Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wordle for this blog.

Can you tell what I talk about on this blog?  Remember – the bigger the word the more often it appears in the text.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Knights of the Round Lens.

Night.  I’ve taken a slew of night pictures, I love seeing what happens when I mess around with shutter speeds and aperture openings with little light.  When I read Carmi’s choice for this week, I immediately thought of 4 specific sets of photo’s, and picked these six from them.

The first was from out at the Bonneville Salt Flats.  In my opinion the two best times to visit the Salt Flats are at night – when there is no moon and when there is a full moon.

We went out there once on the 4th of July to set off some fireworks we got in Wyoming.  In the city and the surrounding foothills they are dangerous, the dry brush catches fire easily and the fire spreads fast.  We’ve had people lose their homes because of careless, and inconsiderate, amateur fireworks shows.  But out at the salt flats there’s nothing to burn.  Just salt, salt and more salt.  Oh, and a little bit of water popping up every there and there.  Not a huge fire hazard.  There was no moon that evening, so out there away from any lights it was pitch black.  Serious darkness.  We got about 10 feet from the cars, turned around and couldn’t see them.  Not at all.  We had to backtrack, following in our footsteps in the crusty salt to find our cars.  We needed to be far enough away that the fireworks wouldn’t hit the cars, so we had to leave the dome light on one of the cars so we would be sure to find our way back.

Later we went back when it was a full moon.  That was even eerier, it was so bright it seemed like daylight, but not normal daylight.  Like being on a different planet.  The dark mountains in the background added to this other-worldly feeling.  The first picture for you is of my 1980 Toyota Corolla out on the salt flats.  This was back in the mid-80’s, so it was taken with my old Nikon 35mm film camera.  It was taken sometime between midnight and 1 AM, and at a high enough shutter speed that the camera was hand-held, no tripod, not sitting on a rock or other car or anything.

This second picture is from sometime in 1979, night pictures was an assignment for my Photography class up at the University of Utah.  This is on what is known as “President’s Circle”, where most of the original buildings stand, possibly even from back when it was The University of Deseret.  The building at the top is the Parks Building, the main administration building for the University. Almost every Halloween my friend and I go up to the Salt Lake City Cemetery for a traditional scare-the-heck-out-of-you ritual.  We also have visited “The Haunted Old Mill” and other spooky sights in the valley.  This evening we brought my camera (the new digital SLR Nikon) and a tripod and attempted to make our own spooky pictures.  I set the shutter speed to 20 or 30 seconds, then we would run into place, sit for 10 or 15 seconds and run out of the picture.  This is the result of one of these:   This one is another picture of the Salt Lake Cemetery, but without the artificial ghosts. The last two pictures are from an October trip down to Arches National Park.  They were taken in the campground, looking up at the stars over the red rock that surrounds the site. These two you will definitely want to click on to get the full view of.  Don’t to forget to check out all the other great night pictures at:

Thanks for dropping by.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Snow day, in the car.

It was a day much like today; it had snowed in the morning and had warmed up enough by the early afternoon that the snow was melting.  This leaves slush all over the place, including on cars that had not been previously cleaned off.We know from previous stories that my first brand new car was a 1979 Mazda GLC wagon.  One of the first things I did to it was to have a sunroof installed.  One of those ones that flips up or can be completely removed.  I really wanted T-tops, but that would have taken way too much reconfiguration on the car, since the doors had rims around the windows. (Hmmmm, T-tops would be relatively easy on my Subaru).

Anyway, it was a day like today.  My sister and I had to go somewhere up in the Bountiful area, I do not remember where or why but it’s about a 20 minute drive on the freeway from home.  The car was covered in snow, so I had to clear it off.  I cleaned off the hood, the windows and all of the roof except for the snow in the roof rack.  After all, it won’t block my view at all.After the car warmed up it was time to open the sunroof.  Anyone who drives with me knows that even in the coldest weather I have at least one window cracked for fresh air.  My theory is that the heater has two levels; off and full heat, full blast.  The rest of the temperature regulation is done with the windows.  So we’re driving up to Bountiful with the heater on, the sunroof flipped open and a roof rack full of slush.

We get our exit, one of Utah’s notorious short exit ramps, and I have to come to a quick stop at the light.  The slush doesn’t.  A two and a half foot by four foot, 2'” thick slab of slush comes sliding right through the sunroof onto our laps.  (That’s over 12 gallons or 47 litres).

To this day I never leave without cleaning the snow out of the roof rack, if the car has one.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why college students are better renters than middle-class families

Between August of 1970 and June of 1972 I spent a little over 4 months in my own home.  My dad liked playing the traveling Professor, and, in retrospect, thankfully dragged his family of 6 along for the ride.  We spent the first 12 months roaming around Europe in a 1970 VW Microbus (Lee Iacocca and Chrysler did not invent the minivan) and the last 6 months in Seattle.

While we were in Europe my parents rented out our house (2 cats included) to a family.  They destroyed our washer and dryer, lost my bicycle and, I won’t say they killed it, but my first cat Tancy died during their stay.  They also apparently threw away a bag full of my photos.  Even at 10 I was taking pictures, with my Kodak Instamatic, and in my completely organized way (which continues to this day) had them stored loose in a shopping bag. 

The six months we were in Seattle my parents rented the house out to a group of Graduate Students from the college my dad taught at.  They fixed the broken washer and dryer, repainted the playroom in the basement and fixed a few other things that I can’t remember.

What I do remember is how happy my parents were at the condition of our house after getting it back from the college students, and their unfavorable comparison to the condition the family left it in.

What made me think of this story is a blog gem that I found.  Written Inc’s Thematic Photographic series has given me an opportunity to look back at my photos, and to lament the loss of that big bag of snapshots I should have taken better care to hide.  There were hundreds of pictures in that paper sack, and I remember crawling though the attic space alongside my bedroom looking for them, going over the same areas several times desperate to find them.

I never did find the bag, but I did rescue a few snapshots, some of which are the ones posted here.  The top one is looking down the center the town Bradford, New Hampshire.  My parents bought some property just outside of town and built the cabin you see in the picture right below on the left hand side.  The top one on the right hand side was taken in the kitchen at the house I grew up in, in Lexington, Massachusetts.  The kid in the front is my best friend, Ed, behind him is my little brother and standing up is my mom.  The last picture is from our apartment window in Grenoble, France.  We stayed there for 5 months, and half of my 5th grade school year was spent in the public schools there.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2 cars, 1 wreck.

I just had a comment on my other blog that made me think of this story.  I did have 2 of my cars in the same wreck.

It must have been the early 80’s, I was living at my parents house while going to the University of Utah.  In typical Utah fashion, it snowed one day, got warm enough to melt the snow but not evaporate it off the roads, then overnight cold enough to freeze the melted snow and snow some more.  I woke up to about an inch of snow on the roads, usually not very much problem.  Except that under that snow was a nice sheet of smooth, slick ice.  I came down the hill and about 2/3 of the way down noticed there was a little fender bender at the intersection, I think there were 3 cars there already.  I was already going only about 20 MPH, driving my 1967 Mustang, and tapped the brakes to slow down even more. 

Nada.  Not even 1 MPH difference.  So then I tried a trick that worked for me my senior year in high school, turn the car into the curb and rub along it to stop the car.  Yup.  Almost nada again.  I ended up plowing into the tail end of the back car at about 14 MPH.  Nice.  Fortunately the lead car had already gone and found a phone to call the police, ‘cause at that point cell phone meant putting it out at the garage sale.

About 10 minutes and one more car in the pileup later, I’m looking up towards my house and I see my mom starting down the hill, in my 1979 Mazda GLC.  (Her car was in the shop so it’s not that she stole it.)  Crap, crap, crap.  (Yes, I cleaned it up for the blog).  I watch as she tries everything I did, getting the same results.

I ended up with two claims on my insurance, missed my class and just turned around, went home and went to bed.  The whole thing took long enough for the day to warm up and melt the ice, so I made it home just fine.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

More Black and Whites

Since this is really my story blog, and I just have to tell the stories that go along with these pictures, I decided to post them over here.  So, here are a few more pictures for Carmi’s Thematic Photographic “Black and White”.

This picture would have worked even if it had been in color, since it’s a picture of a "Black and White”, back when police cars were actually painted black and white.  This was taken out in front of my high school, it wasn’t even a friend of mine who was pulled over.  Probably why I found it amusing.

Across the street from every high school in Utah is an LDS Seminary building.  Utah schools are required to offer students “Release Time” during the school day so they can leave campus to receive religious training at the church of their choice.  Because Utah is predominantly LDS, the church chose to build the Seminary buildings adjacent to every school so that students would have quick access to their classes there.  I, not being of the predominant faith and somewhat of a rebel in my adolescence, decided that my friends and I needed to get a picture of our own seminary class.  The seminary teacher, the man standing at the door, didn’t find it amusing to have a group of teenagers with cigarettes and beer sitting on his front step, so he encouraged us to leave.  I just kept taking pictures during the whole ordeal, and found this one to be the best portrayal of my friends personalities.  I did not find it the least bit surprising that my friend in the dark coat would stand there arguing with him while the rest of them took off.

I bought my first brand new car when I was 19, a 1979 Mazda GLC wagon that I paid $4,500 for, and almost immediately proceeded to bring it down as many dirt roads as I could find.  One of them was the old Burr Trail, down an area in Southern Utah called Waterpocket Fold, going from camping in Capitol Reef National Park down to Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell.  It was 100 miles of fairly good dirt road, with a creek crossing it twice, each towards opposite ends of the road.  On the map, about 5 miles from leaving the paved road was the town of Notom, Utah, which is where I had planned to fill up with gas.  About 10 miles in we got to this creek crossing the road and stopped to survey whether or not my rear-wheel drive car was going to make it across.  As we were checking things out a ranger came down the road and stopped to see if everything was ok.  We asked him about making it across, he assured we would be ok and stayed as I drove across, just in case.  Once on the other side I asked him how much farther down it was to Notom, and he told me we passed it about 5 miles back.  Five miles back?  All there was 5 miles back was a big clump of trees and a farm house.  Yup, he tells us, that’s Notom, nope they don’t have gas there.  Half a tank of gas, 100 miles to go and no idea how good my gas mileage will be on a dirt road.  What should I do?  Three 19 year olds out on a camping trip, what do you think we did?  Yup, pressed on.  We headed off, got 90 miles down the road, came over a hill and saw the road go down the other side, through the other end of the creek and up another hill.  On the hill on other side were three Jeeps (one may have been a Toyota Land Cruiser) with their drivers out surveying the creek and locking in the hubs on their 4-wheel drives.  I come to a stop at the top of the hill, my little white wagon loaded to the hilt, look down at them and say to my compadres “ready?”, let out the clutch, hit the gas and come cruising down the hill, right through the water and up the other side of the hill.  They all stopped locking in their hubs long enough to watch this all happen, jaws hitting the ground as I passed them up the hill and out of sight.  Yeah, that was fun!  And the gas?  When I got to Bullfrog and filled up my tank, I put 11.9 gallons in a 12 gallon tank.  God loves fools and drunks, and I wasn’t drunk.

The spring of ‘83 saw some serious flooding in Salt Lake City.  We had an especially snow packed winter and then went straight into summer.  The snow in the mountains was deep, and melted almost all at once.  The culvert under State Street in downtown Salt Lake was overwhelmed and that street became a river.  Literally.  The news showed clips of people rowing down the center of town fishing on State Street.  Another main culvert on 13th South overflowed and that street became a river, flowing halfway through the city to the point where the water could be diverted into the Jordan River.  For 3 days and nights straight, residents from all over the city were sandbagging the sidewalks to prevent the homes and businesses along these streets from flooding.  Our governor, Scott Matheson, said at a press conference “This is a heck of a way to run a desert.”  I got this picture of a kid floating down 13th South on an inner tube when, after things subsided a bit, my mom and I went down to survey the damage.

We were camping down along Horse Thief Trail when one evening this little fox came traipsing through our camp.  He (or she) never came close to us, since we were sitting by the campfire, and since we didn’t leave any food out by the tents and camper, it simply looked around for a couple minutes and then left.

I’ve got a whole bunch more pictures in the gallery.  A lot of them may not be interesting to anyone other than my family, but since my older brother mentioned wanting to see some more pictures, I put a whole bunch (98) in a gallery.  You are all welcome to check them out, but don’t promise it to be an exciting time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Practical Joke #2

As I mentioned in "Practical Joke #(Who Knows)”, we were heavily into playing little pranks on each other at the West Valley Free Wheeler.  I worked with a lady named Sylvia, and for the life of me I can’t remember the joke she played on me, but I do remember telling her that I was going to get revenge on her, that I would do it when she least expected it and that it would happen when I wasn’t even there.  I had no plan at the time, but I was a cocky 25 year old and over-confident in my own abilities.  Except this time I did it.
Sylvia worked during the days, and was usually the one that opened the store.  The driver I closed with that night and I brainstormed, came up with a plan and stayed up until the early morning hours setting things up for the morning.
We made a net out of string to hold a water balloon, attached it to the ceiling above the front door and placed a pin in the wall right below it.  Then we got a water balloon, put it in the net, hooked a string to hold it up and ran the string down the side of the door and across the bottom of the door. 
The idea was that Sylvia would come in, walk through the door, pulling the string out of the wall down below.  This would release the water balloon, which would fall onto the pin, pop and the water would fall right on her.  It worked perfect.  Exactly as planned.
Although she got me back even before I knew how well my plan had worked.  I came into the store that evening to work and the first thing Tonya, another employee, told me was that the water balloon had worked perfectly, except that Mike, one of the owners, had come by before the store opened to get some paperwork.  Instinctively I knew that couldn’t be true, wouldn’t because Mike hardly ever came out to the West Valley store, but that initial gut wrenching feeling of doom, despite only lasting seconds, was enough to give the two women a good laugh.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Haunted Old Mill

October 28th, 2007, sometime after dark.  My friend, who I’ve called Adele since sometime in 1995, and I were on our somewhat annual Halloween trek to the Salt Lake Cemetery and other Halloween destinations.  This year it took us to the remains of The Haunted Old Mill.  It was falling apart, one section of the roof was gone, walls crumbled and it was completely closed off with a high fence. 
We walked around a bit, taking some pictures in the dark, talking about the experiences we had had there years ago when they still did the haunted house in the building.  We were joined by three college aged kids and continued checking out the place together.  At one point, can’t remember who first suggested it, we started talking about sneaking over the fence and getting into the abandoned building.  Despite being in my mid-40’s and Adele in her late 30’s, we’d reverted back to their age and got caught up in the thrill of sneaking in with them.  The five of us started walking around the fence looking for a weak spot where we could get in.  There was a field next to the Old Mill, going up the side of the hill, where we figured we could find a weak spot in one of the clump of bushes.  I was leading the way up the hill, in close to total darkness,  I turned around to look at the group, make a comment and get what I called my “Blair Witch Project” photo.  This comment about the Blair Witch Project heightened our anxiety and the group suddenly got quiet, but we kept plugging along.
Just as I found a kink in the fence, right behind a big bush, a bright light shines on us from the road at the top of the hill.  I have no idea what anyone else thought, but my gut reaction was “Damn, we’re being abducted by aliens, we’ll miss out on that scary old building.”  A disembodied voice comes from the light and informs us “You’re trespassing.  Leave the area now.” 
Double damn.  It’s only a cop, shooing us out of there.  But out of there we went, back down the hill to the car.  I offered the college folk a ride back to their car and one of the guys replied “And do I get the candy in your pocket too?”  We’d been traipsing around the mill long enough that it was said in a friendly way so we all laughed, but at the same time I understood that meant “No, but thanks.”
Adele and I got in the car and headed up to the Salt Lake Cemetery.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hypocrisy, thy name is me.

I just finished posting on how much I hate graffiti, and now I feel the need to confess.  I cannot say I have never done any graffiti myself.  I also wish I could say I regret and am embarrassed by the fact that I did it, but I have to admit that I still feel a little pride that it was left up for several years.
My senior year in high school.  My best friend was dating my sister’s best friend and the three of us decided to do a little art work.  My sister’s best friend and I kept watch while my best friend did the outline.  We had it drawn out on paper, so when it came time to fill in the outlines, all three of us went to work and got it done fairly quickly. 
We chose the walkway under 4th South that still goes from the Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot (Rice Stadium at the time) to the main campus at the University of Utah.  We did it during the late-late hours of the night when there would be no foot traffic, but during school hours it saw heavy traffic.  It was perfect.  Under the street where no one driving would see us, empty at that time of night, but still where a lot of people would eventually get to see it. 
I can’t remember how many years they left it up, but I remember walking to class one time and being amazed that it hadn’t been covered over yet.  This was 30 years ago, so it’s long gone now.  And I can honestly say that it was the one and only time I remember vandalizing someone else’s property.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Mayor of Sugarhouse.

We had a regular ‘customer’ back at the original Free Wheeler.  It was either the end of the 70’s or the beginning of the 80’s, and I can’t even remember her name (I think it was Eleanor) but we called her “The Mayor of Sugarhouse.”  She looked every bit of the 173 years old she was, smoked a carton a day and drank mini-bottles by the handful.
I don’t know if she was homeless, she certainly looked it, but we thought she had an apartment somewhere in the neighborhood,  She told a lot of stories, but a couple of themes seemed consistent.  She was originally from New York City, came out to Salt Lake with a husband that, some unknown years before, left town with a younger woman.  He had a name, but for the life of me I can’t remember what she said it was.
She would hang out at Free Wheeler a couple of evenings every week.  She liked us, mainly because the place was staffed by a bunch of hippies and we tolerated her.  Our customers did too, even found her somewhat amusing when she would claim to be the owner and yell at everybody.  She would sit on the window sill at the front of the store (it was a wide, low, long sill), drinking and smoking and telling stories of her life.  One time we saw her walking down the middle of 2100 South, shaking her fist and yelling at the cars as they passed her.
I have no idea what happened to her, she just faded from the fabric of Free Wheeler.  She can’t still be alive, that was over 30 years ago and she was 149 then, I just hope she’s resting peacefully.

Friday, July 16, 2010

How I got the nickname “Slim”

We’re talking the early 80’s, so I’ve been dealing with this nickname for almost 30 years now.
I was over at my older brother’s house and he was on the phone to our maternal grandmother, Ida.  They had been talking for a while when she asked him how his brother was doing.  Having two brothers, he asked which one she meant.
Not that she was senile or anything, but according to my brother her response was “uh, you know…, Slim.”  You know, kinda like how you call that big burly guy “Tiny”.
Anyway, my older brother found that incredibly hilarious, and the siblings have been calling me that ever since.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

April Fool’s Day at CJH.

coke Both the Vice Principal and my best friend (the Spanish teacher) at the school were addicted to diet Coke.  So naturally I decided to prey on that one April 1st.  The night before, I got one of the custodians to let me into the VP’s office and replaced her 6 pack of diet Coke with regular Coke.  Then I went through 2 rolls of quarters buying all the diet Coke out of the faculty lounge vending machine.  On both the vending machine and the VP’s fridge I put a sign that said “Dr. Sucrose Strikes Again, muyaaahahahaha.” Thinking ahead, and realizing my life just may be on the line, I brought all the diet Cokes to school then next day in a ice filled cooler, and hid them in the auditorium.  Turned out to be a great idea.
Before the end of 2nd period, my friend showed up at my classroom door and demanded (as I remember it, in a deep Satan-esque voice) “Give me Diet Coke!”  At the speed of light I ran to the auditorium, grabbed a couple of the ice cold diet Cokes and brought them back to her.  She cracked one open, guzzled half of it and then, in her normal sweet voice, said “Thanks, may I have that other one too?”  Phew!
homer At lunch I went down to the VP’s office to make peace, carrying another ice cold can.  The first thing I noticed when I walked into her office was that she was drinking a 4 month-old, warm diet Coke.  (It wasn’t wet from sweat and it had the Christmas label on it.)  I’m standing there as she takes a swig of the old, warm one, ice cold can dripping in my hand when she looks up.  Now, I doubt this is true, but I’d still swear that when she saw that can she closed her eyes, tilted her head back and let out a classic Homer Simpson “aaaaaaaahhhhhh”.
Well, I survived, and thanks to their great sense of humor, even remained friends to this day.  They actually found it kind of amusing, and I ended up breaking even because they bought all the cans I had in the cooler off me.
And always remember – have an exit strategy.