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.

 

 

 

 

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Portland Head Light

IMG_2344 2It was a feeding frenzy of epic proportions.

My wife and I recently visited Maine in search of the one thing that could draw us 900 miles from our eastern Kentucky home to the freezing waters of the Maine coast for a beach vacation…lobsters.  Sure you can get lobsters in Florida and South Carolina and have warm ocean water to swim off the excess cholesterol from the lobster meat and drawn butter, but you have to pay a price that includes their airfare.  And lobsters for some reason don’t accumulate frequent flyer miles.

We consumed eleven lobster dishes in four days…eleven.  I was eating Lipitor poppers in an oatmeal dip for hors d’oeurves.  This allowed me to squeeze enough blood to my brain to keep me cognizant of where I was and why I was there.

We ate whole lobsters, lobster rolls, lobster  mac and cheese, and lobster stew. In between the lobsterpalooza, we devoured steamed clams, fried clams, and oysters.  All of it was the best seafood I had ever eaten.  The closest we get to good lobster in eastern Kentucky is Licking River crawdads, not exactly a delicacy or an object of desire, except when the blue gill aren’t biting and you have to take something home.

I was concerned that my  beach alter-ego, Big Surf Daddy, wouldn’t show since we were going so far north.  Turns out Big Surf has no restrictions of latitude. Mrs. Big Surf and I parked ourselves on the beach for the four days we were in Maine and only left the beach to go eat lobster.

Incidentally the lighthouse in the above photo was taken on our way to Portland to eat lobster.

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

Reconstruction of the West Liberty Christian Church

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We won another victory over the tornado of 2012.

Almost four years after a horrible tornado took our 102-year old building from us, we moved into our new church building.

Previous to this, we worshiped at another church.  I know it was a great sacrifice on their part but they  graciously provided their building to us for about a year.   This was a wonderful act of kindness to a reeling church body after taking a devastating blow.  Luckily we were able to stagger back to our corner and get our wits about us.

We were at this time able to go through the difficult stages of shock and grief over our building.  Also the healing started as we dealt with the emotional attachment to a building that was so meaningful to many of us.  Seeing our children coming to accept the Lord Jesus and go through the act of baptism, walking some of those same children down the sloped aisle to their awaiting spouse, saying good-bye to those who meant so much to us at their funerals was on all  our minds as we started planning for a new building.  We all knew how hard it would be, for we had not planned on bidding adieu to our old friend on the corner of Prestonsburg and Broadway.

We then worshiped in a mobile unit for another eighteen months or so back on our lot.  As we stared at a vacant lot where the old building stood, a constant reminder of what was taken and how much work lay ahead of us as we tried to fill that same lot.

We then built a metal building on the back of our property and praised God there.  We shared this building with the food pantry.  On some Sundays we could smell rotten potatoes or onions or other produce.

Eventually God’s grace and mercy brought us through the storm as He promised.  We had our first service on the first Sunday of 2016.  We were so excited. We moved in before the building would be finished and we are still waiting for the downstairs and kitchen to be completed.

I am very grateful to our congregation for their perseverance and their faith in the one and only Creator.

I took this photo during the construction of our new church building and loved the shadows on a late afternoon.  You can see the domes of two buildings in the background, the dome on the right is atop our old, 109-year old court house.  The tornado weakened the roof and the dome collapsed into the courtroom.  The dome on the left is our new judicial building that was close to completion when the tornado hit.  It had to have major reconstruction.

Through it all, when our faith was struggling and our strength seemed to be fading, God answered our prayers and reminded us that His Grace is sufficient for us.

As I write this, I am listening to a song by Jeremy Camp called “Same Power”.  He sings about “the same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that commands the dead to wake, the same power that moves mountains when He speaks, the same power that can calm a raging sea, lives in us.  He lives in us.”

I know we have a long way to go.  We still have to pay for this building.   But we have already had one to commit her life to the Lord Jesus and was baptized.  There will be more.  There will be weddings and funerals and memories for the next generations of God’s people, if He permits.  He has blessed His people since the beginning of time and will continue till the end of time.  Then Jesus will usher in His Kingdom and I will see some of those I said good-bye to in that old building.

After the tornado,  I was interviewed by CBS reporter Anna Werner as we looked at the pile of rubble that was the old building and she asked me what it would mean to see a new building standing here.  I replied, “God always wins.”

He has won another victory for our small town.

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

Washington Monument

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For the first time in a month of Sundays, we were going to a high falutin’ French restaurant and I was excited.

My wife and I were in the “city that never sleeps”.    That’s right, Washington, DC.  Because, “how could they sleep at night?”

My cousin and his lovely bride of a few years were treating my wife and I to a very enjoyable weekend in this exciting city.  The last time we were in DC was in 2010 and they were getting married.

Reservations had been made at Bernaise, a classy little French* restaurant near the Capital.  The interesting thing about this French restaurant was their specialty…French Fries.  Really, no joke French Fries at a French restaurant…go figure.  Well they just call them fries,  the French is implied.  The award-winning chef likes to serve his fries, or frites, with steak.

Now I like a good steak and spud as well as the next redneck Irishman** that settled in them eastern Kentucky hills, but come on, at a French restaurant?  I want something French, like snails in fancy sauces.  I compromised and ordered some frites as an appetizer.  I must say, those were the best fries I had ever eaten.  I knew they would be good since packs of ketchup did not accompany them.  Now I wish McDonald’s would give out packets of terragon with their fries.

We also had a memorable meal at Menomale in the Brookland neighborhood.  We ingested some very tasty Napolese pizza.  This was way beyond Papa John’s “better ingredients”.  I never realized that there is a certification that pizzerias have to abide by to serve Napolese pizza.  I will supply this educational information for you at this time so I may qualify to apply for some type of grant to purchase plane tickets to try more pizza in the birthplace of modern pizza, Naples… Italy not Florida.

From http://pizza.about.com/od/Neapolitan/a/Neapolitan-Pizza.htm

An authentic Neapolitan pizza has a crust made from a dough that is made with highly-refined Italian type 0 or 00 wheat flour (read more about flour types), Neapolitan or fresh brewer’s yeast (not dry yeast), water, and salt. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer and formed by hand, without the help of a rolling pin. The dough is topped with raw, pureed San Marzano tomatoes from Italy; fior di latte, which is mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk, or mozzarella di Bufala, which is mozzarella cheese made from the milk of water buffalos, usually raised in the Campania and Lazio marshlands in Italy; fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. The ingredients must be all-natural and fresh. The pizza is baked for 60–90 seconds (baking time cannot exceed 90 seconds) in a minimum 800°F stone oven with a wood fire.

 

I took this photo of the Washington Monument on a day my wife and I were rambling about.   There was a caretaker mowing in the shadow.  He kept mowing and would not leave, probably a junior congressman from some insignificant midwestern state, supplementing his income because he hasn’t figured out how to “not sleep at night.”  I waited as long as I could because I knew my internal wife-is-getting-impatient meter was expiring and I was out of excuse coins.

I darkened the shadows during processing to hide this dedicated servant in the black obscurity, ala “Deepthroat”.

Incidentally, the most excited I saw my wife the entire weekend…when we emerged from the subway station at Dupont Circle,  looking for a nice breakfast bistro,  and we spotted Le Kreme d’Krispe .  Oooh La  La.

 

Footnotes were added to give this a look of educational material to further add to my ruse of getting grant money.

 

*In my neck of the woods, we say “Franch”, which explains why I always get Ranch dressing when I order French dressing.

**I feel that this term is politically insensitive, therefore I am leading a charge to keep Notre Dame from opening a community college branch on the banks of the Licking River. So far it is working.

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

 

 

J. Geils

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I stood outside Wetherby Gymnasium feeling all grown up.   I could smell the excitement, the freedom, an occassional whiff of Smashburgers from the Dairy Cheer across the street and dirty denim.  There was also a strange smell, like burning rope, but not any kind of rope I had smelled burning before.  There was also the smell of what I remember Crosley Field smelling like when someone spilled a beer.

I was fourteen and it was the spring of 1972.  I was waiting  to see Rare Earth in concert.  This was to be my first true rock concert.  I rode to Morehead with a friend who was a junior in high school and was way too cool to be spending time with me, a lowly freshman. We came to the campus of Morehead State University to meet my brother.  He was a freshman at MSU and was living the dream, eating out three times a day, letting his hair grow out, going to rock concerts, and hanging out with college girls.

On this particular night, I was like my brother…living the dream or whatever you would call a 5 foot, 120 pound, near-sighted bantam standing amid a massive horde of college students.  Oh, and I did not have a ticket.  My brother, in his new  college wisdom, told me I would not need one.  He said when the doors open, the crowd moves so fast through the openings, the ticket takers don’t even try.

I felt the mass moving.  I looked up and all I saw was afros and beards and pony tails moving slowly against a cloudy sky.  Then a strange feeling came over me…I was floating.  I looked down and saw my feet were not attached to the earth anymore.  I was being carried by this throng toward the doors and all I could think about was staying upright.  This was my first experience with festival seating for rock concerts.

My feet never hit the ground until we were past the doors and inside.  At this point, it looked like a sprint for people with  no sense of direction.  We went everywhere.  My little group settled in the seats on the side, awaiting one of the hottest rock bands of the day.

There was rain in the forecast, but I don’t think cataclysmic gulley-washer was ever mentioned…for it came one…a big one.  Water filled the hallways of Wetherby Gymnasium so fast, I thought I was seeing animals coming in two by two.  But it was just the football team.

Some of the more chemically engineered students were body surfing out in the halls and concession areas.

There was some concern as to whether the band would go on due to all the water in the building.  Evidently the electrical engineering department was among those crossing over to chemical engineering that night  because there was going to be rock and roll as soon as the water receded enough to find the outlets.

All the water in the building activated my little bladder, so I had to go find the restroom before the band took the stage.  As I pushed through the men’s room door and headed past the urinals to the stall ( my bladder was not only small but also shy), I could see in my periphery there were other folks in the restroom.  I recognized the faces of Rare Earth from their album covers.  Their dressing room must have flooded because they were in the men’s room with all of their stuff.   And now Rare Earth was listening to me pee.

As I washed my hands, I kept waiting for some big security hoss to pick me up and gently urge me to through the door.   It never happened.  And as I took my time soaking up the moment and gazing in the mirror of the newly inhabited Rare Earth dressing room, I could see the images of the band watching this little imp at the sink who dared to interrupt their pre-show meditations.  Alas, no one said a word to me except the mass of black hair squatting against the wall.  As I made my way out, I recognized the conga player, Edward “Guz” Guzman and we made eye contact.  He said to me, and I’ll never forget, those important words,  “What’s happenin’ man?”  I surmised he did not want an answer.

I regaled my friend and brother with my latest escapade when I returned to my seat.  Rare Earth came on stage shortly and did not disappoint the water-logged throng.  Miraculously, no one was electrocuted…not by electricity anyway.

I took this photo of another concert I attended at Morehead State.  This time as a photographer for the university when I was a student.  The J. Geils Band came to Morehead and this shot of J. Geils is one of the better ones I snapped that night.  It was also lead singer Peter Wolf’s birthday and he brought out a bottle of champagne and poured into the waiting cups of the crowd near the stage.

There was a different type of mass movement that night.   The campus police moved to the stage but not because they were fans of the band.   At the time Morehead was a dry town and they did not appreciate the way Mr. Wolfe was passing out birthday wishes.

I think the electrical engineers were called into duty that night, because someone pulled the plug quickly.

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.

Do Not Write on the Walls

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Some photos do not need any explanation. However, I can’t let this one go without a few words.

I found this sign on a wall on the trek upward to the dome of the Duomo. The Duomo is the most significant and toured cathedral in Florence, Italy. At the end of this sojourn, the view is magnificent as you look out over the city of Florence and it’s red tile roofs. The hills of Tuscany are in view and so is Michelangelo’s home church, Santa Croce.

There was only one thing I found to be mildly disappointing in Rome and Florence–GRAFFITI. The fact that someone has to put a sign on the wall to remind us not to write on the walls of a beautiful historic cathedral is disturbing enough, but what is more disturbing is the ignoring of the sign altogether.

Now graffiti has been around since the cave-dwellers and has a Biblical record in the book of Daniel. Since papyrus and parchment and the printing press have come into being, it seems mankind would be beyond writing on walls. Now I can understand if you have a sudden poetic urge while you are having a bowel-induced event in a public toilet or want to proclaim to the world your joy about the lovely evening in the company of a young lady. But, that is it.

I have to confess that I am an Andy Griffith Show junkie and I was thinking of one scene when I saw the above sign. In that scene Barney recites the rules to some newly arrested inmates in the Mayberry jail.

So, even if you are enduring a long incarceration at the hands of a despotic sheriff’s deputy, graffiti is forbidden. I raised my son like Opie and our walls are clean. Maybe there needs to be more reruns of The Andy Griffith Show in Italy.

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