Wednesday, September 28, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again...

Well, maybe you can.

After arriving on Long Island, I took some time to visit some clients before heading to my hotel. It was a good day, overall, and I was happy to finally get to the hotel and relax for a little while.

My boss told me to take Sunday off and, being one to listen to my superiors, I did. Camera in hand, I hit the road.

I have this thing for cemeteries. I don't believe this is breaking news. Of all the cemeteries I've shot in, though, I've never shot in the one which was about 200 yards down the road from the house I grew up in, on Townline Road in Hauppauge. The Hauppauge Methodist Church was organized in 1806, and the building itself was financed by contributions of between five and ten dollars which, presumably, was a good sum of money for, say, a farmer in 1806. The oldest grave on the grounds dates to 1812, so it's safe to assume, I think, that the building was completed bewteen 1806 and 1812.

This is a great old church. When my Mom remarried in 1980, she was married in this church. We weren't Methodist, but I don't think anyone minded.  
Hauppauge Methodist Church

Hauppauge Methodist Church

It's not too difficult to find old graveyards in New York. This one is, in fact, the second oldest in Hauppauge (I'm going to try to make it to the oldest at some point). When I was a kid, we were convinced this place was haunted. Hell, for all I know, it is, and I don't know that I'd really be surprised by that. I remember riding my bike past the cemetery at night in the summer; I'd always pedal a little faster. If we had to walk past it, we might even cross the street and step up our pace a little bit. Hey, when you're 12 years old, it's not hard to get freaked out by a cemetery as old as this one.

If it is haunted, I have to imagine that some of the local historical figures, who enjoy their final repose at what is also known as "Hauppauge Rural Cemetery", would be among the ghosts:
Two of the many Blydenburgh graves...


The grave of Adolph Olivia, who fought in the Civil War for the North...

The grave of Thomas Wheeler, one of Hauppauge's founding families...

Some headstones are completely unreadable...
In all honesty, I could've spent a few hours just walking around the place. This is the kind of cemetery I would like to shoot at night, with an infrared set-up; maybe some thermal gear. I do believe in ghosts and, having grown up here, it's almost as if I think I'd feel some connection to them.

I know, that might seem weird, but then so is having a thing for old cemeteries...

Monday, September 26, 2011

East To West...

My trip from Massachusetts to Connecticut was, well, wet. It rained, and it rained a lot. I'd checked the extended weather forecast for the area before I left California, and it looked pretty bleak. I usually don't mind the rain, but I hate driving in it.

Interstate 95 southbound...

I left Braintree, Massachusetts around noon and, despite the rain, made it to New London, CT in about an hour and a half. I got checked into my hotel and then drove into town to see my client. We spent a few hours talking business, and then I took two of the guys out to dinner. After dinner, we made our way over to The Dutch Tavern. "The Dutch" is among the diviest of dive bars I've been in, but there's also a certain, undeniable charm to the place. American playwright Eugene O'Neill was, once upon a time, a regular at The Dutch.

The Dutch Tavern in New London, Connecticut...

Saturday morning, it was time to take the ferry across Long Island Sound to Orient Point, on the east end of Long Island. I had a reservation for the 11:00am ferry, but I was able to get onto the 10:00am boat. In retrospect, that was a good thing, as the day's work would end up taking me longer than expected. I boarded the ferry around 9:40am, and decided to shoot some pictures.

Cars being loaded onto the Cross Sound Ferry in New London...

As the ferry headed out of port and down the Thames, it gave me a chance to catch some rather nice scenery. The weather wasn't the best, but it wasn't raining, so that was a plus. 


Looking across the Thames from the ferry landing in New London...

The New London Lighthouse has stood watch since 1801...

After a trip of about an hour and a half, the ferry pulled into Orient Point. Despite my having grown up here, I'd never been this far east on the northern fork. As I pulled off the ferry, and onto Route 25, I was welcomed home by the State of New York:

I'm sure this was put there just for me...

I pointed my car west so I could get on with my day. It hit me, as I was driving along the east-end farmland that I'd never seen before, that the way I felt was no all that different from how I felt when I started travelling regularly into Canada. While Long Island is where I grew up, I haven't spent more than a few days here at a stretch since 1981. A lot has changed in the past 30 years. It took me a little while to process it, but it dawned on me that this was going to be all new to me.

And I couldn't be more excited about it...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Beantown And Social Networking...

Getting a new territory for work has included a mild degree of mayhem. Not only have I been turning Canada over to my successor, but I've been doing turnover in the new territory with my predecessor. My travel schedule, needless to say, is ramping up.

I'm now at the front end of my first trip to my new territory. I landed in Boston yesterday, and will end this trip in Manhattan next Sunday. There's going to be a good deal of driving (I'm headed to Connecticut later today and Long Island tomorrow), but I love driving. The weather sucks, so I don't know what my photo ops will be like, but odds are I'll have the camera out at some point.

So, being in Boston yesterday, I met up with a new friend of mine, Steve Parr. No, this isn't one of those "go out and find yourself" kind of things. There's a guy in Boston whose name is Steve Parr. Apparently, one day he punched his name into the search block on Facebook, and my name popped up. He sent me a "friend request". I figured "What the Hell?". I accepted the request with the mindset that, hey, it's cool to connect with someone who has the same name as me.

We'd commented on each other's photos, but our communication pretty much stopped there. When this trip popped up on my radar, though, I decided it might be cool to drop him a note letting him know I'd be in town. We decided to get together and hang out for a little while.

Maybe it's the name that does it, but Steve's a really nice guy. He's a Harley-ridin' business owner (a limo company) and, apparently, he likes showing people his hometown.

In a blur, we drove all over the city. Being a limo-guy, he knows the streets of Boston like the back of his hand. What I realized, though, is that his breakneck tour of Boston convinced me that I need to make some time to explore the city some. I've never been here, and a few hours on a semi-rainy afternoon simply wasn't enough. I did get to see some cool stuff, though:


Standing in front of the "Team Mates" statue at Fenway Park...


Here I am in front of Paul Revere's house; I wouldn't have found this on my own...

Steve Parr (left) and me at Fenway Park...

One of the reasons I'm excited about having Boston in my territory is because of how historic it is. The American Revolution was born here. The "Founding Fathers"? They've all been here, and many remain here. The Cranary Burial Ground is the final resting place for such people as John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Samuel Adams: 

The grave of Samuel Adams...

I could've spent hours exploring that cemetery (I know, weird), but time wasn't on our side.

There's so much to see in Boston that a few hours in the afternoon offers nothing more than a cruel taste to anyone who's either a photographer or a history buff. One of these days, I'll make that time...


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Well, That Was Different...

If you've read this blog for any period of time, say, the last three months, you undoubtedly remember my tale of woe and sorrow about nature attacking me in Yosemite back in July. I took a fall, scraped my arm, bruised my posterior, and wrenched my shoulder. The scrape healed, and the butt-bruise faded with time. My shoulder, however, decided it wanted to be a continuing problem.

Since the fall, I've been telling myself that I should go to the doctor and get it checked out. Of course, I put it off, and then put it off again, and then again. It was certainly easy enough for me to come up with a compelling reason to not go to the doctor. My shoulder would hurt if I moved it the wrong way, or if I somehow managed to give it a good wrenching.

While in Seattle, that's exactly what happened. I leaned back in the desk chair in my hotel to get a bottle of water out of the refrigerator. I lost my balance, and caught my self with my left arm. When I did that, it felt like someone was jamming a hot knife into my shoulder.

The pain subsided, and it went back to being nothing more than the dull ache I'd felt since July. I thought nothing of it and, once again, managed to convince myself that I didn't really need to go to the doctor. I can be a persuasive guy.

Well, that changed two days after I got home. I started to notice the ring finger and pinkie on my left hand going numb. They weren't completely numb, but certainly numb enough to get my attention. I went through the automated appointment system with my HMO, but the appointment was a week from that day. Not being willing to wait and see how bad it would get in that week, I made an appointment for that same day, the Sunday before Labor Day, at the HMO's urgent care clinic. The diagnosis was a torn tendon in my shoulder, and the "fix" would be anti-inflammatories; in this case, Naproxen. I was advised to keep my appointment for a week later with my regular doctor, and have a nice day.

So, last Monday, I go see Dr. Bluck. He's a nice enough kid, but he seemed intent on wanting to focus on the fleeting pain I feel every so often as opposed to my concern, which is the numbness I feel all the time. He talked of MRI's, cortisone shots (which I have zero interest in) and, potentially, surgery. In the meantime, though, he gave me a "Shoulder's Owner Manual" (yes, really), and gave me some exercises to do. He seemed confident that I would start feeling better.

Well, I didn't.

While the numbness didn't seem to get any worse, it most certainly wasn't getting any better. Given what I do for a living, this could become an issue. So, it seemed time to look into "alternative" medicine. In this case, the alternative medicine came at the recommendation of my pool guy, Eric. His recommendation?

Acupuncture.

Now, I have to be completely honest here. I've always been one of those people who viewed acupuncture not as the ancient Chinese medicine that it is but, rather, as voodoo magic. I just never bought into it. But, for some odd reason, I agreed to give it a shot. Who knows? Maybe it might work.

I get to the acupuncturist at 11:50am for a noon appointment today. I had to fill out some forms before "the treatment" which, because it was my first time, was expected to take about two hours. So, paperwork filled out, it was off to the table.

Now, as I saw it, I was here for my shoulder. I expected, at most, to take off my shirt. Ah, but that just would not do. My shirt, shoes and socks needed to come off. Apparently, acupuncture needs to occur all over the body.

I laid on my back first, and the acupuncturist started dotting my skin with an alcohol swab. I was confused. Why would she be swabbing it on the tops of my feet?

Oh, what fun this would be.

By the time she was done, I had one needle in my right hand, two in my left, one in the top of each foot, four in my stomach, three in my left pectoral muscle, and five; count 'em, FIVE in, of all places, my left ear. Even if I'd always believed that acupuncture was legitimate, I never would've expected to get five needles in my left ear, because that's just weird.

The acupuncturist left the room after all the needles were in, and came back about 20 minutes later. She pulled them all out, dabbed away some small spots of blood here and there, and then had me lay on my stomach. The table, to me, was essentially like a massage table, so there was a cutout into which I could put my face and gaze down upon the wonderful brown tile floor.

I'm not entirely sure how many needles I got this time around, but it was well over 20. I had them all over my left shoulder, around the base of my neck, down my spine, and then what seemed like just random spots around my upper back. She even ran electric current through some of them to stimulate the muscles. It was weird:



After about another 20 minutes, the acupuncturist came back into the room, killed the electric current, and removed the needles. She then massaged my back with "regular" massage oil, and then she hit me with this super Chinese deep-tissue-massage-and-it-heats-up-when-it's-used massage oil. It didn't just heat up, it got almost uncomfortably hot. But, still, it felt good, especially after spending the better part of an hour as a pin cushion.

Did it work? Hell, I have no idea. She said it could be a day or two before I start to notice any difference and, perhaps, there would be no difference at all, in which case I would do a follow up visit at some point.

I'm still taking the Naproxen, and I'm still doing my goofy little shoulder exercises, but those things are downright normal compared to what I did this afternoon.

I'll give it another shot, though; one more, if need be... 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was asleep. I'd gone to bed Monday night a bit earlier than usual, as I had a job interview on Tuesday, and wanted to be sharp. I think I went to bed at 10:00pm on Monday, and had the alarm set to wake me up at 7:30am on Tuesday.

That alarm never did wake me up.

Maybe it was in my dream, but I heard my brother's voice, and it had a frantic tone. I can't recall what he was saying, but it was clear he was upset. I don't know why I would be dreaming that but, surely I must have been.

Or so I thought.

As I opened my eyes, I remember hearing Greg leaving a message on the answering machine. I looked at the clock. It was a few minutes after 6:00am. I don't remember exactly what he said. In hindsight, I wish I would've kept that message.

Hearing his voice, I leaped out of bed and ran to the kitchen and picked up the phone. What he told me, surely, could not have been true. A plane had hit the World Trade Center. A plane had flown into the tower, and the tower was burning.

How does an accident like this happen?

I guess I thought it was bound to happen at some point. Skyscrapers are all but synonymous with Manhattan, and there are three airports in relatively close proximity. Maybe it was destined to happen, as horrible a thought as that was.

I hadn't yet turned on the television, as I still wasn't fully awake and, at the same time, was trying to process exactly what my brother was telling me. Before I could pick up the remote, Greg got even more excited. His voice rose in its volume and its pitch. A second plane had flown into the second tower.

Suddenly, the proximity of those three airports meant nothing. The fact that skyscrapers are all but synonymous with with Manhattan meant nothing. This was a deliberate act. This was intentional. And it was unthinkable.

Trying to process that was even more difficult than trying to process that it might be a horrible, tragic accident. Why would this happen? Who would do such a thing? Why?

Of course, we know those answers today. We know who it was, and we've got a pretty good reason as to why. Certainly, to those who aren't completely nuts, there was no good reason. There couldn't possibly be a good reason to kill all those people.

After hanging up with phone with my brother, I put on NBC. While it was clear this was a deliberate act, what was less clear was who did it and why. The educated guesses were plentiful. I remember Matt Lauer talking to  Jim Miklaszewski, who was (and is) NBC's chief Pentagon correspondent.  Miklaszewski was giving the Pentagon perspective on it, even so early into the event.

While they were talking, Miklaszewski stated that he "just felt something". He didn't know what it was, and I remember thinking that it just wouldn't be possible for a third plane to fly into a building. As we learned not long after he said that, though, it certainly was possible.

I remember when, amidst the talk of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, hearing about United Airlines #93, which had crashed at 7:03am (PST) in Pennsylvania. Could it have been another deliberate act? It seemed odd, if it was. After all, the first three planes hit buildings, and killed people on the ground. This plane crashed in a field near Shanksville. I recall thinking that, in the mayhem and the confusion, the plane must have just crashed. The pilot must have made some error which doomed the flight. We know now that wasn't the case at all. Some surmise that the plane was headed for either the Capitol or the White House. It just never made it to its intended target.

The words "Let's roll" would forever be embedded in our minds.

I remember wondering how long it would take to save the Twin Towers. And I remember, all too well, when that question was tragically answered.

The coverage was, as could be expected, non-stop, and it was on every imaginable channel. In my then-39 years, I don't think I'd ever channel-surfed quite like that. It was an amazing thing that we watched that Tuesday morning and, while it was horrific, we couldn't not watch.

I remember driving to my job interview. I hadn't received a phone call telling me that it had been rescheduled and, frankly, I needed the job, and couldn't miss the interview. I showered, got dressed and made my way to the interview. While waiting for the interview, I was watching the news coverage on the television the company had. It was surreal. Here I was, while all of this horror was unfolding, simply waiting to get on with my life.

It almost seemed selfish.

Of course, like just about everyone else I know, I was glued to the television. I don't know how many hours of coverage I watched, but I don't think I slept much that first night, and the vision of the towers collapsing ran through my head when I did.

I suspect that everyone is able to remember where they were on the morning of September 11, 2001. It's one of those things you never forget. My Mom remembers where she was when Kennedy was shot. My Dad, all of eight years old at the time, remembers when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Not vividly, of course, but he still recalls it.

The only other event I could remember like that was when John Lennon was shot. I'll always remember drinking Southern Comfort in Greg's living room with him and my buddy Mark when we heard the news.

And, now, there's another event which will forever be etched in my mind with a time, a place, and a date.

We wish we would never have to remember events like the attacks of 9/11.

Likewise, we should wish that we never, ever forget...


"There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity." - Douglas MacArthur

I think the good General had it right.

As I sit here, I'm in the midst of a change; a career change. Well, not a "change" so much as an adjustment; an alteration.

A change.

Or, as the General saw it, an opportunity.

For the last six years, I've been fortunate to be able to travel throughout Canada, and pretty extensively. I've been from Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, to St. John's, Newfoundland. As has been obvious to even the most casual observer of this blog, my Flickr page, or Facebook, I've had a camera with me. While I can often be my own worst critic (well, photographically speaking, anyway), I've also learned to know when I've taken an amazing shot. And, to be honest, I think I've taken a lot of amazing photographs in Canada. That segment of my photographic life, however, is coming to an end. I now have a total of two trips remaining to Canada, and then I'll be moving on to other things.

In short, I'll be assuming responsibility for the northeastern United States for my company. It's a gig I've wanted for five years so, when it recently became available, I through my hat into the ring.

Right, dead center in the middle of the ring.

So, what does this mean? Well, it means a number of things.

First, I won't have to deal with Customs in Toronto anymore (can I get an "AMEN!"??). Customs is the one thing about travelling to Canada that I can do without. It can go quickly but, the sad reality is that it usually doesn't. In the major cities like Edmonton or Toronto or Calgary, you can stand in line at Customs for an hour or two. I know. I've done it.

Second, it means that there will be a whole slew of new photo ops for me. As picturesque as Canada can be, it doesn't have, say, a New York. While I've photographed the Canadian Rockies more times than I care to count, I've never taken a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue Of Liberty, or the rugged coast of Maine, or The Old North Church in Boston?

Third, it'll mean I'm "going home", at least in a sense. Having grown up on Long Island, I'd like to get back there every so often, but the fact of the matter is that, in the last 11 years, I've been back only four times; two high school reunions and two funerals. While I don't have a lot of family left there anymore, I still have some friends there and, frankly, it'd be nice to see them now and again. I've gotten to my Dad's a couple of times but, hey, JP is 78; he's not gettin' any younger. It'll be good to see him a little more often.

Now, photo ops? Please. This new territory is rich with them. My new territory is comprised of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine. I'm just spit-ballin' here, but I think I just might encounter a good photo op or two.

Of course, family and photo ops aren't the reason I took this new gig, they're just some rather welcome fringe benefits. Of course, the reason to take the new gig is because I think I can have a positive impact on that territory. Canada has performed well, and I just think it's time to move on. And, frankly, I don't think I can think of a better place to move on to.

When I was asked why I wanted the territory, the best explanation I could conjure up was that it's a challenge. While Canada has performed well under me, I feel as though the northeast offers far more of a challenge. Historically speaking, it's the most challenging territory we have. I like that.

Of course, this will affect my travel. In fact, it kicks my travel schedule squarely in the ass and ramps it up. I have trips scheduled pretty regularly from the end of this month to the middle of November. I knew this would be the case, but still, it's gonna' be a bit more travel, at least initially.

And so it goes. Things are changing, as things will often do. I think I'll heed General MacArthur's words and grab this opportunity by the horns.

And, as I said to my boss, "I hope I don't screw it up"...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Seattle, Butterflies And Zebras...

When I woke up this morning, the sky was kind of overcast, so I had to come to terms with the fact that the weather held out as long as it could. This is, after all, the pacific northwest. It rains here.

A lot.

Be that as it may, I wasn't about to let it destroy my day.

It stayed cloudy while I made my way over to Renton, Washington, to visit the Jimi Hendrix Memorial. It was only about a fifteen minute drive to the Greenwood Memorial Park from my hotel. As I was rolling up to the cemetery, I wasn't sure what to expect. If you've ever seen pictures of Jim Morrison's grave in Paris, fans have gone to the point of all but desecrating the grave with graffiti. I was hopeful that wouldn't be the case with Hendrix, who died a little less than a year and a half later. It wasn't the case at all, and it may just be due to a sign placed near the memorial by the Hendrix family:


While the sign states that it's a memorial to Jimi, the area serves as the family burial plot. Maybe that has something to do with the respectful condition of the grave.


The Jimi Hendrix Memorial in Renton, Washington...
Jimi's headstone, inside the memorial...
I normally don't post my own picture in my blog, but I wanted to have a picture of my visit here. A couple visiting from Germany were happy to take my picture:



As I left the cemetery, it started to rain, but just a little. Somehow, it seemed appropriate, as "The Sky Is Crying" by Stevie Ray Vaughan (a guitarist on who Hendrix was a great influence)  came on the satellite radio. It was kinda' surreal.

I left Renton and decided to head down to Pike Place Market. I'd been here once in the past, back in 1993 while I was still in the Navy, and I didn't really get to spend much time at all checking the place out.

Pike Place Market is a frenetic marketplace in downtown Seattle and, even on a Wednesday, the place was absolutely packed. It was like a shopping mall the weekend before Christmas. While it got its start as a seafood market in 1907, today you can buy seafood, clothing, arts and crafts, flowers; you name it.

At this point, I'm going t take a break from my usual, long-winded narrative, and just provide some captions:


A market worker listening to the dinner menu...

The crowd at Pike Place Market in Seattle...

An elderly couple buying some fruit at the market...

You want fruit? Oh, they've got fruit...

Pike Place Market...

"The Tallyboys" playing in front of the market entrance...

A seafood vendor in Pike Place Market...

Like I said, you can buy all kinds of stuff here...

What day is complete without a visit to the Giant Shoe Museum?

A vendor takes an order at the market...

A woman takes an order for flowers over the phone while arranging flowers for her market stand...

The start of the Evil Empire: The original Starbucks...
After walking around Pike Place Market for a while, I decided to make my way over to the Experience Music Project. The "EMP" is dedicated to the history of popular music. It houses the largest collection of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia in the world.


"Roots and Branches" is in  the shape of a cyclone, and is made from almost 700 musical instruments...

These kiosks, of which there were many, allow visitors to play guitar (or drums, or keyboards, or bass) along with pre-recorded music tracks. They're one of the most popular exhibits in the museum...

The Fender Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix played at the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in 1969...

One of Jimi's stage outfits...

Visiting musicians from the Seattle area can add their band names onto this map of the Seattle area...

This is the mens room. Trippy...

After leaving the Experience Music Project, it was just a short walk around the block to the Seattle Space Needle. The Space Needle reaches 605 feet, and has an observation deck at 520 feet. It opened in 1962 for the World's Fair. I opted not to take the elevator to the observation deck (hey, I've been to the CN Tower in Toronto; the Space Needle's got nothin' for me!), but instead decided to just get some photos:
 

The Seattle Space Needle...


605 feet of Space Needle...
From the Space Needle, I decided to head over to the Admiral Way Viewpoint, which is across the bridge which spans Elliott Bay. I was hoping to get a nice shot of downtown Seattle. It was a little bit further across the bay than I expected, but the view was pretty amazing. I would've love to have the chance to take this shot at night:
Downtown Seattle, as seen from the Admiral Way Viewpoint...
I'm glad I got the opportunity to do some shooting here. As I said, it's been 18 years since the last time I was here, and I have no idea when I'll find my way back. I really lucked out with the weather, too. I flew into Seattle last Friday, and the sun's been shining, for the most part, ever since...

Let's Talk Apps...

From time to time, I'll be talking about cell phone apps as I find good ones. Let's face it, it's almost impossible to get thro...