With You

With you, I’m no longer seeking what to do today. It’s sunny and we’re in your truck, first to drop off some things for a friend, then to pick up our hot food for the game. You’re playing music and it’s loud and you’re humming along with a tune we’ve known forever. The next song comes on and you’re back to singing again, except this song’s new to me. I freeze and you smile. “You don’t know this one?” you say, as you turn it up and get into it. And I get into it.

With you, we have a picnic spread on the field overlooking the breakers on the sea. We have lots of plans for today and at this moment, all we care about is what’s placed before us. It occurs to me that your focus is making sure all’s right with me. “Do you have enough?” you ask. And I do.

With you, you hold my arm and ask me why you’ve lived this long. When others have passed. You’re worn out with nothing left. You want to know how that makes any sense at all. I say that I’m so glad to be with you. You say, “I can’t argue with that.” You squeeze my hand tight and then we talk about those we loved so much, those long gone. Wouldn’t you know, you tell me something new about them. And about you.

With you, you’ve bought me dinner for my birthday and we’ve played frisbee right after. It’s dark and I know you have a family to get back home to. I hate that our time’s coming to an end. “It’s getting too dark to play,” you say, as we gather the balls and disks and place them back in your trunk. We head out, and talk, and I don’t want our time to be over– but I don’t say a word about that. You’ve given me a great night. Then you say, “How about an ice cream?” and just like that our night starts anew. Then I say it: “I don’t want this to end. I love you so much, my big brother.”

With you, all of you, I express my gratitude. I can’t help it. We’re shoulder-to-shoulder and each other’s presence should be enough– it usually is with your other companions, right? When it’s me and you, you’re getting a different flavor ice cream, aren’t you? A new song. You’re going to hear something no one else has told you in a long while, if ever. With me.

CAPTION: Embrace is a pen and ink drawing that inspired the With You written piece.
Posted in non-fiction | 1 Comment

Sunshower

Sunshower is not what you think it is. Sunshower hit me hard a long time ago and has found me again. It left my head warm and my skin red, as I was overwhelmed with the message the rush of water brought to me.

Robbie and I were peddling our dirt bikes on the streets of Wakefield, Massachusetts, forty-six years ago. We were eleven, it was summertime and didn’t we look just fine. Rob had come up with an idea, and his brainstorms were sometimes dangerous, often illegal and always ill-advised. In those days, he would float each of his ideas to one good friend at a time, just to gauge whether or not it was out of the question. Today, it was me.

Rob’s dad kept various lengths of metal tubing in his barn. Rob thought it would be cool to stick those tubes onto our bikes’ front forks, to extend our wheels like choppers. How did I feel about this idea? Well, my dad had a saw that cut through metal and a drill I could sneak out of the house when my mom was making the upstairs beds. I was game. We planned to do the work the next weekend; his parents would be on a few hours’ trip and we’d not be spotted on our secret project.

My small, mismatched Frankenbike could certainly use some wow factor. Its flaking handlebars were stripped, which meant that they would swing up or down when I leaned forward or back– not very safe but we’d tightened it as much as we could. I had an authentic BMX saddle seat that was the envy of friends but truth be told, it felt hard after an hour or so. I spent a lot of time riding “standing up” on my pedals– just to keep off the seat for a bit.

Worst of all, my bike was heavy. It wasn’t made of lighter-weight alloys like the rich kids’ bikes. Those boys had gorgeous straight-bar frames that just seemed to jump into the air. And their colors! Chrome silver or red– kids would stare in awe. The paint finishes were certified GCS– Gum Chew Stopper. Mark, a kid from across town who we’d catch glimpses of but didn’t know personally, had such a bike. Rob and I knew he competed in racing, and that he was tough, but we didn’t know much more than that.

My frame was curved, common steel, rattle-can-painted by me and Rob on newspapers spread out beside his barn.

“Not everyone is like you,” he said. “And so’s the same with your bike.”

I had ditched my wimpy stock tires for new knobby versions– encouraged by Rob who helped me put those tires to good use. They gripped the road better, and I loved how they sounded on our streets. That’s right, a pedal-bike’s tires had their own noise quality. You had to be a rider, with your ears positioned as only a rider’s could be, to hear them at their most glorious. Turning the bike in slow Ss gave the best wet, rippling sound imaginable, and boy, did I get carried away doing just that. Each street had its own personality– Kimball, Cordis, Vernon and Lowell– and their surfaces would come to life when good tires gripped them.

Rob and I cut the four longest tubes we could from his dad’s stock, to about sixteen-inches, and fitted them to our front forks. We drilled a hole through the tubes for the wheel to screw on, and as quick as that, we had what no other kid had– choppers!

“The tender chicks will dig us,” he assured me.

“How could no one have thoughtten of this?” I added.

At first all went well. We were riding high! Then Rob popped a wheelie and his chopper assembly dropped off– the wheel and its two clanging tubes. This led him to yell for help as he frantically peddled in a mad game of Keep Your Fork In The Air. He crashed, of course, he couldn’t ride a wheelie forever, and a millisecond before he and his bike ground to a stop he said, “We just need screws to hold these on.”

Our chopper forks were too long. We didn’t want to admit it, but it was true. Our desire for attention was so much that we just couldn’t bear the thought to go shorter. The tubing gave us a high front-end posture that looked racy, but boy was it hard to pedal and steer. We could ride quite well going downhill, and even peddling on level streets wasn’t too hard for short periods. Going uphill was impossible and Wakefield was a hilly town.

There were other problems. My knob tires would scrape the tubing– the metal wasn’t curved to accommodate the wide rubber. And we didn’t have a good screw and nut system to keep the extenders straight and sturdy. I went to Schwinn Cyclery on Albion Street where I’d bought my tires and hand grips. The man at the counter smiled when he saw what I’d done. “You can’t do this,” he said, giving the tubes careful study. “Oh my gosh, no. Not this way, at least.” He paused, rubbing his chin. Then he said, “There are other options.”

I looked at his $75 Mongoose forks and aluminum star wheels he had for sale. I didn’t have anywhere near that kind of money. Heck, I had hardly any money at all. The waffle grips I’d bought from him cost $1.26. I remember the price because I had to count out the coins on this very counter, partially from pennies I found in parking lots on the trek to the shop. I didn’t want to hear about options.

Rob and I quietly restored our bikes to their stock configurations. It was a relief for our tired legs. We returned the chopper tubing back to the barn, and never said another word about it.

One day I was riding home from the bike shop and I ran into Mark, right at the corner of Main Street at Aame’s Drug store. There was no avoiding him. I’d got off my bike to take an admiring look at the plastic oval racing placard I’d just bought. It was bright blue and the Schwinn owner had thrown in a large sticker of the number of my choice– Black 7. He’d tie-wrapped the perforated placard to my handlebars, which thankfully Rob had sanded, painted flat black, and torqued real tight before I’d set out that morning.

Mark stopped his beautiful Redline-brand machine next to me and smiled. Oh, crap, I thought.

“Nice placard,” he said, bemused. “We use those for competition, not for the street.”

“Yeah,” I replied, as if he’d said, “You’ve picked the best color out of all they have to sell.”

I couldn’t believe Mark was standing with me. He was the perfect BMX kid, muscular, not too tall, and good-looking. My friends guessed he came from money. We knew so little about him, and here he was! He had a reputation for being tough– not a bully, but tough– and I was glad our schools were a mile apart. Mark was not the kid I’d want to run into in the hallway.

My friends regarded him as the top racer in our part of the state. He was reputed to have a professional bike, fully tricked out, in addition to the sharp everyday ride he was on today. His eyes were on my bike. “Caldor special?” he mocked. “What have you done to it?”

It didn’t take much for me to feel very small, very quickly. I must have turned a shade of red and I’m sure he noticed. I say this because he started his “What have you done to it” in a degrading way, but changed his tone mid-sentence. It was fascinating to hear, really. What started out as “Oh my God, you’ve ruined an already crappy bike!” had transformed into something more of a peer’s curiosity.

Just because he’d seen my reaction.

I rubbed the front of my nose and said nothing. What could I say about the choices I’d made? My small plastic Count Chocula propeller spun lazily in the wind, clamped near my left handle grip– it was the cereal box toy that Rob had begged me to throw away. Mark smiled and got his bike in motion. He rolled past me towards Schwinn and then stopped and turned around. “I’ve seen you ride,” he said. “Those wild Ss. Nice control, Hagopian. You have good posture.” And then he was gone.

Later, Rob was incredulous. “You saw Mark?”

“Yes.”

“He’s seen you riding?”

“Yes!”

“HE KNOWS YOUR NAME?”

I smiled.

“He saw the stupid Count Chocula thing? Hey, teach me how to do those Ss. You ride ’em standing on the pedals, right? That’s your secret. It’s your thing. You pedal for speed and then you’re coasting? Let me try it.”

A week or so later Rob and I were out riding. I don’t remember what business we had on Emerald Street that day. It was very hot, and the street was steep. Maybe we were collecting on Rob’s paper route? Perhaps we were simply exploring an area just past Salem Street and outside the familiar edge of our neighborhood. We rode up the hill, to a place new to me.

In a quick turn of events, heavy clouds appeared, and it began to rain– hard. Within twenty seconds we were soaked. We didn’t dare ride down the street– no one was going anywhere at this moment. We laid our bikes on the sidewalk and watched the flash flood slosh down the hill.

Within seconds an impulse struck us. We both picked an edge of the street and laid down in the surge. It was as simple as that. Laying by the curb, we were engulfed in the rushing rainwater, turned hot by the street.

Don’t believe for one second that the water was particularly dirty or contaminated. That street was cleaner than most public pools. I was there– and in it! No leaves or trash of any kind. We weren’t ducking debris or anything gross or rancid– that water was as fresh as could be.

A fast, heavy volume washed over me. Oh, the feeling of natural liquid heat! And then words came to my mind: “You’re a happy kid.” I was inspired to rejoice in that sentence, over and over, as the seconds passed. “You’re a happy kid! you’re a happy kid.”

It was the pleasure of a lifetime.

The rainwater, at that temperature on that street at that age drove those words into me. I basted in them. It wasn’t a command. It wasn’t a cue to study harder, or to be a good boy, or to stop stealing candy at Lil Peach, or to appreciate the things I had in life. The reveal was an understanding that I was, and had been, and would always be happy, in my days before and for today and a lifetime hereafter. Not everyone was going to be. Not all the time, and for some people, hardly ever.

I lay in the road, and the message came to me. Over the years I would have setbacks, a sprinkling of unhappy moments in time, but the childlike joy is my compass. This is how my bottle floats. Sunshower was a blessing.

Today I live in a house I bought this month. The neighborhood was recently built in a forest clearing and one Saturday morning I noticed something. At about 8:30 the sun eclipsed the pines and shone through my bathroom’s narrow opaque bar of windows, fully illuminating the tiled bathroom shower. That may mean nothing to most people. To me, it had glorious potential. Being showered within bright natural light took my mind back to the sensations and ideas of July 1976.

The hot water brought it back to me. It’s so easy to recall so much. The people from that summer came alive.

The shower is relieving. There are no cares because it’s a Saturday and I can stake my hours as I wish. I can stand still as long as I want to, daydream and think.

And then, oh, there it is! Someone had said something to me that July. You read it when he said it. When I’m standing on the tile with the hot water on my head, I can hear his voice and see his expression. And– I wish I had responded. Wish I could get the moment back. I want to try it again, my reaction to him I mean, because I think I missed a great opportunity. I was foolish and didn’t do anything with his words.

That’s what sunshower brings to me. It brings me a chance to make remedy.

The sun provides beyond light and heat, it works with the materials at hand to transform them, quite obviously and also much less so. Gently today, through ice-block windows. Violently yesterday, with rainwater rushing down its hot pavement servant. The violence brought me exhilaration and the understanding that I was a happy kid. The gentleness– again, all from the sun– allows me, present tense, to pick up what someone said, a long time back, and take it– take him– as far as we can go. Right now.

He said something to me, and I can’t shake it.

Did you notice it too? When he spoke to me? And how I’d done nothing?

When I’m in my house’s sunshower, and the hot water strikes, oh it’s so easy to hear what he said, and to imagine reacting differently. It’s so simple, how can I not share it with you? He wasn’t talking about what I thought was evident. Instead, he was giving me an invitation and I didn’t pick it up. He told me there were other options. What had been my reaction? I’d walked away.

Here’s what comes to mind, and please do come with me on this. The bike shop owner was telling me there were other options than what I was showing him. There were other ways to satisfy the requirement of my bike to look great. I dismissed his pitch because I thought he just wanted to sell me accessories. Yet he never mentioned buying anything. I was a kid who picked up pennies to cover the sales tax on a dollar pair of handle grips. I counted the filthy coins on the pristine glass next to the performance riding gloves kiosk. He knew who stood in front of him that day.

A modest kid.

A kid with some inventiveness, and just basic tools.

A boy completely lacking mechanical experience, or advanced bike knowledge.

I had a few dollars’ allowance due at the end of the week. I’m sure the guy knew that an eleven-year-old’s week in July was just about his whole life. What could be done, right now? He rubbed his chin, remember? Sunshower– today’s sunshower– transports me to 1976 and I answer him: “Do you think there’s something we can do?”

The bike shop owner replied, “What do you have in mind?”

“I want to make my bike look unique, be sturdy, and have a wow factor. You look like you have an idea or two. Anything you can do to help me, I would really appreciate it.”

He pondered my bike. He brought out a tape measure and studied the barn-born chopper forks. “Why are these so long?” he asked.

I nodded. “They don’t have to be. At all. We could cut these tubes in half,”

The owner raised a finger. “How about– let me go take a look at something. This may work out real well. No promises. Hold on.” He went behind the counter and rummaged around. Then he said, “Found it!” and came back to the showroom floor.

“What’s the smallest acceptable length of additional fork you’ll be okay with?”

Without giving it a second’s thought, I told him even a small length would do, anything that just looked not stock.

“Okay. Good answer. Look at these. The stools we sit on behind the counter came with optional length legs. Six-inch heavy gauge steel tubes. We don’t use them. Take a look. Good?”

“Yes!”

“Let’s see if they’ll fit.” He took just a moment to test-fit and gave a thumb’s up.

“Okay,” he said. “These are black. You’ve painted your bike black. I’ve got a slightly different idea. What do you think of dark blue? As your bike’s new color?”

“I love it.”

“Perfect. We’re going to spray paint your bike dark blue, and give you these black chopper fork extenders for just that extra bit of specialness. Sound good?”

He showed me how he planned the work. He used a mallet to carefully hammer the tube ends to an oval shape that exactly matched the fork’s. He measured to mark where he would drill the attachment holes. Then he told me that a thin stock tire, not a knobby one, would actually look best and work best.

“What else would you like?” he asked. Then, before I could answer: “I have a pair of competition handlebars I can donate. Yours aren’t safe. Once they’re stripped, there’s nothing you can do. They get stripped because you didn’t tighten them properly the first time. I will show you the right ratchet and lug to use for this. Not an adjustable wrench, as you’ve been doing.”

He also had an idea about my seat. “The rep sent us a banana seat last March even though I told him we weren’t going with that style this year. He said to keep it. It’s yours. It suits a chopper, and you’ll love how it feels.”

“Perfect, and thank you!” I said. “Now I’ll go and get the frame painted, and come back for the assembly.”

“One second,” he said, giving the back of my bike a close look. “This,” he moved his hand in a slow circle around the back wheel. “This could do with something.”

“I don’t know what you mean? I want to keep the knob tire.”

“Yes, keep it. Hold on. Be right back.” He hustled to the back room and came out holding a thin cardboard box. “Could you make use of this?” He reached in and pulled out a star rim. Incredible– that was the single most desired item of all my friends!

“It’s scratched. We can’t sell it. I can’t return it either, because well, we dropped it here. But if you want to prime it, and paint it, I’ll install it. You still have the black spray paint?”

A week later Rob and I were at Wakefield Schwinn Cyclery with my new bike. Robbie was full of praise. The black chopper forks were just the right touch to make my prize look just a bit different. The handlebars were lower than the Caldor version, and rock-solid for safe riding. Unquestionably though was the appeal of the five-spoked star wheel. It solidified the bike, and made it look purposeful.

She was never going to be a racer. Not at that weight, and not with this rider. She was going to be an entertainer, a two-wheeled Hurd School parking lot crowd-pleaser, and a heck of a lot of fun to go off exploring. Right about now, I’m happy to start my day with just the thought of it.

CAPTION: Sunshower by Ara Hagopian.
Posted in non-fiction, Wakefield | 4 Comments

Sleeping Bags Confuse Worms

Crawlers are animals that are always on the move, at great risk to themselves and with visible loss of life. Why do so many worms and slugs venture onto pavement, where the danger level is high? What’s the urge to go from here to there?

The sidewalks of Stanton Street are littered with dried worms. The creatures start their midnight on the move, as they emerge from the moist earth. Once topside, they make tracks across any surface they touch. If they can travel across the cement to reach dirt again– as most do– they will dig back underground. If they get lost going the long way down the sidewalk, they will get caught in the sun and die. If they happen to take a slight left or right, the safety of the grass will be waiting.

It seems it’s all a matter of dispassionate chance. Were the perilous trek to happen to a person, for example someone crossing a desert with a parallel road being just out of sight, it would be heartbreaking. For some observers, it’s heartbreaking no matter what being struggles a long way, seeking relief.

Sleeping bags confuse worms. Two points back this statement, from the worm’s point of view. First: What is the person trying to accomplish? He puts his body into a horizontal sack and is not fooling anybody– he’s not a worm. Point Two: Why do people lay down in bags, and then not get moving? That will never make sense to the crawlers.

Worms, and slugs, and centipedes are constantly making tracks– and many die in the process. Why are they going? Why continually take the risk, when the safety of surround should take priority over the need to wander in the sun?

Variety doesn’t exist in close proximity.

Something is missing and is being sought.

Something must be provided by a given being, in a manner that demands travel.

One’s purpose in life absolutely overrides another being’s judgement for what should and shouldn’t be put at risk.

We may not be aware of our own purpose.

If I’m out in the mid-day sun and I see a crawler in trouble, that is, they have no chance to live given their position and predicament, I’ll get a leaf and move the creature to the grass and shade. Each rescue is resisted. The worm flips and jumps, the centipede is suspicious of the Sudden Magic Leaf Carpet, and the slug shrinks and curls. The easy answer is, they are reacting as if they’re being hunted. Fair enough.

Another answer is, the being’s drive code is written in such a way that precludes another creature saving it from certain death.

That is a powerful code. Sure, we can say with certainty the worm resists “help” because it gets hunted far more than it gets helped. Is there no accommodation in their instinct that accounts for being assisted? If birds and lizards are in such a fierce hunt for food, why are so many crawlers struggling and dying in plain view?

If sleeping bags confuse worms, and they ask, “Why aren’t you moving?” and if dry-out treks confuse men, and we ask, “What are you to gain on the concrete?” then what answer satisfies both?

The crawlers’ purpose in life is written in a code that can’t be understood with a short set of values. There is some benefit being derived from the creatures’ continuous movement, aside from aeration of soil. What kind of lens would it take to understand the full purpose of the crawlers? Would it involve taking into account all animals in an environment, or perhaps a wider scope still? Worms: What causes you to travel so freely, what’s the goal, what fuels the urge? If one answer is “The worms themselves don’t know,” then how can that apply to human actions too?

Posted in non-fiction | 1 Comment

Roots in Loose Earth

A tree is not to move, a bush is not to die. Not if their roots have anything to say about it. A living thing’s roots are in place to anchor and nourish, so long as the environment remains viable. How do people who have relocated manage to thrive, when they vacate their soil? If people move far from where they’ve lived, what of their roots? Should the roots be cut, or perhaps dragged along? How do either choices work for a good life?

1984 was an odd year. My family had moved the forty miles from Wakefield, Massachusetts to Gloucester, staying with friends for a month when we needed a place to live in-between homes. At the same time, I finished my freshman college term and started my sophomore studies as well, with different dorms and new roommates. Looking back, living at five addresses that year was more than bearable because I had family and friends with me the whole way. They were my roots, and the 200-mile radius from school to home was elastic enough to hold strong.

Those roots sure could stretch, and boy, could I lean. I kept up my friendships with phone calls, letters, and visits.

The current year, 2022, is shaping in a similar way, with a difference. I’ve moved across the country to an apartment in South Carolina, waiting for our next house to be built. The personal impact is greater than it was in 1984 because this time the move was to a state of strangers. Also, my support structure isn’t as dedicated or dynamic– people are much older, and other responsibilities fill their lives. For me, leaning is not going to work this time around, not with the distance involved. Yes I stay in contact with friends; I just don’t have their physical presence, and physicality is essential with rooted people.

That’s a big change, and the only way the upheaval is going to work, the only way my long-term relationships are going to survive, is to employ certain exercises to reduce the problems of social loss.

Loneliness is a sediment that rushes through the human river, where silt is an idea that can pick up as easily as it can deposit. Loneliness is a man creating companions and situations that could never exist, except in his mind. Loneliness sprouts inter-being marriages of a sort, dozens and dozens of them, where material and time and particle are joined in bliss. Their creation is simply for company. From my point of view my creations all understand the circumstance– because I can manage it.

Here today, I am moving in two weeks, from one new neighborhood to another. What hurts the most right now is a cat I’ll be leaving behind. She’s someone’s Scottish Fold and I see her every morning when I walk. At 6:30 AM at the one-mile mark from my apartment, I pass her house and she comes running to me. We’ve been doing this for months. She calls and I crouch. I know cats; Foldy is one of the great ones.

She purrs, and never bites or scratches. All she wants is to butt her head on my hands, and to be stroked. I’m with her for about five minutes, and she would have me all day if she could.

I tell her, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning!” Very soon, that won’t be true. For me, it will be one more goodbye, in a whole string of goodbyes along the way.

You can make a new friend. Let’s say, you can make a new neighborhood cat friend. That friend will not be Foldy. I’ll go further and say, you should never want that cat to replace Foldy. There is only one that is she.

If you don’t get that, you don’t get the root concept.

Picture this. A pet owner is at a veterinary clinic and his cat’s diagnosis involves a life-saving operation with a three-hundred dollar fee. A choice must be to be made. Will we agree to the operation?

We can spend the $300 for our ten-year old cat, or we can spend $50 to adopt a kitten. How does the second choice not make the most sense? Less money for a newer cat. Why not?

In a person’s healthy social root structure, the above alternative works against one’s well-being. The situation isn’t about economics and it’s not even about affection or love. You can love a new kitten. Loyalty, on the other hand, only knows depth. Depth comes though the passage of time.

Buying a kitten can never be a trade-up from a pet you’ve had for many years. We’re not talking about cars. This is about a being that needs you, and who you need too, and how you’re going to manage the new challenge in her life. Even if you make a crushing decision, it must crush you. If it does not, then you’ve got nothing but dry twigs underneath you.

There is certainly much to consider with any connections we have.

How does a man maintain his roots when he moves far away from the people he loves? For me, the answer isn’t just to keep up with calls and texts. There has to be some physical interpersonal activity in order to make it. I’ve found a way to generously spread technology in a combination with what bits of actual human (or animal) presence I can muster.

Presence must include affection or personal regard, or we’re no better than simply standing in a line of strangers. We might as well be waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles for our driver’s license renewal.

From my home, if I were to walk away, drive away, leave– would anyone miss me? That concept has horrifying facets. For many months this year, I was living in that situation. If I left this building, this town, this state, no one would’ve missed me. Not even a cat– I’d not met Foldy yet.

Interacting with people within arm’s length is crucial for good health. One way came as a surprise to me. I’m on a regular blood donation cycle and I recently realized something. When I donate in my new adoptive state, it’s the only time any stranger– in this case a Red Cross nurse– tells me her name and asks me questions. She touches my arm. Makes sure I’m comfortable. Makes small talk. Her attention is on me. All of that is root-making material, endearing me to the area. It’s in-person. It’s relating, and understanding. It’s someone waiting for me, and counting on me. It has a bonding effect because this human contact took place here, this strange land I’ve found myself.

When I go to bed, I think of a particular person who was once in my life, forty-five years ago, and I renew our conversations. I invent whole new situations with my friend, and express myself. She expresses herself. It’s a way of watering my soil. Sometimes watering isn’t what’s best at a given time. In that case, my nightly mental exercise is like securing a good fence to protect what I have. All the work is a cumulative effort to grow those roots.

My roots are in video chats with dear co-workers. I choose good people who are friends and who know how to exchange what we both need, to live. I do think it’s that serious. I count on my relationships any way I can take them.

My roots are in making friends, where I’ll soon be permanently living. I’ll have a house in a brand-new neighborhood and I’ll be welcoming. No-one will replace my dear friends– they are portable and are with me in technology and imagination. What I’ve learned along the way is that roots are measured in loyalty, they run deep and new sprouts emerge from the bulb. I must care for the entire system, for happiness.

CAPTION: Brighton Village neighborhood cat enthusiastically greets me at 6:30 every morning outside her house. When I move away, what will she think? And how will I feel, leaving behind one of the few beings that recognizes me and enjoys my company?
Posted in Cats, non-fiction | Leave a comment

Don’t Let Your Hero Down

Have you thought about your favorite fictional hero lately? People count on their champions to never disappoint, and let’s face it– your heroes have always benefitted you. Here’s a twist: You can shift from the passive and take action for his or her sake. Don’t let your hero down.

It does feel good to be passive around our heroes. There he is, on the screen, over the airwaves or in a comic or book. We’re in our comfy chair and by the pleasure of our command we are in his world. Unfailingly, there he is, carrying someone to safety, or linking clues to a crime. And he’s incorruptible in character as he’s true to himself. Look at him get to work! He’s going to do the right things. He’s going to figure out a dastardly mess, get up after he’s been knocked down, and bring the truth to a powerful conclusion. Probably, too, just in the nick of time to save another life.

Those who love such men and women cannot live without the ideal, especially when it’s neatly packaged for consumption. All we have to do is turn on Detective Constable Morse and follow his 90-minute lead and we are in bliss. We can’t help it! It’s a relief– yes that’s the word– to watch a master pull apart the evilest of schemes. The bad guys can’t stop him. Nor can the good guys it seems, because simply showing up in the proper team colors does not a hero make. A hero needs his independence. His loyalty is to the victim, always, and damn that someone should be hurt in the hero’s sphere. To defeat the bad guys, and to exist among the good guys, a man must be prepared to fight 360 degrees around him.

We watch. We don’t have to do the work, and the classic hero never fails in the end. We recharge, and it’s a soothing change from our hard, messy world. It’s a good turn of the brain, the hero exercise. And when the production is presented artfully, our enjoyment of the tale is all the more.

How about we pull out a 1938 radio broadcast and listen to Lamont Cranston work outside the men of law enforcement, to defeat those taking advantage of the city’s under-served. Or let’s get smitten over a dashing Captain Kirk as he uses his wit to not just save the universe, but to bring opposing sides together for the benefit of both. Including, to our delight, his two best friends, Spock and McCoy.

Lieutenant Columbo was conceived for one reason: To defeat a clever crime more cleverly. Sherlock Holmes delivered in shocking and dramatic ways. Maybe your hero– a character who’s fiercely personal to you– creates a healthy place for your head to rest, any time you need him, as an antidote for the poisons in your life.

Sometimes our hero is young and just starting out, and the audience is in fact well ahead of him. Consider the newly-minted veterinarian James Herriot in All Creatures Great And Small. We learn as he learns, and then we marvel as he eclipses us, right before our eyes. We see that despite his satchel, his moral compass is the critical tool he carries. He’s not just saving a bull, he’s preserving a family’s livelihood; it goes deeper too, holding tight the weave of the cross-generation legacy of the English countryside.

Your hero. Do you count on him to set a good example, to help you pattern your own behavior? Maybe you look to him for something grand, to reinforce your faith in mankind. Because someone real has to write it, and many someones have to consume it. That fact strengthens your faith in people.

Don’t let your hero down. Don’t drop him in the parking lot of He’s Not Really Real, to disintegrate under the grind of impassive, retread tires.

Don’t let your hero down. If you admire his actions, emulate what bits you can.

Don’t watch and lose the lesson crafted before you. Don’t watch and do nothing different tomorrow.

Free your hero from the page and fake him for choice moments of your life.

A hero prevails even after he fails. And so can you.

Take selective fiction and make it happen in front of you. Your guy is stuck in frames and on a script. You, on the other hand, are free and dynamic. No one’s expecting you to travel to Shanghai to break up an international opiate ring. What if you took certain cues from a great detective and developed a deeper relationship with your son? As your hero did when he foiled the secret China-America network that was destroying countless lives.

Do you have love in your heart to spare? Have all the champion depictions you’ve seen, over years and years, created a space within you? To be filled with warm feelings, and a purpose to try again, even when the good team said you might as well quit and the bad guys wholeheartedly agreed with them?

Heroes clear out the junk inside us. We aren’t aware of the excavation because the hollowness is filled with better stuff. You’re free to love a certain person even though you live thousands of miles apart and you’ll never meet. You’re free to love because there’s a tap with so much available at the connection. The hero’s example triumphs. He’s set us up to succeed, after all.

CAPTION: Don’t let your hero down.
Posted in non-fiction | 4 Comments

Scale models I finished in 2020

Here are the diecast models I repainted and detailed in 2020. Each of these took many hours to complete with various weathering techniques I’ve developed over the years. The models are 1/72 scale, which ranges here from 2-inches long (Panzer 38t) to about 5-inches long (Rhine Anvil on Maus chassis).

Description of each model is in its caption.

Rhine Bully E-100 “Black 400”
Rhine Anvil “Yellow 4” Dual AA turret.
MSTA Soviet self-propelled gun.
Rhine Companion “Red 2” E-100 w/ FlaK supports.
T-34/85 w/ mesh armor.
Objekt 279 Soviet Nuclear / Chemical survival tank.
T-34/76 “Red 3”.
T-34/85 “Red 14” Tri-color Beutepanzer.
KV-1 “Yellow 8” Beutepanzer.
T-34/76 “Red 4” Uralmash Beutepanzer.
KV-1 “Black 5” Beutepanzer.
T-34/76 “Stockholm Syndrome” Beutepanzer.
SU-122 Beutepanzer.
SU-122 Beutepanzer.
T-34/76 Beutepanzer.
Panzer VII Löwe 10.5 cm KwK L/70 “Black 221”.
T30 Heavy Tank “White C-31”.
T29E3 1946 Heavy Tank “White 44-X”.
T34 Heavy Tank “White 9B-4E”.
E-75 schwere Feldhaubitze 15 cm sFH 44 “Yellow 11”.
Panzer 38(t) “White 21”.
Posted in The Literate War, Year end accomplishments | Leave a comment

The Bats of Nexton Pond

The bats are out at Nexton Pond. If you want to benefit from a new experience you can stand under the bats and watch their numbers crisscross the early morning sky. Watch them cut and erase so much junk that’s in your head, when all you intended to do that morning was to get in a walk before the work day began throwing its knives. The bats go about their hunt quietly, snapping up flies, operating in a silence aided by sleeping residents and parked cars just feet away in three directions.

I used to be scared of bats. If I happened to see one on a particular night, I’d duck my head and flee indoors. I’d never actually been attacked by those little runny-nosed winged wolfettes; my fear was due to what I’d seen on TV and read in the comics. Those pillars of impression were good enough for me to make up my mind– and I was safe inside, leaving the bats to do their evil blood sucking on cows’ bellies and people’s necks, or stealing grapes or whatever they were up to.

It’s an hour before sunrise. I can stand close to the thicket at Nexton’s Great Lawn Drive and face the small pond to my left. I’m near an intersection but there are no headlights to obscure what’s going on in the dark air war. There are twenty to thirty bats darting about, acting much like flycatcher birds in their aerial stunts.

I stand there and let my fear go. It’s so easy! And I feel so relieved, of physical weight and of mind too. It’s not hard to lose oneself this way, when it only takes a few moments to see there’s no danger. With my head high, and eyes accustomed to the dim light, I can marvel at these odd mammals. I follow them and I can almost fly with them too.

When all I’d managed before was to run.

The bats emit no peeping sounds, no flapping wing sounds. The acrobatting is the experience. In the quickness of the activity there’s the random close flyby. When a bat veers close to me, it’s startling, to say the least. Does the bat see with its eyes, or does some type of sonar system employ its ears to guide? They come within a few feet and it leaves me smiling. Hey bat, let’s agree not to occupy the same space, not even for a moment, sound ok to you?

It’s a deal.

My judging the bats without knowing them was a character flaw within me. I was wrong to do it. I thought my opinions of bats were justified, and harmless to the bats, yet my opinions kept me unwilling to know those creatures. I understand why people fear bats. I understand not everyone is going to walk to a pre-dawn pond and muster the courage to linger and look. I also learned something else.

Letting go of my bat fear was just a part of my turn while standing at Nexton Pond. I also observed the fluttering of my attitude shift. Here’s a life lesson: There’s more than what’s observed by your eyes that has to sink in to your mind. Not all of what’s missing in a person will get resolved in a neat little case of “Look bats really don’t harm me!” enlightenment. Not right there, not right away.

You’ll have to step away from that pond and think about it, later. You’ll have to factor your points on another day, and in the light of your familiar life. Because the comfort of day is where you happen to flutter best.

There are people who are going to be scared of things– scared of ideas, other races, the opposite sex, and political parties. Not just because of what they’ve seen on TV or in print. Some people have had negative personal experiences with others, or have heard of such experiences, and they will feel deep anxiety or resentment when paths of that type of person are crossed. This is prejudice.

There’s little that I can do for those people to resolve that. I can’t say, “Stand by the pond and let go of even one of your pre-judgements.” I can only look to within myself and ask, “What else have you accepted, and not challenged, that you need to revisit?”

What specific person do you not respect, due to the fact that you’ve got it in your head that you must despise the entirety of her kind?

In referring to the days when I’d flee to my house, I was wrong when I said my prejudice was harmless to the bats. They were harmed, because my regard of them was so low, and so factually incorrect, my ignorance was a terrible disservice to them. I was also doing myself harm, because my opinions on the complete range of species was a disservice to me. That’s something that I have learned. That’s something I can change.

CAPTION: What can the pre-dawn bats teach us, about ourselves?
Posted in non-fiction | 6 Comments

Gate Theory of Personal Relationships

What a long way to walk to find there’s a gate blocking my way. Inglorious in means and forgive me for not seeing it coming from you. Forgive me, too, for stopping your own passage.

My friend, when I entered a relationship with you, our pairing created a new path for me to walk. That was exciting– an adventure I wouldn’t have had without you. Even though we’d bonded, the path was just for me. I walked it alone. You walked yours by yourself as well.

It sounds odd when I say as a blanket statement, “A friendship creates two solitary paths.” How is that possible, and why the solitary point of view? Aren’t we in this together? Bonded by handshakes or hugs; inseparable, and proven by years of loyalty?

There is one self, always. We are individuals– before, during and after we are friends. Our respective spaces must be for just one. Even though pairings have extra power, they never remove a person from self-regulation and autonomy.

The one-self-always concept is evident even at the mother/infant level. While the child may be dependent for many needs, he cries on his own inclination. His satisfaction comes from inputs processed by his nervous system and brain. How do his skin’s sensations feel to him? Are they tingly, tight, itchy or just right? Does anything on his insides cause him discomfort? Only he knows, because the sum of sensory factors affects him alone.

Independence is also voluntary, going beyond instinct and reaction. The youngster holds his breath, as an experiment, or to be provocative, despite being told not to do so. He responds differently to identical instructions and more often than not, his individualism increases over time.

If the one-self concept is true, then a human pairing is linking, not merging. Think of it this way: Becoming friends is a personal decision made by two. You do not decide that we will be friends. And I, and you, will always retain our right stop it, as sad as that sounds.

We also retain the right to reach out again.

In the moments before our friendship began, there was nothing that was you and me. Our bond started as nothing, we both had a massive blank wall in front of us, a wall that was impenetrable with just our individual tools. When we two became a thing, our friendship created instant openings in front of us. Your wall and my wall were modified with entrances and in fact each of your personal relationships hollows out an entirely new full-length alley in front of you. Time spent with each pal allows deeper progress along these passages and keeps you moving– so long as you remain friends.

This description can get tricky so let me speak from my side of things. I’m walking down many alleys, concurrent and at varying points of distance, and each passage has been enabled by a given personal connection. They’re my friend, or my mate, my special friend, my cousin, my brother. That would make Alleys 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. The numbers can range into the hundreds, for some people. I’m walking each corridor, simultaneously. If you are one of those people in my life, I’m in the alley you have opened for me.

As are you, over on your side of things. We talk, you walk, and our relationship marks your progression.

Now let me tell you of my passages. Alleys are for one person and yet if I describe them, you can acquaint yourself with the experience of mine.

Picture these, as my friend.

First of all, thanks to knowing you, I’m happy to be able to walk into new territory. Sure it’s maroon-colored brick, but look what you’ve done with it, as we step inside. You can see that the alley’s not dark at all. Your attention to me has illuminated this place, better than the sun or lightbulbs could ever do. Is my description an exaggeration, flippant, for a lazy compliment to you? Because what light could be better than the sun? What light could possibly be better than what we know?

Let me tell you. Your light moves; it varies in color and intensity depending on what you see I’m looking at and how you gauge my mood. By manipulating the light, you’ve made it easier on me, killing shadows and all they hide. Your light has a way of toning down the harshness of hard truth and smooths out the edges of the facts I must face.

You hide nothing. I’m still seeing the truth with your light. I’m seeing it in a custodial way, where the facts’ impact on me is being managed by a kind heart. Because you’re somewhere out there, for me, in here.

That’s just the start of my alleyway, created by our friendship.

What you say to me is written on the walls on the left and right– the innermost thoughts you’ve shared are for me to re-read at any time. And I do, often. I walk back and forth, up and down this corridor to go over your jokes and your wisdom and your thoughts on why things are. Since this is my place, there’s no risk of others’ eyes getting ahold of what you’ve chosen to express.

What we’ve experienced in our shared lives warms me in here. Remember all the times we ran around town, having laughs and taking in the sights? How about the times you told me of your discoveries and couldn’t wait to see my reaction? You’ve brought new music and right here, right now it’s being played at the perfect volume for my mood. There are no speakers or radio in my alley but the music is here. All I have to do is be present and I’ll be satisfied.

Do you hear that? We were sixteen and you brought an exciting new guitar player to my ears– a player who would live a short life and yet would inspire generations to come. You found him before most. He gave his perfect music to the world and you gave him to me.

Listen, that’s you.

Here’s a narrow table to the left. On it are the foods you’ve introduced, like that day in Somerville when you told me to get the capicola sub with hots and extra onion and provolone and olive oil. You said, “Tell him to make it the way he likes it and he will use the freshest bread for you.” That sandwich always keeps me fed.

I’m walking further along and I can talk to you, any time of the day or night.

I have your favorite chair in here and all I have to ask is, “Want to talk?” and an impression of you appears in seconds. I lean against the wall and say: “Did I do the right thing?” When I’d done that thing. We go over the basics and your words form into something I can absorb, like how the fresh Italian bread takes in the precious oil.

And there’s more, because our experiences are ongoing.

This part of the alley up ahead has soft lights, colored green and purple. What’s the reason for the mood? I’ve come to find out these faint hues at this time of day help slow down my world. You read me, you have the gels set and I walk right into it. You sit me down and put a drink in my hand. See where my mind goes? It’s thanks to you!

We go on a road trip and I keep walking. I hear echoes, we’re playing pinball at some dive and you are hitting all the table’s sweet spots. Your quarter is lasting forever and a hard knock within the machine awards you a free play. A small group of townies has formed behind us and you shout words of encouragement to yourself. I walk deeper into this corridor that echoes with the celebration of a million points and seven strangers, affected by one deft swipe of your hand.

That is the greatness an alley can bring.

The alley experience is complex. And then, some relationships end. You drop your gate in my alley and as far as you’re concerned, it’s over.

For whatever reason, you’ve decided the friendship’s no more. It had run its course, or we had grown apart, or I’d betrayed you, disappointed you, perhaps done you wrong. Maybe you wanted to trade up. Find someone smarter, with more education, more money, a more desirable address. Maybe I’d stopped being what you needed me to be. It happens and it hurts.

The gate keeps me from moving forward here, but it does not close the entrance.

The gate blocks what’s up ahead, which if I stare hard enough looks to be a long darkened pathway. Past the gate are empty walls– no sounds, no aromas, just a closed opportunity of what we were going to be. I can only suppose the blankness goes on forever, since I can’t actually see much past these bars.

Sometimes your gate dropping is due to your own limitation, and not mine. You had given all you have, and are done. You’ve coasted to a stop. You don’t want to go anywhere new. Or maybe someone better than me came along. Or you decided after all that you don’t want children, don’t want to get married. BAM! There’s the gate. And here I am, sometimes miles down this way, feeling– just what am I feeling right now?

You? Have stopped us?

You? After we’d come all this way?

Is there anything I can do about it? Talk it out, as we’ve done? No.

If I’d known at the beginning of our walk that one day you’d give up, would I have chosen to have gone all this way with you?

Do you know that at the time you opened this alleyway, there were others wanting to do that for me as well? How far along are they now, with someone else? How deep have they gone, what kind of joy is happening inside their unbroachable space, that I can’t see?

How many years have I spent with you? I can never get that time back! If our alley is no longer an ongoing thing, created by you, just for me, then how can I stay in here another minute?

And sometimes it can be me that calls it quits. I can place a gate in your way too. I can close off your path, if I’ve decided we’re over. I think:

If I’d have known you were not going to honor your vow, I would not have married you.

If I had known you were an abuser, I would not have given you so many years of my life.

You’re sabotaging me. You might not even know it. I’ve swallowed it back for years– no more.

I can do better than to be with you.

I am sure there are people with many gated corridors. To them I say: You are not a failure. You are not a poor friend. A question to ask is, how’s the content of your gated passages? Are they well-decorated with conversation, do they echo with laughter, are they filled with scents of candles burned on your behalf? I say, don’t focus so much on the gate. It is but one space. You were a great friend for each bit of cherish your ex gave you.

You earned every inch of that space.

I also say, look to your alleys that are working. In fact, you should spend more of your time there, and let that particular companion know how much you appreciate him or her. Look to create new alleys, for someone new. There is no maximum limit, no diminishment with quantity. You may find that more alleys are actually healthier for the overall reduction of gates.

There are people who face a mostly-solid wall in front of them, their entire lives. That’s right, few to no alleys. Some may call them lonely people. They didn’t make the connections, didn’t know how to go about the whole personal relationship thing, or were simply content with a life on their own. I’ve thought a lot about this. It is very difficult to find someone with whom to make a personal connection. Someone with your best interests at heart, that’s the qualifier that has left many without.

Some alley-less people have had disastrous cave-ins from childhood, and have taken quite some effort to seal up those passages. They are not going to let that happen again.

The alley-less by choice don’t want to get stuck in there. No thank you. They don’t want to be down any tight path involving anyone. I’m open to talking to them. I respect them. The best I can do is to make myself available. I’m here if you need me. You can always hang a drapery over your entrance, if you don’t want to acknowledge someone cares about you.

Friends don’t give up easily. I’ve had a gate dropped and instead of cutting my losses and turning back, I stayed there for awhile. I called to you. I waited to see if you saw your way past what had caused our rift. Sometimes I try to think of ways around our problem. I think: The gate does not have to stay closed. I think: You dropped the gate to protect me. Or to protect yourself.

Sometimes a gate is dropped and I’m okay with it. Our friendship had its day and was over. Other times I think, my friend’s made a mistake and I can solve this for us. I can do something where this gate could transform into something I could work with. I could somehow make my body smaller and glide through openings that required me to change. Or I could speak through it, and perhaps find out it’s not a gate at all, but a microphone that only my friend could hear. And then we’d rejoin, a little wiser perhaps.

A gate can be dealt with. The person who dropped it must be the one who lifts it. This is the stuff of friendship repair.

Is there a single best way to deal with the gate? One guess is to measure how far I’d walked with your presence with me. No matter how much I loved what you’d done with my alley, the fact is you weren’t satisfied with what I’d done with yours. If I walked away from the gate without giving you a protest, please forgive me; it’s because I didn’t think I could do any particular good right now. It’s my alley and I can come back to your artificial end of it, any time I wish, and give it a shake.

I’ve found it’s ok to park at the gate. Just sit and wait, right here. Bring my own light, if you’ve shut yours off. I can stop at this artificial end and just be present for awhile. And not say, “Screw it.” Not say “Screw her,” or “Screw him.” Just, sit and wait. Because the friendship was that grand. And deep down, you’d know I was here. As you knew me.

The measure of a great friendship is not just how well adorned your alley looks. I like to think it’s more about how well did you furnish your friend’s passage.

CAPTION: This low-resolution photo inspired the concept of Gate Theory and I quickly scribbled the first ideas on a Post It note and stuck it to the computer screen to ponder. The photo of this conglomeration became the picture for the finished story.
Posted in non-fiction, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Disease

There’s a path for us to walk and it’s an exciting time to go. We can see a destination, yes? Of goodness and happiness, where every scent’s an appeal, every instinct is charmed and of course all’s locked to us with a big, bright chain. A welcoming charge races through our blood as we surge towards the promise of something better than home. We are running! Go to it– the fertile country is open to us!

Stop. Just wait. I said stop! You and you and you. This is what we seek but it’s not what we want. Don’t you see it? We no longer cherish the life we’d started out to live. We’ve talked ourselves into making something work that need not be grander than our heritage. Our sights are fixed on the horizon, and why is that, when home was what made us?

By walking this path, we’ve been led to wear nicer clothes, sit at ornate tables, and own triplicates of many toys. Bigger, not ours, not needed either. We’ve been fooled, wasting our time, and our people have to stop, right now.

We took the bait of the promise of having more. We did not know how to be satisfied with what bit we’d had and enjoyed for years. That’s why I say stop walking. This path leads us to greater, not better. Let’s huddle and share our ideas, not one step in any direction until we’ve talked it out.

Wanting more is personal.

I want to stop brushing away the delicate modesty that patiently tries knitting inside me, over and over, and head back to home. I need to take the steps as a group, with each of you at my side. If not us all, then we’ve lost some. Let’s stop something big and stop something bigger.

It’s time to disappoint the disease.

Posted in Artwork, non-fiction | 6 Comments

Charleston Walking

CHARLESTON WALKING is an 18-piece exhibit of photography from Charleston, South Carolina. The pictures were taken June 30th through July 2nd, 2021 using the Sony A7R full-frame camera with the Carl Zeiss 55 mm f/1.8 lens.

It took me exactly one year to sort and chose the shots for this exhibit. The selection process wasn’t easy. I threw away half of my choices in the 24 hours prior to posting this show. Why is that?

Certainly, my perspective has changed in a year. However, the honest perspective of this show was preserved in each shot as it was taken. Adding to the built-in authenticity, I have left the pictures in the order in which they were taken. In a way, we are walking the city together.

The answer as to why I threw away so many “final” shots can be found in artistic judgement. I want to show the best of the material at hand. Over time, mediocre shots sink and better ones rise. Last-minute additions include 1811 House and July 4th Colors. Can you imagine this exhibit without those?

I also completely reworked Pride in Nation, The Secret of Secret’s View, and Hey Miss Lady. This meant scrapping the work I had done to those pictures and going back to the original jpegs and starting from scratch– quite a lengthy process.

One last thing you should know before we begin. What you see here are the first pictures I took upon suffering permanent hearing loss in my right ear. The pictures and my written notes reflect what I was going through, seven days after normal hearing shut down, and the distorted electric noises took over. I walked the streets with my camera in hand, happy to be out and free, and thankful for the ability to give you another sequence of an artist’s take on his surroundings.

Click on each photo to enlarge. Use your back button to return to the show.

ABOVE: JULY 4TH COLORS. Photograph 4903. This picture sat in the unused bin for a year; it wasn’t going to be in this show. When I was reviewing the final selections, I went back to the library of shots to see what I might have missed. The red, white and blue is pleasing, adding to the strong architecture and floral elements. The wrapped flag provides a needed separation on the eve of my country’s Independence Day.

ABOVE: THE WINDS OF NATURE. Photograph 4940. It’s pronounced “wind”, like The Long and Winding Road. The trunk’s musculature gives it strength and grooves, for shadows to lounge. The buildings are a reminder of who claims to lay claim to the land.

ABOVE: ONE’S ALIVE. Photograph 4944. Is there anything more fragile than this growth? Yes, you are more fragile.

A simple acknowledgment that with a pair, for example a pair of ears, one can die, or essentially cease to function. And so, how should we respond? The terrified face on the tree trunk’s left side adds an ugly outgrowth to the situation– you might not even notice the silent scream that’s taking place within this precious system. We can focus on the branch that has ceased, or we can give our attention and full appreciation to the living bit. While there’s still time.

ABOVE: GO ON FOREVER. Photograph 4960. Life can’t be stopped, over and over again. When my hearing failed, I sought to see life anywhere nature led me. I wrote these words in my notebook: “When I hear normally in my left and muffled in my right, I’m hearing two worlds. This is new.”

On 7/2/2021 I channeled the intruding plant pictured above and wrote in its voice: “We keep trying. We are not going to really crush this fence, like we’ve seen others do. We are going to whither and burn here, unnoticed. What’s worse than being forgotten? Being dismissed. What can amplify us?”

My response was this: “What makes you think you’ll be amplified, or discussed, or sketched? Why should you have an expectation?”

Because I am life! I am here. I take my energy from the sun and I grow.”

ABOVE: TO YOU SHALL COME A PARTNER. Photograph 4974. Your special friend will be complimentary, and will be of a different brand and color than you; he won’t be part of your original plan but certainly of the grand design; he will need to be guided and shaped, much like you’ll need your particular kind of upkeep; and neither of you alone would be better off apart. Trust your pairing. To you shall come a partner.

ABOVE: 1811 HOUSE, #303. Photograph 4989. This picture took a lot of work to make real– try shooting a white building in the Southern sun and you’ll see what I mean. Details tend to wash out and if you get finnicky with your camera’s settings you’ll certainly melt into the pavement. We are in luck: The special lens and camera were aided by powerful high-definition Photoshop tools, providing the ability to preserve and showcase detail to its fullest benefit. The 35MP image at 7173 x 4905 pixels shows every fleck of peeling paint. This building has history and character, the condition of the railings tells us something of its aged state. The roof looks new, and she is standing proud, there and here.

ABOVE: DO NOT PACK. Photograph 5000. I saw this Post-It Note in a supermarket parking lot. You are witness to an instruction that either failed or succeeded in its purpose and was subsequently ripped off its travel item in a moment of haste. The item was not subject to be packed. It was subject to be labeled– perhaps a food or drink item left on the back seat of a car for quick access. It was labeled DO NOT PACK because apparently it could be confused with that which should be packed. What was the item, who were the travelers, and would they in a million years think they made the subject of a photography exhibit?

ABOVE: I SEE YOU. Photograph 5016. As she was lost, I found her. Stepped over by others, ignored, not acknowledged, and assigned no value. Dropped leaf, bitten off by the breeze, spit out by the wind, I’ve got you.

ABOVE: WINDOW DISPLAY COMPETITION. Photograph 5025. A friendly competition exists among the building owners, as to who can create the prettiest window floral arrangements. My vote goes to the business with the best burger.

ABOVE: SHADOW GRIFTS. Photograph 5048. A Painted Lady’s crazy sunglasses.

ABOVE: PRIDE IN NATION. Photograph 5058. I love to see the national flag and take opportunities to film her in all the beautiful ways.

ABOVE: THE SECRET OF SECRET’S VIEW. Photograph 5096. I saw this house while on a paid walking tour of the city. The path our guide took us was somewhat of a hidden way, not obvious to the public and well worth the rare sights.

ABOVE: THE GLORY OF HISTORY AT PLAY. Photograph 5114. I study this picture and can only imagine the hours of games that took place here. Not just games either; perhaps this was the place for lunch, as two men would watch the world go by. There’s room for a cold drink or two, even with a full checker game going. Pull up a seat and turn back the clock. This table goes back decades– we can only imagine the people and their conversations. We can imagine it because we’ve had our respective tables with gentlemen and lady friends, and we remember them with love.

The men who sit here are old. Each has failings that neither talk about. Both hurt, are worn out, and the most important thing is who’s got the next move. And that they’ve got each other.

ABOVE: HEY MISS LADY, WOULD YA STAND WITH ME? Photograph 5127. I worked on several takes of this picture, going this and that way, finally deciding on something rich, detailed, and exciting. This tree is tall– I’ve cropped out the street and the SUV parked at the tree’s trunk. Somehow, her elegance is only enhanced by the editing. Instinctively it seems, her top backs a bit away from the building, as if to give herself headroom so as not to be so crowded. The flag’s flapping in the wind, which is a reminder to us that tropical storms hit this area on a regular basis. She can handle them, thank you very much.

ABOVE: WHAT’S NOT MEANT TO BE SEEN? Photograph 5142. Buildings are made of brick, and then covered with cement so that they can be easily repaired after earthquakes and other means of damage. Sometimes, the upkeep doesn’t quite keep up. Here we can see a service entrance has been filled in with bricks, forming a pattern all their own. A version of this picture was used for the title graphic to this exhibition.

Wasn’t it nice to be new? Isn’t it great to be older? How fortunate to have such a history to look back on!

ABOVE: BEWARE, GUARD DOG ON DUTY. Photograph 5147. We were told this fellow’s name but we didn’t write it down. He’s in charge of guarding the place. Nothing gets by him, he’s got eyes on it all. We told him about a few shady tourists we saw out back; he’ll get right on it.

ABOVE: THE OLD DAYS. Photograph 5153. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, dating back to the mid-1700’s. The bells were cast in London.

The Charleston streets are in their everyday routine. My exploration is unlike this. That’s how someone goes to the bother to make images. My perception is fresh and deliberate, and I’m free to turn or linger.

ABOVE: PRESERVE US. Photograph 5157. As old as ancient wood is man’s attachment to natural things. This is how we associate with the greatness we can see, feel and hear. May it always be that way.

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