Friday, October 23, 2020

Looking Forward...

This whole Covid-19 thing has obviously sent us all into a tailspin. Trying times these have been, and there's no way to know when, once and for all, we'll be free from the restrictions we face because of it. All we can do is what we can do and try to move on.

Thanks to the pandemic, I shot my last paying photo gig on March 13. I didn't have another one until September 13; a full six months later. I went and got myself a "regular" job, but I haven't had one of those in seven years and, truth be told, I can't say I like it very much. Hopefully, as my shooting schedule starts to repopulate, I can go back to doing solely photography.

I've always found, though, that there's never a wrong time to look ahead. So, I've decided to do that.

With the holidays looming in the shadows, the new year is going to be here before we know it. For me, a photographer who loves photographing (among many other things) automobiles, the Mecum Collector Car Auction is going to be held down in Kissimmee, Florida January 7-17. Of course I won't be there for the whole thing, but I'll get my media pass secured and make plans to go down there for a few days. It's always a lot of fun, and you're sure to see cars you've never seen before and will never see again.

At last January's Mecum auction, the main attraction was the Mustang that Steve McQueen drove in the movie "Bullitt". It sold for the princely sum of $3.74 million. This year's main attraction? Carroll Shelby's personal 1965 Shelby 427 Cobra Roadster:

 


 

After that, I'm hoping my collegiate calendar fills up. As big a pain in the ass as it can be sometimes, the money doesn't suck and it certainly keeps me busy.

At some point, it'll be time to look at travel. This year I was going to take my daughter to Belgium for her birthday. Well, of course, that fell through. So, we're looking at that again for this year and, because we didn't go last year, I'm entertaining the idea of flying first class this time around. Yeah, it'll be a lot, but it's a long flight and, while a first class fare wouldn't be worth it from Jacksonville to Houston, it certainly could be for a flight from Jacksonville to Brussels.

I'm also hoping to see Spartan Race ramping back up their operations. Those are long, hot, dirty days, but they're also a lot of fun and the money's pretty good.

So, we'll have to see what happens in the upcoming months. Everything's up in the air, but that's part of what makes it so much fun!



Monday, June 29, 2020

This Damn Camera...

As an addendum to the Covid Road Trip entries, I wanted to mention that, with the exception of the tattoo shoots I did and my visit to Notre Dame, every picture I shot on that two week road trip was with the Fuji X100F:



My daughter bought one before she and I went to Scotland last year, and I was diggin' it.


My daughter Jessy with her Fuji X100F...


She said she wasn't sure if I'd really like it but, in August of last year, I went ahead and picked one up. I have to be honest, I love it. It's the camera I grab any time I leave the house. It's just that good. And I can't really complain about the images it produces.

It's right around $1,000, and I highly recommend it...

Covid Road Trip - The Road Home...

My last day in Ohio was spent relaxing and, really, doing a whole lot of nothing. It felt good to have a "down day". We had a nice dinner and then I did a tattoo shoot with Ron and his daughter Madison. Those images will be included in my "American Ink Project", so I'm not going to include them here.

After leaving Ohio I had to go to New York to take care of some business. It was strange. I was in New York for a total of about 18 hours. I'd never done a whirlwind trip like that. But, I got in and I got out, and it was all good.



I would've loved to have made that 390 mile drive, but there'd have been nothing for me to do once I got there...
Actually, spending such a short period of time in New York was fine, because it was still pretty much shut down. I stopped at some bagel joint and I had to wait in the parking lot for them to bring me my order. I figured the sooner I hit the road the better.

I had a really good night's sleep in my hotel, and I didn't wake up stupid early to get on the road. My plan was to drive straight through, stopping along the way as I needed to.

Along the way in North Carolina I hit a wall. I could feel myself dozing, so I decided to pull off at the world's greatest truck stop, Kenly 95. I slept for about an hour and a half; maybe two, then got back on the road. After about two hours I again felt myself dozing again. Mind you, it was about two in the morning, so I didn't feel bad about pulling over a second time. This time, though, I slept for the better part of four and a half hours.  I woke up, found a McDonald's to get some coffee and a sausage biscuit and got back on the road.




The roads were pretty empty, I thought, for a weekend, so it made for a nice leisurely drive. Every so often I'd turn the stereo up, roll the window down and get some of that warm morning air.




I used to live in Charleston, and I have friends there. Couldn't stop though...

The road home...
 
I forget what time I finally made it home to St. Augustine, but I was in pretty rough shape when I did! I unpacked the car and then retreated to my bedroom and took yet another nap. It was well earned, I think.

You know, this road trip was a really good thing for me. The last time I worked was March 13. It was one of my college shoots up at the University of North Florida. Once that was done, it was done. Universities throughout Florida and Georgia shut down, effectively putting me out of a job. It felt good at first but, after a while, I got tired of pretending I had a reason to be sitting in front of my computer every day.

So, I decided to pack my suitcase, make some phone calls and head west. It's always good to see old friends, and this trip reconnecting me with my old shipmate Alphonso was a definite high point. It also gave me a little kick in the ass regarding my tattoo project, as well. In the two weeks I was gone I did five tattoo shoots. I hadn't done five tattoo shoots in the previous year. It was good to get focused on that while on the road and rededicated to it now that I'm home.

This trip reaffirmed my belief that, sometimes, you just gotta' go. Don't spend a lot of time overthinking what you want to do, just start doing it and let the plan play itself out on its own.

I've found it works out best that way...
 



Saturday, June 27, 2020

Covid Road Trip - Cleveland

You know, I almost didn't get out of bed.

After all, how does one follow up after the world's largest cuckoo clock? Can it even be done? Well, we were to find out.

My second to last day would be spent in and around Cleveland. Ron wanted to go, and I've never been there, so away we went.

In this:

I now know what it's like to have my heart wrapped around my spine...

Ron's 2016 Corvette Stingray is a freakin' monster. I need to be honest, once I was in the car I was fine. But I'm not a small guy, and the interior's a bit tight. But I wasn't going to let that dampen my day. This car was the perfect choice for an hour-long sunny-day drive to Cleveland.

Cruising into Cleveland, the first notable thing we saw was Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians.



The stadium has been the home of the Cleveland Indians since 1994, and it cost $175 million to build. The first game played was against the Seattle Mariners, with the ceremonial first pitch being thrown by President Bill Clinton. In 1997, it joined an elite group of stadiums which hosted both the All Star Game and the World Series in the same season.

We didn't stop at the stadium, although tours are available on non-game days. As you might suspect, though, they're currently suspended because of this Covid nonsense. When they reopen, tours will cost $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and kids under 14.

Our main purpose for going to Cleveland was to hit the West Side Market



Cleveland's oldest public market has over 100 vendors of offering meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, baked goods, dairy, you name it.

Every vendor seems to try to out-do the next. At one vendor, we bought some linguine to have for dinner that night, but the gourmet ravioli looked amazing, as well. If I had been able to spend more time in Ohio I definitely would've bought some.

Now, you might say "Well, isn't $12.50 a lot to spend on some lobster ravioli?" Well, consider that you'd probably pay $20 for that in a restaurant, and you'd likely only get six or seven pieces. Nothing you'll find here would be considered "cheap", but you just won't find anything more fresh. 


An amazing array of gourmet raviolis...
 
This vendor had some amazing hot chocolate. In hindsight, I should've bought a mug...
  
A wide selection of "smokies" at one of the beef jerky vendors...
  
Glass display cases filled with food were everywhere...
  
I'm not a big hot sauce fan, but I'd have been catered to if I was...
  
"Leave the gun. Take the cannolis..."






Red meat fans (of which I am one) need go no further...




I'm not a big fish guy, but there was no shortage of freshly caught fish available...
 
Doesn't look like anyone's buying any beer tonight...


It's the other white meat. Except the feet. Not sure what's goin' on with those...

There's even a cafe, with outdoor seating...

Like so many other places I visited on this trip, the West Side Market wasn't fully opened due to Covid-19 concerns. As you can see, there were plenty of vendors to buy from, but the vendors which were open actually represented only about 60% of the total number who set up shop at the market. I'd like to go back when they're in full-swing.

Of course, Cleveland's known for more than the Indians and some cool, fresh food shopping. Since 1995 Cleveland has been home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland.


The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame...

Now, of course, this wouldn't be the perfect Covid Road Trip blog entry if we were able to gain access to the Hall and, accordingly, we couldn't.  While it's since reopened as I write this, it was closed when we were in Cleveland. I guess I'll just have to make another trip sometime.


The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame on Lake Erie...

Initially, I guess, Cleveland seemed like an odd choice for the Hall's location. However, not only did the city present the most attractive financial package, but disc jockey Alan Freed was the first person to coin the phrase "rock and roll" on WJW (850-AM) in Cleveland. He's also responsible for what the New York Times dubbed "the first rock and roll concert" at the Cleveland Arena on March 21, 1952.


Alan Freed (1921-1965) (photo sourced from the web)...
An historical marker on the grounds of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame...

Since we couldn't visit the museum, we opted to cruise around the city and check things out. Cleveland's actually a pretty cool city, right on the water, with plenty to see.


Part of the Cleveland skyline...

The "FREE" stamp in Willard Park...

I just thought this building was cool. I've no clue what it is...

This could quite possibly be the world's biggest street light. I want to come back at night to photograph it...

Like anywhere, I have to believe that Cleveland would be a much more enjoyable visit once it opens back up and businesses get back on track. Sure, driving around is great (especially if you're in a Corvette), but I like to get out and walk around and visit parks and museums and such. This will surely not be my last trip to Ohio, so a return trip to Cleveland is all but guaranteed...





Thursday, June 25, 2020

Covid Road Trip - Ohio...


My first full day in Ohio was going to be a busy one. I stayed with my friends Ronny and Gwen. I've know Ron since I was a kid and, quite honestly, he's more of a brother than a friend. It's always good to see him and his family and I waste exactly no time saying "yes" when an invitation is extended.


Waking up that first morning, though, there was neither Ron nor Gwen, nor their daughter Madi. No, instead I was greeted by Chloe, the English Bulldog:


That face. I'm in love...

After breakfast (I now constantly crave cinnamon raisin toast) Ron and I hopped into his truck and made our way down the road. Unbeknownst to me, the Ohio State Reformatory was in nearby Mansfield. Not familiar with that? Well, it's where Andy Dufresne was sent to serve two life sentences in the movie "The Shawshank Redemption". The reformatory served as Shawshank Prison, and the movie was shot almost entirely at the prison and in Mansfield.






The prison is quite an expanse, and you can explore its 250,000 square feet if you so choose. Admission to the prison for a self guided tour starts at $25 for adults (kids under 6 are free) and $23 for military, students and seniors. Guided tours are a few bucks more.

That's probably a bit more than I would usually spend, but had the prison been open for tours while I was there, I definitely would've ponied up the cash. Aside from the Shawshank connection, this prison has also been investigated by the guys from "Ghost Adventures" on the Travel Channel. I enjoy hitting those sites, as well, when I can, and have visited many of them.

You can also a guided tour of the prison for $30, or even a bus tour of the "Shawshank Trail", which will take you through all of the sites, at the prison and in Mansfield, where the movie was filmed. The cost for that is $99 per person. Unfortunately, only self-guided tours are being offered because of Covid concerns.

One of the stops along "The Shawshank Trail"...


The prison reopened on June 15, and is currently open seven days a week from 11:00am until 4:00pm.

From "Shawshank" we drove into downtown Mansfield. I gotta' tell you, getting out of the truck and stepping onto Main Street was like losing 60 years on a calendar somewhere. It was quintessential "small town mid-America". Ronny paid the meter and we started meandering down the street.


I always enjoy a liberal use of neon...


Somehow, we ended up doing the "antique store thing". See, guys can't go "antiquing". We do the "antique store thing", and our first stop was Carrousel Antiques:


Carrousel Antiques on Main Street in Mansfield, Ohio...

I collect vintage cameras, and found a really nice 1930's Kodak Baby Brownie Special, pretty much like this one:


Photo sourced from the web...


The one I bought is actually in much better condition than the one pictured above. It's in mint condition and works perfectly. Not too shabby for a camera that's 80 years old! Oh, and the best part? It was only $18. Now I just have to find an original box and instruction manual. They're out there, but they can easily cost more than the camera.

We'd been out and about for a while, and it had been a while since breakfast, so we decided to drop into the Coney Island Diner for some lunch.


Unfortunately, the hot dogs were a bit more expensive than 5¢...




Now, generally speaking, there wasn't a great deal of healthy eating happening on this trip, and this lunch would be no different. I got one hot dog without sauerkraut and one with. Yeah, believe it or not, there's a hot dog in there. The bacon cheese fries were Ron's idea. I tried them, but stuck mainly with the hot dogs.


I know, it looks horrible, but it was sooooo good...

After lunch, we made our way back to the truck and drove over to the small town of Millersburg to check out some more antique shops. One in particular was pretty cool; three floors in a really old brick building that has to be haunted. There were also some cool finds:



Full and unopened, and only $6. When was the last time you saw one of these?

On the third floor are all kinds of things you never knew you couldn't live without...

Now, 30 years ago, who would've thought a light-up Radio Shack sign would ever be "antique" or collectible...

"Who ya' gonna' call?"

We stepped out of the mega-antique store and found our way down the street, to the Millersburg Brewing Company. I was about ready for a cold one, so Ron consented to my wishes (he doesn't imbibe) and in we went. The air conditioning felt great, and the beer I got (I don't recall the particular one) was so good I had to have two.


This was one tasty brew...

It was easy to see, though, that they were still on the comeback trail from the coronavirus. While they had both a dining room and a bar area, only the dining room was open, and people were being seated at every other table. The staff were all wearing masks (we had them if required), but they weren't that crowded.


Ron checking stocks or something on his phone...





We ended our day at the world's largest cuckoo clock, which is found in the thriving metropolis of Sugarcreek, Ohio.

Now, when Ronny first told me about this, I was thinking this was gonna' be HUGE. I was expecting to look down into the valley and see this edifice of classic engineering towering over the town.

Well, it was cool enough, I suppose, but I guess was expecting a little bit more. After all, c'mon, the world's largest? Well, truth be told, it is. It was even on the front cover of the Guiness Book of World Records in 1978, so it's certainly legit:




So, yeah, kind of a quirkly little thing is what it amounted to for me. Would I go out of my way to see it again? Probably not, but I'm glad I saw it once, nonetheless.


THE BIGGEST ONE IN THE WHOLE DAMN WORLD!

To see the world's largest cuckoo clock in action, click here!

We'd had a full day and we'd both been thinking about dinner, so it was time to head back to the house and get settled in for the evening. Tomorrow was going to be another very full, if not Covid-abbreviated day.

But it was gonna' be fun...






Looking Forward...

This whole Covid-19 thing has obviously sent us all into a tailspin. Trying times these have been, and there's no way to know when, once...