Monday, September 24, 2012

Post-Apocalyptic Water Park...

My daughter and I are both photographers and, as such, I think we may look at things a bit differently than most, dare I say it, "normal" people. We see something with an idea of how a printed image might look, or how a certain type of processing might benefit an image of a scene laid out before us.
 
I've driven out to Las Vegas a number of times, and each time I took note of what appeared to be a closed waterpark on the southbound side of Interstate 15. On the drive out to Vegas, we decided that we would stop there on our way back to San Diego.
 
The Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark was actually in operation until 2004. An accident involving an employee, and a $4.4 million dollar judgement against the park, helped expedite the park's closing. I think it would've closed eventually, anyway. People long ago stopped visiting Newberry Springs and nearby Lake Delores for vacation and leisure. Nowadays, anyone who happens to find themselves out here is, in all likelihood, either driving to or driving from Las Vegas.
 
So, stop we did, and I'm glad we did.
 
The place is absolutely surreal. It's amazing to me that the entire park is accessible to the public. I'd always thought something like this would be fenced and posted with "NO TRESPASSING" signs. But there's none of that. Pull into the parking lot, lock up the car, and enjoy your day. A lawsuit helped close the place down in 2004. Now, eight years later, it seems to me that the place is just a lawsuit waiting to happen.
 
During the entire time I walked around the park, I just couldn't help but get this feeling that there were people living there. It looked like something out of a science fiction movie. It wouldn't have surprised me to learn of people living in attics or basements of the dilapidated buildings. There aren't, I'm sure, but I really wouldn't be surprised to learn anything to the contrary. In fact, the only other people we encountered were a man and woman who, like us, stopped to check it out and take some pictures.
 
At one time, years ago. It was a popular playground. Now, the park has fallen victim to both time and vandalism.
 
I've been trying to steer away from shooting high dynamic range (HDR) stuff but, in all honesty, I couldn't bring myself to not do it here. The place begs for it. Nothing about Rock-A-Hoola looks normal.
 
Things are a little different these days:



 



 


 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 

 
 


 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 
You know... Just in case you were wondering...









 

Vegas, Baby...

My daughter's boyfriend is lucky. No, he's not lucky because I've yet to have a reason to take him for "a ride out to the desert". He's lucky because he does things like win front row tickets for the iHeartRadio Festival at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
 
Now, I have to admit to not knowing exactly what iHeartRadio really is, and I'm not entirely certain I have the time to care, but I do know that the festival attracted performers as diverse as Rhianna to Bon Jovi. I wasn't there for the show, though. I was there just to hang in Vegas and meet up with some old friends.
 
We got to Vegas on Thursday, and made our from our hotel (the bitchingly swanky Candlewood Suites) to Paris, which is on "The Strip".
 
The Paris Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas...

The Paris Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas...
 
We made our way to the bar where we were soon joined by my old friends Ed and Lisa. I hadn't seen them in 20 years, and it was just a matter of coincidence that we were going to be in Vegas at the same time:
 
Old friends Lisa and Ed, in town for Ed's 58th birthday...
 
After a few cocktails with Lisa and Ed, we said our goodbyes and parted ways. Jess, Dom and I were getting a bit hungry, so we decided that we'd start to make our way down to New York New York to get some pizza.
 
Surprising to me was the fact that this was Dom's first trip to Las Vegas. On a first trip to Las Vegas, there are just certain things you must see, including the Fountains at Bellagio. At the end of the movie "Ocean's Eleven", George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle and the rest of the crew can be seen standing along South Las Vegas Boulevard, enjoying a seemingly uncluttered and uncrowded view of the Fountains. Well, that just doesn't really exist. The reality is that this is probably the single most popular attraction in Vegas, and thousands of people watch it every fifteen minutes between the hours of 8:00pm and midnight, and every half hour between 3:00pm and 8:00pm:
 
 
The Fountains at Bellagio...

Walking down Las Vegas Boulevard is a treat. It's amazing to see so many grand hotels, each one with hundreds, if not thousands, of hotel rooms. One of those hotels is the Monte Carlo. I can't recall if I ever stayed there (my memory may be questionable because it was so damn hot), but I do know the elevators are quite nice:

The Monte Carlo...
 
We managed to find our way down to New York New York, which really a "must see":
 
The Statue of Liberty outside New York New York Hotel & Casino...
 
One of the cool features is a roller coaster which spends sometime flinging you around outside, and some time flinging you around inside. For whatever reason, it wasn't running while we were there, but I don't know if we'd have taken a ride, anyway. We were hungry, and we wanted pizza. And, if you happen to want pizza while you're in Las Vegas, getting it at New York New York isn't a horrible idea. And, if you're going to get pizza at New York New York, allow me to suggest that you get it at Sirrico's:
 
Sicilian slices at Sirrico's Pizza...
 
Sirrico's Pizza inside New York New York...
The other side of Sirrico's Pizza...

After a bite to eat at Sirrico's, my daughter made the command decision that we would not be walking back to our hotel over on Paradise Road. And, to be fair, we had done quite a bit of walking. So, consequently, we called a cab, and called it a night...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
**All photos in this entry were taken with the Canon G12, including the HDR image of Sirrico's in New York New York**


The South...

Now, even though I was in Florida, it's not really "the south". I mean, come on, let's be honest: A good portion of Florida's population is made up of former New Yorkers. Calling it "the south" just doesn't seem right.
 
Georgia, on the other hand, is a completely different story. I think there are a grand total of seven New Yorkers in the Great State of Georgia. And, at least for a little while one day in September, there were two more. My brother had a service call in Valdosta, Georgia, and I decided to go along for the ride.
 
Well, that's practically right around the corner...
 
The drive from St. Augustine to Valdosta is largely uneventful, as most of it is freeway. Even still, whether you're on back roads or the Interstate, it's certainly entertaining:
 
A nice nod to Ray Charles...
 
These folks sure do love their pecans. But "tropical" honey? It's GEORGIA...
 
Ah, yes. An we now discover why Yankees love the south...
 
Two for one? It's like a fireworks "Happy Hour"...
 
A roadside cotton field outside Valdosta, Georgia...
 
A cottony close-up...
 
My brother and I both thought it was funny to see this sign right next to a cotton field...
 
While my brother did his service call, this was thew view from my "office"...
 
After Greg got done with his service call, we had a little bit of time on our hands, so we decided to go to a local purveyor of all redneck things, Adel Outfitters. Now, I don't use the word "redneck" lightly, nor do I intend to offend or refer to rednecks disparagingly. The reality is that, in Georgia, there are easily as many rednecks as there are New Yorkers in Florida:
 
It's better than Wal-Mart. Welcome to the Redneck Superstore...
 
I don't even know where to begin with this. Not too many New Yorkers know of such things...
 

I don't know why, but these made me laugh. A lot. Maybe it's a regional thing; Who the Hell knows. All I know is that kid looks creepy, and the cat looks like it's holding out for an intervention...
 


Where else can you buy a classic Honda while you're looking for a new pair of woodland camouflage rubber boots?
Nowhere, that's where...
 
We finally found our way back to civilizat... I mean, um... Florida. While it's always good to spend time with my brother, I gotta' believe that there are better places to do it than the thriving metropolis of Valdosta, Georgia...
 

Welcome back to the non-South...

 
 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's All About The Food...

Okay, so let's call a spade a spade here. I like food. I like food a lot. To me, a well executed meal is as much a work of artistic expression as a sculpture or a fine oil painting. Now, to be honest, my waistline has paid the price for my attraction to food but, hey, I quit smoking eight months ago, so I'm not about to feel bad for treating myself.
 
I've also noticed that food really does taste much, much better.
 
I spent the last month in Florida, and I enjoyed some rather amazing food and drink during that time. And, being a photographer, all of what follows here should all come as no great surprise:
 
Dinner at The Columbia. Amazing...

Even if it's gnarly, it's gotta' be good, right?

Fish tacos at Beaches, at Vilano Beach...

Creme Brulee. It's my one dessert Achilles Heel...

Mmmmmmmmmm... You betcha'...

Mom's stuffed peppers and rice...


Saw these in a Publix grocery store. We didn't have them, but it reminded me of a
restaurant I liked, for breakfast, in Buffalo...


Mom swears up and down that this is really guacamole...

I really love my Mom, but, come one... Guacamole in a tube? I think not...

Mom's breakfast sandwich. Probably the best meal I had all month...

I didn't buy this or drink it, but the name made me laugh...

You can never go wrong with Bass...

This was a local brew on tap at the St. Augustine American Legion. Quite tasty...

A Bloody Mary at Corky Bell's. It was good, but I think a dab of Guinness in the bottom would've helped this out...

I love shrimp, and I love bacon. I never thought of combining the two. Kudos to whoever did at Corky Bell's...

Shrimp at my brother's girlfriend's house. Sooooooo good...

 
There was, of course, so much more than what's shown in these pictures. In all honesty, I could've written a book pamphlet about all the amazingly tasty grub I enjoyed over the last month. Frankly, I think that, whatever you do, if you do it with a good meal, everything is gonna' be just a little bit better...












 

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...