pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: October 2012

31 October 2012

Ever curious

Orange County, California
31 October 2012

He dislikes the chaos and ringing door bells and screaming children (it was an invasion tonight), but he is infinitely curious about the process.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

30 October 2012

Art and craft

Orange County, California
30 October 2012

Over the last several days, we've been responding to panicked emails from family and friends who worried about the son sitting in the path of the massive storm that just hit the East coast...and we were sending plenty of our own to the son to make sure that he was paying sufficient attention to what was going on around him. Fortunately for us, of course, DC missed much of the worst of the storm, and the son enjoyed two days of cancelled classes with the minor inconvenience of being told to shelter in place last night with whatever food he'd stockpiled from the dining hall.

So many fared so much worse, though. And as usual, there are the jokesters complaining about being asked to gather emergency supplies when ultimately their areas weren't as hard hit as the forecast predicted. And there are those who were asked to evacuate, didn't and are now suffering because of that, moaning that officials should have forced them out.

It never ends.

Today, I turned it all off and walked away from the photos and the stories. I'd promised the daughter I'd help with her Halloween costume, so I mixed paste and put papier mache on the form she'd created, dipping strips of paper and smoothing them over tape and wood and rough bits of cardboard. After an hour and a half or so, I set the whole mess on the lawn, hoping that the dry breeze and warm sun would hasten the hardening process. Later in the afternoon, I brought out the paint and set to work again, with spray and acrylic and a brush. She added bits tonight. If it survives the day tomorrow, I might post a photo of the final product.

Can you guess what she's made?

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. So, as I mentioned, the battery for my Nikon is dead...and I can't seem to find the charger.

24 October 2012

Santa Ana Saturday night

Santa Ana, California
6 October 2012

The daughter had been charged with shooting B roll footage of the homecoming dance, so we were charged with dropping her off at a theater in Santa Ana to do so. I shot this with the iPhone's Take a Picture of Your Own Face feature, holding the phone out the window.  The view in front was rather less compelling: just your everyday fender bender.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. The photo editing program I'm test driving is giving me some fits. I cannot convince it that I need multiple layers, so the watermark is temporarily screwed up. Which is quite aggravating.

23 October 2012

Finding my way

Kilfenora Cathedral
Kilfenora, County Clare, Ireland
15 July 2012

This actually was a lovely spot, and the cathedral, some of which is in ruins, dates back to the 12th century. Kilfenora is known for its high crosses, but the surrounding countryside is also gorgeous.

Disconcerting (and for me, physically difficult), however, was the need to pick one's way around, but mostly over, the graves within the walls. Everything was packed quite tightly, and there were hillocks and tufts of grass and rocks that had fallen out of borders and flower arrangements. I was trying desperately not to step on anyone (or fall over anything) so getting from one end of the site to the other was a bit of a challenge. But about the time that I reached this vantage point, the sun broke out and illuminated the morning.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. I'm also finding my way around a new photo editing package, which is taking some time.

18 October 2012

To Grandmother's house we go

Washington, DC
13 October 2012

When I knew her--from my birth to her death in the late 1980's--my grandmother lived in a condo on Connecticut Ave. It is the gloomy interior of that place, filled with cigarette smoke, ancient blinds under dilapidated drapes and paintings done by my uncle, that I think of when I think of her. She was widowed long before my birth, and though she was well-provided for, she never behaved as though that was the case.

If she was widowed early, she was also half-orphaned young. Her mother died of a stroke when she was 14 and her older sister was 16. Their father worked in the Car Barn--now Georgetown classrooms, then the place where the trolleys were parked (there is an interesting history of DC mass transit here if you like that sort of thing). According to my mother, my grandmother and great-aunt were charged with making him lunch and taking it to the Car Barn before they set off for school.

I'm not sure what year the family moved to this house in Georgetown, but it was built in 1900 (that's a bunch of separate houses, you know. Like Amsterdam, Georgetown favors tall, narrow row houses). If you look carefully (the morning was bright, the street shrouded in shadow), you can see the street car tracks running through the middle of the street.

I'm never quite sure what to make of personal history colliding with a greater history. It's a strange sense that I play no part in a greater whole, even if my DNA does.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. I don't think I mentioned that at 4:30 the morning that I left on this trip, I found that my Nikon battery was dead and I couldn't find the charger before the taxi appeared to bear me off to the airport. So every photo I took, I took either with the iPhone or my iPad. I think that taking photos with an iPad is fairly bizarre (and very unwieldy), but it's a decent camera. It's also worth noting that I hope this post makes some sort of sense, but I'm not banking on it. On the plane home, I was unfortunately seated next to the nastiest little old man, who despite his good suit and ability to get a 1st class ticket, had the most abominable manners and spent the 2.5 hours I was stuck next him spewing germs everywhere. For two days now, I've had a horrible fever (which resulted in FABULOUS fever dreams last night. Seriously! If only...) and I hold him responsible for the fact that I hurt everywhere. Probably best to stop now...

15 October 2012

Autumn on the canal

C & O Canal
Washington, D.C.
12 October 2012

I went to take stock of the kid, to see how he was and what he was doing. He seems well over all, a bit frazzled, and suffering from the general indignities of the transition from boy to man. Meaning, he wanted his mommy and he didn't want his mommy. And he needed a lot of reassurance. And some food that didn't come from the dining hall.

For my part, I was slammed by an unexpected sense of nostalgia as my plane came in for its landing at National on Thursday evening near sunset. Something about the hazy low green hills and the turning of the leaves hit right in my heart, and the feeling lingered throughout the weekend. Perhaps it is seeing the city of my birth through the new eyes of my son, perhaps just a longing for a place that perversely makes a bit more sense to me.

I was amused that the son has discovered the canal (now a national park!) and the waterfront. We sat alongside the Potomac and ate lunch, and I told him about how we used to go boating there with cousins and aunts and uncles. I pointed out the Watergate, which he referred to as a "cultural black hole"--I'm still not sure that I know what he means, other than once it was just a building and now it's a thing. To me, like so much else, it's just part of the scenery.

The weather was gorgeous, sunny and cool and breezy. Exactly what autumn should be like. As I walked old narrow streets, I couldn't help but smile at the houses decorated for Halloween, including the house where my grandmother grew up, a house she must have lived in near to a century ago.

I was anxious in some ways to get back on the plane yesterday, to return to California, but as ever, this place doesn't quite fit me and never feels quite right.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

11 October 2012


Belfast, Northern Ireland
17 July 2012

...around the corner from the Titanic Memorial, we came upon a giant TV broadcasting the Olympic Torch relay.

Say no more.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. Look, don't think for a moment that I'm dunning any other country or government for doing what this country consistently gets the gold in doing. It was just...unexpected.

10 October 2012

A Titanic year

Titanic Memorial
Belfast, Northern Ireland
17 July 2012

The Titanic was a tremendous tragedy as well as a monumental catastrophe, whether you want to blame stupidity, hubris or simple greed. The events of that April night have spawned an unfortunate number of bad movies and untold hours of TV programming, probably vast numbers of books, along with museums and museum exhibits. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking, and there was no way to escape some mention of it wherever we went. Because the Titanic has become ubiquitous (or inescapable, take your pick), I avoided most of anything to do with it in the cities we visited, though to be fair, the building that houses the new museum that's been built in Belfast is spectacular. This memorial, however, and the garden behind, were simple and moving, and were all the more interesting because we happened upon them as we walked through Donegall Square.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40, and yes, it was sheeting down rain.

09 October 2012

Sunset at sea

Entering the Irish Sea
16 July 2012

We were moving up the coast of Northern Ireland, preparing to head in toward the Irish Sea. The sunset was glorious and it looked as though the clouds had been painted on the sky.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

08 October 2012

Another day, another castle

Dunluce Castle
Antrim, United Kingdom
16 July 2012

On this particular trip, castles were a bit like icons when you visit Russia: there's a seemingly endless supply. This is not, in any way, to demean the castles or the countries (or icons, for that matter), but one hears so many stories and sees so many structures in such a short space that they all sort of meld into the Platonic form of the castle.

I did think this ruin particularly fetching, however, perched as it is above the sea, shrouded a bit by mist. It may have been the castle whose kitchen fell wholesale off the cliff one night (kitchen staff, unfortunately, included) and it may have had a tough, smart and feisty woman somewhere in its past (we heard of at least three, one each in three different countries). Or it might not have.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. Dunluce Castle is located on the northeastern coast of Northern Ireland, which is quite a picturesque area.

06 October 2012

Nothing but air (and board)

Taekwondo belt test
Orange County, California
5 October 2012

The daughter has been studying taekwondo for a little more than a year. Yesterday, during the class' belt test, the kids broke boards for the first time. They seemed to be both nervous and thrilled.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

01 October 2012

The backstory

Giants Causeway
Bushmills, Moyle, United Kingdom
16 July 2012

The story of the glass that is half full is that I hiked this far under my own power, and eventually, I made it back to the visitor's center under my own power. This is what I hold to remind myself of what I still can do.

The story of the glass that is half empty is that I wanted to have a look at the formation at the center of the photo, but I couldn't manage the climb. And this rears its ugly head to remind me of what I've lost. On the good days, it seems incomprehensible that I couldn't get there. On the bad days, I'm amazed I got as far as I did.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. I still hope for and work towards improvement.