Hiding in the Shadows of a Paris Cafe

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As I came to the sideline, there she was, the beautiful Jasmine Cho (not her real name). Then suddenly…uh oh, please, not now…

Lately the temperatures in eastern Kentucky have been as hot as the conjunctiva of a Portland rallyer doused with pepper spray.

I took this photo on a very hot day in Paris while atop an open-air bus.  The only breeze was when we were moving about 40 miles-per-hour.  This is the shade we are all looking for right now.

This brings to mind the days I spent in Houston as a student.  Every day in the summer was like this, ninety-plus degrees with breathing in more water than air.  I can’t believe we played basketball outside and played intramural flag football in August. Ah, to be young again.

One particular robustly, sunny and humid Sunday morning in August when the temps had already hit 90 and I broke out into a drenching sweat just walking out of my apartment into my car.  I was on my way to an intramural flag football game.  I  just had enough time to polish off some barbecue Fritos for a healthy breakfast and washed it down with a Coke before going on the field.

It was late in the game and I was playing wide receiver that day and our quarterback, who was being fanned by the center between plays with a large palm frond, thought it would be in the teams best interest to send me on a fly pattern .  If you don’t know football jargon, a fly pattern is the receiver running down the sideline as fast as he can till he runs under the football thrown by the quarterback who is standing peacefully in the shade of his lineman and sipping a cool drink.  When he has his fill, he looks up to find the receiver running like a meth-cooker with his lab on fire.  He sits his drink down and throws the football as far as he can.

Astoundingly enough, this play did not work on the first try.  After I finally made it back to the huddle…he called it again.  The second try was not successful either.  This time I staggered back to the huddle as the quarterback was polishing off his second cold drink.  Much to my displeasure, he called the play for the third time.  Now my face was feeling as if I had a skin peel with a Texas chili pepper.  I was so exhausted, I couldn’t speak to voice my indignation at this recent decision, but I was a gamer and sacrificed my personal comfort for the betterment of the Nittany Lens flag-football team, a motley crew of first year optometry students.

I mustered all the strength and energy that was left in me as I flew down the sideline.  I caught the perfectly thrown ball, helped by the ball being sticky with lemonade from the quarterback’s fingers.  I caught a touchdown to get us back in the game.  They were yelling for me to come and huddle up for the extra point attempt, however I was indisposed as I was stumbling to our team bench looking like Jerry Quarry after taking a well-placed punch to the face from Muhammad Ali.

As I got closer, I could make out the angelic appearance of Jasmine Cho (again, not her real name), the lovely, athletic fourth-year optometry student unfazed by the Houston heat.  As I approached her, she was about to speak to this lowly plebe to whom she never had spoken.

“Nice catch”, came the words from her lips.

I tried to respond with something clever and debonair but no words came…uh oh.

What proceeded out of my mouth was my breakfast of  barbecue Fritos and Coke right next to her pristine sneakers.  Even in her haste to quickly leave the premises, she was cool and unruffled…almost like she expected it.

I wish that was the end of it, but alas there was another demeaning chapter with Jasmine Cho (still not her real name).

Our social fraternity sponsored a fun run (unfortunately this was the real name) in the spring.  I never knew why they called it that, I never had fun running.  Anyway we were to run the circumference of Memorial Park in Houston, a soothing three-mile run in the Texas humidity.

I wish I could blame the next humiliating incident on the heat, but it was just stupidity.  You see my buddy challenged me to run the full three miles, not our usual one mile.  Bear in mind that neither of us had ever run this far and struggled with the one mile, but a challenge was made and I had eaten my usual power breakfast (see above) so I felt up to the task.

As we approached the finish after this grueling affair of walking more than running.  We decided to sprint the last leg to see who would finish ahead of the other.  I don’t really remember who won, I just remember seeing Jasmine Cho (once again, not her real name) standing at the finish line cheering all of us moronic runners struggling to bring an end to this “fun” time.  You see, she had already finished her three miles, probably ate her lunch and looked like she just came from a spa date.  I was just hoping she didn’t recognize me.  I did notice she had new shoes.

I walked up to her, in hopes of redeeming my last encounter with her.  She said something like she was proud of us to finish the race.  In response I threw up again at her feet.

I have since stopped eating barbecue Fritos and drinking Coke for breakfast. As I don’t want to barf at my lovely wife’s feet, who I  may add is more beautiful than the aforementioned Ms. Cho and I am paying for her sneakers.

 

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

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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.