kentucky.  I live about five hundred yards from my work.  But if you act like you know what you are talking about, it should bring great comfort to those in distress around you.  That seems right, right?

“Was the sun through yellow curtains and a rainbow on the wall”…

So after waiting through two more trains, each more crowded than the previous one, we knew we had to suck it up and board or we would be late for our rendezvous.

All I can say is “Wow”.

At this time, I thought my wife needed more of my mass transit-wisdom.  So I pontificated, “when we get into downtown London (do the Brits even say “downtown”? It seems so American.), the train will thin out because everyone will be exiting, Love.”

The laws of physics were being tested as more and more people got on this train and no one was getting off.  I think everyone wanted a Chelsea morning.

Our “rainbows on the wall” were bearded chins, backs of heads pushed up against our faces, ear lobes,and armpits.  I looked for my granddaughter, still asleep in her carriage and she was in a  black forest of skinny jeans.

At one time my wife was nose-to-nose with a young chap for an extended period.  They were staring at each other like two MMA fighters getting ready for a bout.

It was again time for more wisdom from her empathetic husband.

“Just take deep breaths.” I told her lovingly.

Now my wife is very adept at expressing her deepest feelings.  She looked at me longingly with her blue eyes and said the phrase that every wife has, at sometime longed to say to her spouse, “If you say another word, I will punch you in the face.”

Silence became golden for the rest of the ride.

As evidenced of the photo above, I did actually see a rainbow in Chelsea. I liked the shirts hanging in this store window.

Joni Mitchell, I apologize for taking liberties with your beautiful words.

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

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Eiffel Tower

IMG_3828 2Google maps said it was just a short nine minute walk from the Gare du Nord train station to Chez Cazimir.

My lovely wife and I disembarked from a relaxing train ride from London to Paris.  We needed relaxing because we had just spent a week in London with our 15-month old granddaughter who wasn’t too concerned with the Crown Jewels or The Tower of London or where Winston Churchill helped plan the defeat of the Nazi forces invading his beloved England during the big war. Her only concern was to lick every hand rail she came into contact with and to use her pacifier as a vehicle to taste the subtle differences of each sidewalk she trod.

My wife and I had a little different noshing experience planned when we got to Paris.

So we were ready for our first French meal, a Sunday afternoon brunch, at Chez Cazimir. We were meeting a friend of mine and his wife.  He and I had been on trips to Haiti together and by coincidence we happened to be in Paris at the same time, they at the end of their trip and we at the beginning.  It sounded like the beginning of a Hemingway novel, a chance meeting of New Englanders and Appalachianers. And for good measure, a Frenchman living in Monte Carlo thrown in to share our table.

This sounds all too easy doesn’t it?

Well fate had to work overtime to overcome my directional inadequacies.

Imagine my surprise as we walked out into a light Paris drizzle and found that all of the streets in Paris, France are written in French.  And they aren’t displayed on the street corners but on the sides of the buildings.  And the street names change at each intersection.

I guess when you are a city that is over 2,000 years old, there have been a lot of people after which to name a street.  Sooner or later you run out of streets, therefore you don’t get a whole street, you just get a block.

I could sense my wife’s panic set in.

When I finally stopped to ask directions of a lovely Parisian family, there was a bit of a language barrier.  We repeated this Franco-American street drama numerous times over the next 45 minutes until we were thirty minutes late for our meeting time.

It was the first of many exquisite meals we enjoyed over the next four days.  It was so good to see my friend and for our wives to meet.  We spent about two hours in that cafe and it was a good start to our Paris stay.

I took this photo of the Eiffel Tower on our last day in Paris.  I experimented with my take on French impressionism.  However I don’t remember seeing any of Monet’s paintings in black and white.  Maybe he wasn’t artsy enough to pull it off.

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

 

 

 

Row Boat on Eleuthera Island

IMG_9650This was the yin to America’s yang, the gentle breeze to the nor’easter, the Sunday afternoon nap to the frenetic pace of Monday morning.

We landed at the diminutive North Eleuthera Airport.  My arrival at most airports start an immediate increase in heart rate,  sweat starts to roll like an Appalachian flash flood, my brain has to release enough endorphins to combat the stress of walking into the terminal feeling like a cobra slithering into a mongoose burrow.

But this, this was so different.  We were met with a sweet-tempered, warm rain and big broad smiles. My wife and I parked ourselves on the front porch of the terminal as if  we were waiting for a seat at Cracker Barrel for an after-church dinner.  We waited for my cousin and his lovely wife, who were our hosts for the week.  They were coming in on a later flight and arrived about a half hour later.

Instead of the anxiety storms in America, I was awash in serenity from the gitgo.  I felt like I was in the eye of a lilt.

My cousin rented a car from “Big E”.  When Big E’s rep shows up to give him the key and go over the paperwork, the front seat of the rental became the office.  When the transaction had been finalized, my cousin asked, “What do I do with the key when I return the car?”

Big E’s rep, “Just put it under the mat.”

Cuz, “What if someone steals it?”

Big E’s rep, “We are on an island. Where can they go? We just drive around till we find it.”

Occasionally, my attempt to engage in banter with the locals would take a strange turn.  I decided to cook dinner one night so we went down to the local dock to peruse the latest daily catch.  I found a local fisherman proudly displaying his wares.

Me, to local fisherman, “What kind of fish is that?”

Fisherman, “Jackfish.”

Me, “Does it taste fishy?”

Fisherman, “Does it taste like fish?”

Me, “I mean, does it taste too much like fish?”

Fisherman, with a little less smile and more confusion, “Don’t you want this beautiful fish to taste like fish?”

Me, ” I don’t think you understand what I’m asking.”

Fisherman, now totally exasperated, ” I think you want chicken!”

Evidently engaging in tete-a-tete in Paradise has a different thought process than the day-to-day in eastern Kentucky.

I left the poor confused soul muttering something about Americans with fish brains and bought a hog snapper instead.  I figured with a name like “hog snapper” it had to have enough of an identity complex so as not to taste too much like fish.  I was right, it was scrumptious.

In addition to dialogue taking different directions, time also seemed to take a not-so-American sense.

Me, to my cousin, “What time is it?”

Cuz, “Tuesday”

Time is difficult to explain.  Recalling my high school and college physics classes…well I can’t really recall them.  That seems to be one function of time.  Anyway, I always thought that time was the measurement between two physical events. Of course this is measured by a functional clock.

My observance of the relativity of time in a physical sense came from my wife.  She runs her life with the precision of a Swiss watch.  After a few days on this island, she removed hers from her wrist.  Time seemed to have a physical presence, not in an obtrusive, annoying I-wish-you-would-leave presence, but in a genteel, pleasant I-wish-you-would-stay presence.

One other conversation to report.  After the ATM gave me Bahamian dollars, which I mastered the exchange rate after about four days (it’s 1:1), I stated, “Why does it give me Bahamian dollars?”

Cuz’s lovely wife, ” Do we have to have the  fisherman conversation again?”

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

 

 

 

 

Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera Island

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Conch-a-doodle-do!!!!

I think this should be the official greeting on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.   But more on that later.

After a thirty year hiatus from The Bahamas, Big Surf Daddy returned with his bride of the same number of years, Mrs. BS (she will probably not like the way this looks in print).   We were on Paradise Island for our honeymoon in 1985.  I remember we ate a lot of lobster.  So much so that the government banished us for thirty years, they said it would take that long for the lobsters to repopulate.   After we left they had to look  for another ocean delicacy for tourists and honeymooners to consume. They found it…. conch.

We ate conch fritters, conch pizza, conch chowder, cracked conch, conch ravioli, and my favorite,  conch salad.  This latter dish was prepared for Big Surf by a lovely Eleutheran chef in a small stand on the sea wall in Tarpum Bay.  As I watched her execute this simple native dish of chopped onions, celery, peppers, and fresh raw conch with the lime juice and orange juice dressing, I couldn’t help take in the scene of this small town located on the bay with one small dock and brightly colored houses.

It was getting late in the day and the sun was glistening off the aquamarine water of the Caribbean.  I asked her if she ever got tired of the view.  She looked at me with that “you really can’t be that daft” look.  Then she smiled as all Bahamians do when confronted with another stupid American tourist query and I knew.  How could anyone get tired of this?

How could anyone get tired of white sandy beaches kissed by water so aqua that it can only be experienced?  Just looking at it is somehow not enough.  How could anyone get tired of beaches that are so private, you feel like an Onassis.

The above photo is from the southern-most tip of Eleuthera Island called Lighthouse Beach.  The Atlantic Ocean is on the right and the Caribbean Ocean is on the left.  There are more oceans in this photo than people, and that includes the photographer.

Big Surf Daddy’s legend was born on Oahu but his heart was left on Eleuthera.

Oh, one bit of advice if you go and order the conch pizza, eat it all.  As my cousin found out, it doesn’t get better the next day and Immodium is not cheap on Eleuthera Island.

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

 

Indiana Farm in Winter

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Last night I was so proud of myself.

I entered into the world of uber-technology…I watched a movie on Netflix.  Now this was not just ordinary Netflix, like anyone can do by getting movies in the mail.  No, this was on my newly installed AppleTV Netflix with it’s own remote control device and onscreen menu.  I wish I was a little more nerdy, so I could have appreciated what was happening.

Excitement was building as I looked over from the deep cocoon-like encumbrances of my recliner to my wife, whose eyes had seen enough of the day, or enough of me, by 9:00 PM.  She was on the express train to Nod.

At the very moment when the basis of all human knowledge and entertainment was liberated from the fortified stronghold of her clutches (she gave up the teevee remote), I knew I could watch anything available to me from filmdom’s bounty. But alas, as if I had an HBO or Showtime free weekend, there was not much there to hold my interest.

In the midst of an eastern Kentucky January, the sun is about as rare as a good movie on the menu I was perusing.  So I was looking for something light and comedic and cheery to help coax me from the precipice of seasonal affective disorder.  So naturally I decided to watch a little Swedish film noir with subtitles about dealing with those pesky, lovable scamps called Nazis.  This lively romp takes place in the late 1930’s when Sweden was trying to stay neutral as Germany came a callin’ on Finland.  For some reason, no other colors were added to the winter blues.

I took this photo of an Indiana farm in the midst of winter last year.  I like the loneliness of the barn in the field.  I like the feel of desolateness.

My wife and I went to Indiana this past weekend to see our daughter and our Hoosier son-in-law.  My son-in-law, whom I love dearly, complains that I only take pictures of Indiana that look dark and dreary.  Since he moved my only daughter to Indiana, I say “One man’s happiness is another man’s sorrow”.

He did not need subtitles to understand that message.

 

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

 

Ghost of Tybee Island

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Winter is coming……sigh.

I feel like that mighty oak that stubbornly refuses to drop its leaves, desperately hanging on to autumn, somehow thinking that if he never drops his leaves, winter won’t exist.

Every year I refuse to admit winter is coming.  I don’t put my outdoor grill up.  I don’t put the garden hose up until it is solidly frozen.  I don’t clean the filter in the furnace.  I keep my short pants and short sleeve shirts where they are readily available. My wife mistakes this as procrastination or worse yet, laziness.  She is probably right, however since I am writing this, I will use my own self-awareness evaluation.

I look out the window and I see the leaves in my yard covering the grass…sigh.  The only tree in my yard that is hanging on to its leaves is a small sapling that has grown to adolescence in my gutter.  You can see the above analysis from my wife as to why it is still there.

Sometimes I battle winter by thinking about the beach, which is why I am using this picture.  I took this timed-exposure of myself dancing on the beach at Tybee Island this summer.  It was our last night on the beach and I wanted to get a shot of the lighthouse at night.  Big Surf Daddy (as some may recall, my beach alter ego) took over.

Big Surf buries himself deep within during the winter months.  Madam Zelda would not be able to channel him to the surface even with the most cooperative séancers at her disposal.  He has never experienced darkness at 5:00 PM or snow on Halloween.  He has no idea what flannel sheets feel like, or what a comforter is.  He thinks snow cream is some sort of cocaine smoothie.

This is a  picture of  Big Surf’s last night of consciousness on Tybee Island.

I am sure he is already sending threatening texts to Punxsutawney Phil about his forecast.

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

 

Fishing Boat in Bod Me Limbe, Haiti

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I recently returned from at trip to Haiti.   I was with a wonderful, caring group.   I met most of them at the airport in Philadelphia as we were boarding to fly to the island of Turks and Caicos.   From there we would fly to Cap-Haitien, Haiti the next day.

It takes some time for me to process what I experience after a week in Haiti.

I took this photo one morning on the shore of a small fishing village called Bod Me Limbe.   It is on the northern coast of Haiti.   I added warm, yellow light in processing to give it an exotic look.   I took this just before I threw up, either from my anti-malaria antibiotic or from lack of sleep or from some voodoo curse…take your pick.

Haiti  is challenging.   I don’t accept challenges very well.   The Haitian people make the challenges worthwhile.   They have the best smiles I have ever seen.   The people of Haiti live difficult lives but you wouldn’t know it by observing them.   They move through their days with ease and grace.   Oh sure, you can see the poverty and unsanitary conditions every where, but that is their lives and they deal with it….every day.  

During the times I have been in Haiti, I try not to view their country through the judging eyes of an American.   I try to use some sort of non-biased vision and try to understand it all a little better.   Even now while writing this, I still can’t put in words how I feel or what this latest experience has taught me about Haiti.   Let’s just say, I am not ready for a position in the State Department.

One thing I do understand, while in Haiti, you will see things and experience things that normally you would not see or experience.

Ironically, one experience came from a group of Americans that weren’t part of our group.

We shared our compound in a very rural part of Haiti, outside of a village called Jacquesyl, with another American team that was doing healthcare work.   They invited us over to their house for some fellowship and camaraderie.  They did mention that there might be some singing.

At one strange moment, someone called out a number from of a sing-a-long book.  The next few moments were quite surreal.   It was a most perplexing experience.  I still am having a hard time dealing with this in my seemingly rational consciousness.

At one moment in time there was a room full of very white Americans sitting in a house in the Haitian wilderness singing “Black Magic Woman”.

I’m sure at the exact time of this occurrence, Carlos Santana was somewhere in the throes of intestinal distress.

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