I wrote this post in my sleep last night, or at least I knew exactly what I needed to say when my eyes opened this morning.
This is an unusual post for me, not only because I am writing this from an airplane 33,000 feet about the earth, but because I still have not yet seen any of the photos I am blogging about more than just off the little LCD on my camera. They still reside only my memory card, I still am not even home yet to put them on my computer.
But then again, the photos are only part of the story – albeit an intrical part of my bogs. The words I write are what fill in the gaps between the photos.
I woke this morning, and sit here in Seat 13F with mixed feelings, part sheer joy, part sadness, the usual feelings one experiences when a dream has been realized.
I can’t tell you the first time I heard about Belize or who I heard it from, though I do remember reading about it in a National Geographic. I don’t know if it that was the beginning of my obsession with the small South American country. I don’t even remember when it became a sign of my frustration. When things were rough for me – bad marriage, tough job, feeling that the cards were stacked against me – I’d say “Fuck it – I’m going to Belize.” I do remember, however, when Dallas said to me, “Ok, let’s go.” I remember chuckling even though she didn’t. The next day she had details, a list of hotels to look at, flights, etc. It wasn’t more than a week later than a book arrived in my mailbox from her – Lonely Planet’s Guide to Belize and I knew then she was serious.
We left Thursday in what could only be described as controlled chaos. Despite the craziness of gate changes; closed terminals we made it to our flight and were soon over the Gulf Of Mexico heading south. I had never been so excited in my life. We landed in the airport in Belize City and the first thought in my head was “Where’s the rest of it?” We got though customs, made arrangements for the next flight and, as Dallas and I have a tendency to do, found the closest bar. There we began our introduction not only to the people of Belize, who are the friendliest as could be, but to Belikin, the only beer in Belize. I still don’t know introduction will last more with me.
As we were told they would, the gate attendants for Mayan Air found us to tell us our next flight was ready to go. (Everyone who has ever missed a flight should find that amusing.) We were both a little nervous walking outside, but I felt better when a small jet was sitting there. “See.” I said. “Not so bad.” Dallas laughed and said, “No, that’s it.” Pointing beyond the jet the 10 seat prop job sitting there. I actually liked the flight, but then again I am a bit crazy. We landed safely in Dangriga, at an airport smaller than the one we left from. There we met a drive to take us to our resort 30 minutes away. We drove through the country, on a paved road, then on a dirt road through tiny villages. I don’t know if the driver was aiming for holes in the road, or if they simply could not be missed, but the ride jostled and threw us around. By the time we pulled up to the resort, I was glad to be out and walking again.
The 4 days were absolute heaven. The resort, Hamanasi, was absolute paradise. The food was beyond description; almost rivaling anything my brother-in-law has cooked for me. The beers were cold, was ocean and the pool felt wonderful. We did hardly anything but relax for most of our stay there. A few games of “crapgammon” because we couldn’t remember the official rules & made it up as we went, a walk along the beach, and on the last day, a bike ride into Hopkins were we hung at the local bar.
It an amazing moment in my life.
I sit here now wondering what photos will come out. The one of Mandigo’s bicycle. The moon & the dock. The flowers on our bed each night. The fat cat sitting on the porch. The cemetery shots. (Yes, I managed to go all the way to Belize and find a cemetery.) I also sit here thinking to myself that although I would be upset if none of them came out, none of them really matter anyway. It wasn’t about the photos. It was about accomplishing a dream.
Stop reading my blog, and go accomplish your dream. And take pictures.
I took lots more photos while I was there… most of which cab be seen Here on my site. Enjoy!
Unfortunately, even sitting in a bucket of water with a lighting rod helmet on the roof of the tallest building doesn’t bring inspiration shooting from the heavens above. I did however have a pigeon make a nest on my shoulder.
Its amazing how I can walk past the same plot of ground day after day and never see anything interesting and then one day – BAM – it’s there. The next day it’s gone.
I was stuck in my house one miserable rainy week and walking around, camera in hand, just looking for something shoot, anything. Then I saw it… and to be honest, I was baffled why I had no seen it before. It was so beautiful and it almost beckoned to be photographed. The amazing detail … the colors.. the textures… so I shot it… picking it apart in detail so it could be appreciated for all it’s wonderful glory…
But now that’s done.. what next? What mystical source will give me the next inspirational charge?
The help speed the process along, me and my friends at YourPhotoForum.com including the great Sue Henry and Lincoln Palmer have agreed to start an “Inspiration A to Z” challenge. The idea is simple. Using a list of words, we all have to write the words on paper, toss them into a can and draw them out one at a time. You can’t move to the next word until after you’ve shot two or three images based on the word you’ve drawn.
So I started today… and was shocked at my first draw… the word “Inspiration” itself. Yup, out of all the words I had to choose from…
Of course, the source of all my inspiration these days was an obvious choice…
Finally in the words of the Grateful Dead… “Inspiration, move me brightly. light the song with sense and color; Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask.”
So where will inspiration come from next? In what form will it be? I have no idea… but I know if nothing else, I’ve got a coffee can of words to get through.
What cracks me up the most about this, is the fact that I actually subscribe to “Time Out NY”, which for the non-NY readers, is a weekly magazine that tells everything that’s happening in Gotham this week, I got my issue last Tuesday, like clockwork, and I still didn’t know today was the New York City Century Bike Tour.
I was up early, Dallas caught an early flight home and I was feel too melancholy to be able to go back to sleep. Sitting around on such a beautiful day was driving me nuts so I grabbed my gear and headed outside with no destination in mind. I really didn’t think I’d take a lot of photos in reality, probably just wander around bit, too lost in thought to be inspired. I walked along Cooper Ave as a bicycle passed me. Then another. Then five or six more. I took a closer look and saw that they all had numbers on their shirts, with a little “NYC Century Bike Tour” on it, and I realized maybe I’d have something to take pictures of after all.
I walked along Cooper and up Cypress against the sporadic flow of the riders. I started taking shots, but then I stopped myself. I realized this was a great time not only to take photos but to learn to take photos. I started paying attention to the sun & shade. I looked at the long curving street, and decided my best vantage points. I experimented with various camera settings, I predicted what a certain shutter speed or aperture would look like, and sometimes, I was actually correct. I stood, I sat down, finally I lay down along the curb to shoot up as they raced past me.
Through it all, I was struck by the happiness of the riders. I got a lot of “thank yous”, tons of smiles, some thumbs ups, some peace sign, and one person even picked their nose for me. I moved further and further along the route, eventually entering the bike path in Highland Park. I took photo after photo of these amazing athletes as they sped past.
I shot a lot on “Sports” mode on my camera, which is a mode I use a lot actually, however, it’s never really in the presence of sports. This is my trust fall-back when I shoot live music, in fact the only other time I used this mode for it’s intended purpose was when my brother Mike ran a marathon in Vermont.
Some of the shots came out ok. I have a ton more that I haven’t even processed. I’d love to get in touch with some of these folks, I mean how often does one get to see themselves doing something they really enjoy doing?
New York City, huh? Where else can you go for a walk thinking you’d find nothing interesting to see and return with over 600 shots?
Slideshow of the shots I have done can be found Here
Here’s me… getting into it…
Of course we had to stop at the JFK Museum at the old Texas Book Depository and walk through Dealey Plaza & up over the Grassy Knoll. I didn’t even find it odd the Dallas had never been there before despite living in the area her whole life, I mean I’ve never even been to the Statue of Liberty myself.
The museum itself was nothing more than a maze of billboards of photos and quotes outlining John F Kennedy’s rise to the presidency, snippets of speeches, and framed photographs of him handling the Cuban Missile crisis, being at the White House with his family, and just generally being the handsome young vibrant president that I learned about in school.
The years progressed through the displays until finally it centered around the trip to Dallas. The photos of him landing at Love Field were neatly placed underneath a quote by Nellie Connally, wife of the Texas Governor, ”You can’t say the people of Dallas don’t love you!”. Dallas and I read that and she tightly gripped my arm.
Well apparently one of them didn’t. Or a few of them. Or whatever. I really don’t want to go drifting into the netherworld of conspiracies and who did what to whom or how or why. I drifted away from Dallas as she looked at the frame by frame display of the Zapruder film. I found myself being drawn closer to the corner of the builder. Against the very edge of the building, behind a large plexiglass floor to ceiling divider, were stacks of boxes, the same kind of boxes, and in the same arrangement as they were that day.
This is where they say he shot from.
The mood of the museum changed for me after seeing that. It became a bit less whimsical and a tad more somber. Minutes earlier Dallas and I joked around on the elevator upstairs and she jokingly mocked me for not wearing my headphones which would guide me through the exhibits, but now all we talked about was that day. Our moods had grown less whimsical and more somber as well. I gazed out the window, down to the streets below, a similar view that the assassin had that day. Glancing at the photos on the walls I noticed how little had changed, although being a thoroughfare, there really wasn’t much to change.
I realized Dallas had moved on, and I found her in an area of exhibits profiling the aftermath. A small TV in the column played Walter Cronkite breaking the news over and over. I thought about how difficult it must have been to get the words “We are being told now, the president is dead.” out to the rest of the nation. We silently moved past photos of the world at morning. I paused at a the photo of John Jr saluting his father’s coffin and remember my father once telling me that image always moved him. The power of photography.
The photos of sadness were replaced with ones of anger as we moved on to another display, this one of Oswald under arrest, being questioned and finally being killed himself. Dallas broke the silence, which I didn’t even realize we had held since looking out the windows by telling me the detective there was once her landlord, but couldn’t remember his name. (hey, was it Leavelle?) We moved from there into displays of the Warren commission and the hearings that followed.
A short time later we were down on the street, entering Dealey Plaza itself. As we walked along, we noticed someone had painted “x”s in the street, making the two places where bullets struck President Kennedy. Dallas I were shocked yet amused that someone would need to be so macabre as to pinpoint these exact spots. It seemed every tourist there wanted to take their photo on these “x”s, dodging into the street as soon as there was a break in traffic.
We continued up, along to the Grassy Knoll, which has been taken over by a steady troop of conspiracy theorists. Unimpressed, we walked back down to the street and back towards the book depository / parking lot. I saw a break in traffic, stepped out into the street to the “X” that was painted there, raised my camera and took a shot.
For a moment, time seemed to stop around me. I looked down and noticed my foot was on the “x”.
This was the spot.
This is where it happened.
This is where the bullet pieced his brain.
This is where the President was killed.
This is where a man, a husband, a father, lost his life.
This is where that handsome, young, vibrant hope for the future took his last breath.
The traffic resumed and I scurried to the curb, yet a bit of chill was still inside me. Dallas took my hand, not even sensing that was exactly what I needed at that moment and suggested we walk around a bit “to look for these cows.” I agreed, mostly wanting more than anything to shake the chill from my bones, and the oppressive heat of the Texas sun soon did the trick. Soon we were laughing again. The chill was gone. That moment 45 years ago slipped quietly back into the past.
I was sitting in Laguardia Airport, which I really believe holds the record for the most boring airport on planet Earth. I think a one room shack in the middle of the Philippines would have more to do. There was a bar I had spent some time in, but the necessity of catching this flight kept me now glued to the gate. I sat there on the floor near the closest outlet and goofed off on my laptop, at least I had Wi-Fi.
I noticed a boy and his mother approach from the side. She was young, I actually wouldn’t have been surprised to find out she was his older sister. What first caught my attention though was the fact that he was in his pajamas, Pirate Of The Caribbean PJs in fact. After that, I noticed the IV and colostomy bag.
They sat in the corner, and she produced two small robot toys from her bag for him. He played with them on the open chairs between us as I closed up my laptop to prepare to eventually get on my plane. After a few moments I noticed he was watching me.
“Hello.” I said to him.
“Hi.” He responded. “Are you going to Florida too?”
“No, I’m going to Atlanta, and then to Dallas.” He picked up his robot toys and moved closer.
“I have to go to Florida to see another doctor.” He told me. “Do you want to play robots?”
“I only have a few moments, but sure.” I took the robot he offered me and for a few minutes were first explored the top of my suitcase the he suddenly turned on me and threw my robot off the suitcase which suffered a horrible fall to the terminal floor, screaming in panic the whole way. The Boy In The Pirate Pjs laughed, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed so did his mother. An announcement that the boarding process of our flight had begun rang out, so I told the little boy I had to go. He smiled, picked up his robots in one hand and the IV and colostomy bag that trailed behind him in the other and walked over to where his mother sat. She greeted him with a big smile. I finished collecting my things, and before I stood, I pulled out my camera. As he climbed up on a chair and looked out the window, I took a shot. I heard them announce my flight again so I stuffed the camera in my bag and got on the line.
As the line began to move, I watched the two of them. She now cradled him in her lap and tickled him. He laughed and tried to catch a necklace she wore. I silently wished them a safe trip as I boarded my plane.
Not just pizza, but Pizza. The best pizza in NYC, John’s of Bleeker street. At the corner of 6th Ave and Bleeker street there is on the cities many vest-pocket parks, a small triangle with a beautiful fountain in the center, Father Demo Park.
On this beautiful late Saturday afternoon, the kind of summer days the city was made for, there was piano player in the park. A young red headed man, who played a baby grand piano on dollies. Even though I couldn’t wrap my head around him dragging his instrument of choice through the city streets, I even made a joke about him living in Brooklyn, we enjoyed his music. I took his photo a few times, but the angle and the damn light pole behind him was working against me.
So my eye began to wonder, as it always does. There are so many sites to absorb, for my lens to set upon. The girl reading her book in front of the fountain or the guy next to her, oddly enough listening to his IPOD. There were a few tourists, more locals. Some lilies were striving in the summer heat. The traffic and the world rushed by. The sun was beginning to sink. Across Bleeker from the park stood Lady Of Pompeii church. Its magnificent multi arched steeple and simple cross set against the sky.
I raised my camera and shot.
I posted the photo the next morning and was pretty much stunned by the reaction to it. Within 24 hrs it was my second most commented on, and my third most favorited image.
It’s one I’m happy with too.