Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Covid Road Trip - Heading To Memphis...

I left Navarre on Monday, in the midst of a downpour which was so torrential I almost began to question the wisdom of getting on the road. I finally decided to head out and, in hindsight, I'm glad I did. The rains let up a bit after about an hour and, after two hours, I was seeing sunny skies.

What surprised me most of all about this leg of the trip was how much of it wasn't being driven on interstates. That's a double edge sword, though. On the plus side, the scenery you see when you're not on the interstate is so much more enjoyable. Driving through small towns in the south can be like a step back in time, sometimes. On the downside, though, the drive invariably takes longer. It's a trade-off and, for this trip, a trade-off I was more than happy to make.

This leg of the trip was actually taking me to the small town of Bartlett, Tennessee. Bartlett is the home of my old friend Alphonso. He and I were stationed together in San Diego back in the early 1990's, and we'd not seen each other since I transferred from that duty station in 1994. He retired shortly thereafter. 

The drive wasn't bad, even if it did get monotonous every once in a while.

At some point in the day, I found myself in the little town of Georgiana, Alabama. Ordinarily, I think I probably would've just cruised right through, but a sign caught my eye. It was a sign directing me to the boyhood home of none other than Hank Williams. Of course, since a major part of this trip is to get photos I may not normally have an opportunity to get, I pulled off the main road and started following signs. Now, I'm never going to be accused of being a country music fan, but I known an icon's name when I hear one, so I thought stopping would be a good idea.
 




Hank Williams lived in this house from 1931 until 1934...

Williams only lived in the house for four short years, after which his mother moved the family to Greenville. Despite being known as one of the founding fathers of country music, Hank Williams was only 29 years old when he died.

The road got a little bit long after I was on the interstate for a while, and I knew I was starting to fade. That tends to happen when your view doesn't change and you stare at these two views all afternoon:







After being on the road for what was just shy of eight hours, I found myself pulling into Alphonso's neighborhood. Yeah, it'd been a while; 26 years, as a matter of fact, but it was damn good to see him...






Monday, May 18, 2020

Covid Road Trip - Day 2...

A subtitle for this entry could be "The Food Edition".
 

The one thing I want to do during this trip is relax. I know I could've relaxed in St. Augustine, but this is a different level; a different "brand", if you will of relaxation. This second day of the trip fit rather nicely into that idea.

We decided we'd take a drive over to Navarre Beach and walk the pier. It was a bit warm, but nothing unbearable. We paid the whopping $1 to walk the pier and headed out over the water. There were a lot of people on the pier, and most of them were fishermen (and women).  Now, I've walked up and down piers all over the world, but I've never actually seen someone catch a fish. That would change today, though. As we walked towards this one rather slight woman, it was clear that she had a fish on the line.

And it wasn't givin' up without a fight.

The woman was absolutely spent. She was screaming as she was trying to reel it in, and she wasn't having much luck. Finally a guy came over and took the rod from her, and he enjoyed only a mildly greater level of success. He got it to the surface, though, so another guy came along with a wire basket and was able to get it underneath the fish to haul it up onto the pier.




She guesstimated the weight at about 40 pounds...


Dan didn't have quite the same level of luck:


I don't think he'll be on "Wild Tuna" anytime soon...


There were a lot of people in the water and, as you can see in the background in the photo of the woman above, there were a reasonable number of people on the beach, too. The color of the water was great, too; that turquoise hue that you usually only see in postcards.
 





The pier is 1,545 feet long and towers 30 feet above the water. It takes a little while to walk it, but the view doesn't suck:







After our jaunt out onto the pier, we stopped at Windjammer's at the foot of the pier for a quick beer. Windjammer's is a typical beach bar, and there was plenty of seating:




As we were leaving, we saw one of those signs you see only because, at some point, there became a reason for the sign:




From Windjammer's we decided to head over to Broussard's for lunch. Broussard's is also a typical beach bar kinda' joint. Their inside dining room was closed, so we sat at the bar and ordered. It was right about beer-thirty, so I ordered up a cold one a grilled mahi sandwich:


Tasty grub...

We finished lunch and walked back to the car and then made it back to Dan's house for a bit. Honestly, I didn't sleep spectacularly well the night before, so I was all in favor of nappy-time. I'm pretty sure Dan did the same.

The thing about being along the Gulf coast is that, when you get hungry, seafood is prevalent. We decided to head over to The Grand Marlin in Pensacola Beach but, because of social distancing, they were only serving people with reservations so as to maintain proper distances between diners. So, we made our way over to Crabs. We've eaten there in the past, and it's pretty good. It's not as spendy as The Grand Marlin, but the food is really tasty.


Crab's in Pensacola Beach...
Yes, they do...

Looking through the dining room to the beach...


Due to the coronavirus they were running a minimal menu...


Seating was at every other table...

I know I'm going to be getting into some serious BBQ once I get to Memphis, I spent the day in a seafood mood. Accordingly, I opted for some sushi and, yeah, another cold frosty. 





We got back to the house and, after a couple of cocktails, I was fading. I spent a good amount of time editing pictures from the day, but the day caught up with me and I just wanted to go to bed. After all, I've got a bit of a drive to Memphis, so rest was high on the priority list...






Sunday, May 17, 2020

Covid Road Trip - Day 1...

As you'd expect, the first day of the trip (of any trip, really) was pretty uneventful. It took me about six hours to get to my buddy Dan's house, and I was a bit beat when I got here. Even still, this is a trip I always love making. After all, this is a setting that isn't difficult to get used to:


Dan's backyard in Navarre, right on Pensacola Bay...

The most eventful thing of the evening was dinner. Dan's been wanting to bring me to Johnny Huston's for the last few visits, and we finally made it.





I got the "50/50" which was, quite possibly, the best burger I've ever had. It was a 10 ounce patty of half ground beef, half pulled pork and diced bacon topped with cheddar cheese & spicy bbq sauce. It was insane. It was one of those burgers that, once you pick it up, you never put it down.


The "50/50", which comes with bottomless fries...

The bun was so inadequately small it was almost comical. There was just no way to hold the burger without the patty getting pressed against the palm of my hand. But, damn, it was good. But, as much as I enjoyed this burger, I couldn't finish it. Koa, Dan's Siberian Husky, was the beneficiary.

Tomorrow will find me back on the road, headed for Memphis, Tennessee...





Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Road Awaits...

So, if it hasn't been obvious, Covid-19 has been driving me up a wall. Yes, I know it's serious. Yes I know a lot of people have died. Yes I know it's a bitch to find toilet paper at Publix.

But we learn to move on.

This coming Saturday, I'll be doing just that, if only for a couple of weeks.

I'm going to leave St. Augustine Saturday morning, probably by 10:00am at the latest. I'll be heading over to Navarre, which is in the panhandle, to visit my friend Dan who, like me, is going nuts with the whole "social distancing" thing. The intent is just to spend a couple of days there unwinding and, really, getting myself amped up for the rest of the trip. 


Not a bad place to hunker down for a couple of days...
 
Dan's dock on Pensacola Bay...


Dan's got to work on Monday, so that'll probably be the most opportune time for me to head north. I'm certainly going to miss that view, though.

From Dan's house, I'll make my way up to Memphis, Tennessee. I've never been to Memphis and, as it turns out, an old shipmate of mine lives there now. We were pretty good friends back in the day, and recently I got to wondering what happened to him. Well, leave it to Facebook. I punched in his name and, lo and behold, there he was. I sent him a message and he responded with his phone number. We were on the phone for over an hour when he invited me up for a visit. It was really just the luck of the draw that the invite coincided with this trip. When I told him I was looking forward to hitting Beale Street, his reply was "Oh, you wanna' go there? I was going to take you to the real Memphis."

Suffice it to say, we're going to visit both.

Oh, sign me up... (photo courtesy of Memphis Daily News)
The nice thing about this trip is that there's no hard and fast schedule. If I spend two days in Memphis that's cool. If I spend four days there, that's good, too. With that said, I'm thinking two nights before I head off for northern Indiana and southern Michigan to visit friends. I'm hoping it's not too cold up there (it was 38° the other morning), but I'll be happy if I'm able to feel some actual springtime temperatures. I'd like to check out Saugatuck while I'm there, as well as the St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse. It looks pretty sweet in photos I've found. 

I mean, really?

(Photo courtesy of The Herald-Palladium)

If I'm lucky, I may even be able to work in a tattoo shoot during this visit, as well (I need to get that project in high gear!).

From Michigan, I'll make my way down into Ohio to visit some family in Wooster. Not sure how many days I'll be there, but I know it won't be enough. I'm going to try to work in a tattoo shoot here, as well. I'll be in Ohio for Memorial Day, as well. I can't say I've ever enjoyed a midwest Memorial Day celebration before, but maybe this will be the year.

As I write this, I'm still trying to determine what the last stop will be. I'm hoping it'll be to visit my buddy Holt just south of Chattanooga. I've known Holt since we both lived in San Diego, and he's a phenomenal photographer. If things pan out, it'll be a nice stop along the way home.

Either way, I expect to be getting home either May 31 or June 1.

And then I think I'll take a nap...



Covid-19...

Well, it's been right about two months since I attended CPAC, and that was my last blog entry.

Since that time, of course, the world has changed a little bit. The coronavirus, Covid-19; call it what you will, has impacted every aspect our lives in every corner of the globe. The virus has impacted life on six of seven continents. It's literally everywhere.

However, I'm not one of the "doomsday" types. Much to my daughter's chagrin I haven't done a great deal of social distancing and I haven't been wearing a mask when I go out. I have one, mind you, but I only wore it once, for this picture to show people that I had a mask:



I guess I should wear it more often and, who knows, maybe I'll start. Or maybe I won't. It's hear if I need it, and I've actually been thinking of buying more.

Of course, there's been no work. All of my college shoots evaporated, the magazine actually opted to not publish for the first time ever, and future photo shoots are only looking like glimmers of hope on the horizon.

So, for fun, I decided that I was going to shave and then not shave again until I can walk into a bar and order a Martini. This is what it looked like when I started on April 5:





And this is how it looks as of April 29:





Florida's Governor, Ron DeSantis, has started his three-phase re-opening of Florida. We're in the midst of Phase 2 at the moment, which allows bars to open as long as they're selling food. It's actually a pretty convoluted thing and, so far as I can tell, no two establishments are doing this the same way, so it goes without saying that a lot of people are doing it wrong. That said, the authorities aren't being real bullish about it, though, as they don't really seem to have it all figured out, either.


Oh, and here's me today, May 12:



Thinking about it, I may decide to leave the beard for a while. While I've had a goatee almost on-stop since since 2004, I haven't had a full beard since 2003 and, frankly, it's kinda' fun.

It's funny how easily you can be entertained during a lock-down...

Sunday, March 22, 2020

CPAC 2020...

Well, suffice it to say, the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, was a blast.
 



While I'm probably a bit more conservative in my views than liberal, my excitement at having been hired for this gig wasn't at all based on that. Instead, it was based on just being able to photograph those who make policy and determine the direction of our country. It's not unlike when I attended a Trump rally during the 2016 campaign. The fact that it was Trump was actually secondary. The overriding factor was the opportunity to listen to someone who could well end up being the most powerful person on the planet. Honestly, back then, I would've attended a Hillary Clinton rally with the same level of excitement.

Anyway, CPAC. Wow.

I drove from St. Augustine to Maryland, where I stayed with my buddy Mark and his family. I graduated high school with Mark. We joined the Navy on the same day. He's a lifelong friend and I never pass up the opportunity to spend time with him and his family. He's also an amazing chef, so I know I'm not going hungry when I visit:




After two nights at Mark's, it was time to head to National Harbor and the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. 

Let me tell you, this place is absolutely huge. It has 2,000 guest rooms, over 500,000 square feet of meeting space and seven restaurants. Many of the hotel's rooms have balconies which look out into the glass atrium, which is 19 stories high:


The atrium of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center...
  
A panoramic view of the atrium at night...

After arriving on Wednesday afternoon, we all met up (there were six photographers) and walked the convention area. Despite opening in less than 24 hours, there was a lot of preparation still taking place for the conference.

When the conference finally got underway, it was a non-stop juggernaut of speakers.  Senators and Congressmen, talk show hosts and celebrities. They were all there to share their stories and insights into why we are where we are at this particular moment in time.

My job was pretty simple. I was to be backstage for the duration of the conference, photographing each speaker before they took to the stage. It offered me an opportunity I never would've imagined I would have.

Here are some photos from the three days of CPAC:


Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck. He's the one who requested the selfie...

Rick Harrison of the History Channel's "Pawn Stars"...

Senator Ted Cruz...

Brian Kilmeade, of Fox News Channel, looks over some notes prior to his presentation...

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waits to go on stage...

Mike Pompeo walks to the lectern...

Donald Trump Jr. backstage at CPAC...

Congressman Devin Nunes and Fox News analyst Dan Bongino...

Author John Batchelor reviews his remarks before speaking to the CPAC audience...

Congressmen Mark Meadows(L) and Jim Jordan (C) speak with Matt Schalpp, the
chairman of the American Conservative Union...

Vice President Mike Pence. He walked up to me and introduced himself,. as if I might not know who he was otherwise..
 
The photo crew for CPAC, left to right: Nic, Mike (who actually left before it started), Kage, Chris and Bob...
  
Ivanka Trump backstage...

Tammy Bruce of Fox News Channel...

After commenting on his watch (I used to have the same one), Dr. Sebastian Gorka insisted I take a photo of him for the Omega Watch Owners Group on Facebook. Dr. Gorka is the former Deputy Assistant to the President...

Of course, though, the highlight of the conference was having the opportunity to photograph the President of the United States. Whether you agree with a President's politics or not, the fact of the matter is that getting to photograph the most powerful man on the planet is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Here are some random shots from the literally hundreds I took during his speech:




Eye contact, big wave. Billy Gibbsons of ZZ Top once did the same thing...

 






















 

And, after the speeches had all been given and the crowd had left the ballroom, it's customary for the staff to take pictures on the stage.

This is only part of the staff. There are literally hundreds of people who make the conference run smoothly...

Even the security team got into the act, although during the actual conference these guys were absolutely "no nonsense" and, well, a bit scary. I'm not sure who the lady in the middle is...

Just proof that I was there!

I'm a big proponent of a just reward after a hard day's work...

Chris Kennedy and I enjoying Martinis in Belvedere Lobby Bar after the conclusion of the conference...


To say the experience was surreal would be a bit of an understatement. To have the Vice President approach me, sticking out his hand and introducing himself to me, thanking me for being there to take pictures, was surreal. Having Sebastian Gorka ask for my phone number so he could text me about getting photos was surreal. Having Glenn Beck ask for a selfie was surreal. To have Tammy Bruce smile and wink at me was surreal. Wearing a pin (the one on my lapel in the above photo) which basically said the only people who could keep me from going where I wanted to go was the Secret Service was surreal.

And it was all great.

I'd like to hope I made enough of an impression to where I'm asked back next year. It was an absolute blast and I'd love for it to become part of my annual routine...


.



Covid Road Trip - Heading To Memphis...

I left Navarre on Monday, in the midst of a downpour which was so torrential I almost began to question the wisdom of getting on the road. ...