Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Update

Wow...what a day.

We started off with breakfast early this morning at Degnan's Deli in Curry Village, then a bit of wandering around before the 8:30 photo walk run by the Ansel Adams Gallery. The photo walk was good; the guide took us through the Ahwahnee Meadow, which we hadn't planned on visiting. Got a nice view of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.

After the photo walk we went on a quick hike on the Mirror Lake trail. Mirror Lake is a lot different than when Ansel shot it, but I think I have a couple decent images from the hike. The lake (which isn't really a lake at all, we learned today, but rather a pool built from natural dams of the Tenaya River - aren't you glad you know that now, too?) is a lot smaller, as it's been filling with sediment for, oh, at least 30 years. I'll take that as my excuse as to why my Mirror Lake images won't look as good as Ansel's.

Lunch was at the tequeria in Curry Village - yummy nachos!

After lunch we headed to the Mist Trail. Our original intention was to get to the vista where we could see Vernal Falls. Well, we got there alright, and then decided that hey, wouldn't it be cool to actually climb the Mist Trail and, you know, see/feel the mist? Uh huh. So off we went, with the mantra, "We don't need no stinkin' ponchos."

Turns out the Mist Trail is not really a trail so much as a steep set of wet, lopsided, granite steps that you climb while being pelted with freezing cold water. It was surreal. M kept saying, "We can turn around if you want. We can go back if you want." Hell, no. At this point we were part way up and I was already soaked. It got personal: me against Vernal Falls and whatever the name is of the large chunk of granite I was climbing.

We finally made it to the top and it. was. amazing. Totally worth the hike. We made some images and rested for a bit on a giant slab of granite next to the water racing over the edge, and then continued on a bit to get to a vista point for Nevada Falls, which feeds Vernal. Then we got to come back down the wet, lopsided, granite steps while being pelted with freezing cold water. (Oh, and Papa, there was no railing at all. But you shouldn't worry after the fact, because if I'd have fallen I'd have bit the dust well before hitting the rushing water, as the jagged boulders that line the trail side would have done me in first!)

I do have images from all this, and promise to eventually post them, but once again I'm plum tuckered out and am ready to hit the sack. We've got one more hike planned for tomorrow morning; a quick one on the Yosemite Falls trail is a nice way to end our stay here.

We leave Yosemite tomorrow, sadly, and drive back to San Jose to turn in our rental car and catch the Coast Starlight up to Emeryville. A cab ride to the hotel, and then Thursday morning we're on the California Zephyr bound for the midwest.

We've had such a wonderful time this past week, and I'm looking forward to relaxing on the train on the way home (and letting my calves recuperate from the Mist Trail).

Good night!

A few photographic teases

My beloved Weston Beach,
in black and white, for Edward.

Half Dome. No image will ever truly convey the majesty of this. You really just have to see it for yourself.
And take your polarizer filter for kick-ass clouds.

Bridal Veil Falls. Spectacular.
And very wet.
As you can see by the water spots in the blue sky at the top.
I did the best I could.
From what I learned about Ansel Saturday,
he'd have only nice things to say about it.

I'll try to get to more images as I can. But damn, I am tired at the end of each day!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday Post

Monday, May 25, 2009, 9:29 p.m. local time
Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley

Many apologies for the delay in posts. We’ve had no internet access, and yesterday I was so tired I didn’t even feel like writing anything for a future post (as I had for the Saturday post).

The last few days have been an absolute blur of joy and experiences and emotions and just dumb awestruck disbelief. I’ll see if I can recapture some of it here.

Sunday morning I rose early, donned my gear and headed out to Point Lobos, sans M. He gave the excuse that he wanted to sleep in a bit and then work on his Christmas project, but we both knew that shooting Weston Beach was something I should do alone. Good man, M. I’m lucky to have someone who so completely understands me.

Weston Beach was incredible. It’s easy to see why Edward Weston loved it so much, and I decided I need about five years (or five hundred) to really shoot it. I could go back again and again and not be bored. I had the beach to myself for most of the almost two hours I was there; one man came for about 30 minutes to shoot sea birdies but he was it. I fell on my arse once, and it was a doozy. Knocked the wind out of me (landing on rock will do that to a girl) and I was afraid to do a casualty count on the gear stashed in my photo vest pockets. “Deep breath. Just keep shooting. Just keep shooting.” I’ve found I can weather just about anything if I’m focused on making images. So I just kept shooting.

After about 30 minutes I decided to cop a squat on a washed up log and have a granola bar and just contemplate the scene. Then I steeled myself to inventory the gear. Amazingly enough, only one lens cap is cracked and a filter dinged, and the plastic case that holds my new $130 polarizing filter is pretty jacked up – but the filter is fine and that’s all that matters. I thanked the photographic gods for my luck (it’s not often you can slam a couple lenses, a flash and some filters on wet ocean rock and come out that good) and thought that perhaps Edward was throwing me a bone.

Just as I was wrapping up my cell rang. It was Gina Weston, inviting me back since Kim had a few minutes he could spend with me. I rushed back, collected M, and we got the most amazing tour of Edward Weston’s home and darkroom from his grandson. I’m still in shock that I was standing there, but I have the photographs to prove it! The Westons are truly wonderful people, and I’m so grateful for their generosity and warmth.

After getting cleaned up and packing the car, M checked our directions to Yosemite while I circled the house and made a few last images. Fell on my butt again on the gravel drive (jeez, what was with me that day?!) and again all gear was spared. Then we hit the road, bound for Yosemite.

A few hours later (and only one small detour due to incorrect direction reading by yours truly, for which I blame M because he’s known for 16 years that I am not to be trusted with navigation), we entered Yosemite National Park through its southern entrance, near Mariposa Grove and our hotel, Wawona. We drove immediately to Wawona, got checked in, and then kicked back on the veranda and had some cocktails. That’s what one does when one visits Wawona, after all. It was an awesome end to the day. Dinner was excellent (also out on the veranda), and we retired to our quaint little room that featured a claw-foot bathtub and no shower. Cute!

Up early this morning for a breakfast feast Wawona-style, and then we headed to Mariposa Grove, home of the Giant Sequoias. Neither of us anticipated the hike, but we set out and a few hours later found that we had hiked to an elevation of 6,810 feet to Wawona Point, which had breathtaking views of the valley from which we had just come. (I know this doesn’t sound impressive to hiker Stef, but it’s damn good for a wimpy girl like me – I even had M take a picture of me next to the elevation marker!)

The hike took way longer than we expected, and we ended up back at Wawona for a quick lunch before hitting the road to Yosemite Valley. M had the brilliant idea to take a detour and visit Glacier Point, which gave me my first, stunning view of Half Dome. Lots and lots of pictures, and the butt-bust-spared polarizing filter sure came in handy. We stopped at a few other scenic viewpoints along the way, too, and wound up at Bridal Veil Falls, which is in full force right now. Gorgeous, gorgeous. Got as many shots as I could before the camera, lens, filter and I started getting too wet.

We continued our journey into the Valley and checked into our room at The Lodge at Yosemite Falls. We’re here in our little lodge room now, settling down for the night and getting ready to turn in so we can get up early again tomorrow and hit new sights. I’m so grateful we’re going to have the 2.5 day train trip on the way back to recover! I’m already taking regular doses of Advil for all my little aches and pains (the two spills – I’ll call them my Carmel Crashes, an hours-long hike, and the first real go with the new hiking boots).

I’m not sure if I’m up to doing any post-processing on my images to get them posted here, but I’ll see what I can do. I’m just flat-out tired, though, in the very best possible way.

(By the way, we haven’t had cell phone coverage in over two days – so if you were expecting to hear from us, that’s why. I thought I’d freak without it, but it turns out that it’s nice to not have the electronic leash for a bit. We haven’t even carried our phones in two days – bliss!)

Hopefully more tomorrow night…we’re still at the Lodge and will have internet access. Depends on how tired I am!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Update

Saturday, May 23, 2009, 9:49 p.m. local time
Wildcat Hill, Carmel, California

I’m sitting here in a little building called Bodie House, which has been in the Weston family for three generations. Edward Weston, for those of you who don’t remember, is one of my most favorite photographers of all time. I’ve had his Daybooks since high school and have read them multiple times. His home here on Wildcat Hill, in the Carmel highlands, is legendary. It’s “the little house with the big mood,” and that’s about as true a statement as I’ve ever heard. Bodie House was supposed to be the garage for Edward and Charis Weston’s car, but it wasn’t situated well and they transformed it into a little writing studio for Charis. I absolutely love the fact that I’m here, with my camera, making images of Point Lobos just as Edward did, and here, with my keyboard, pounding out words just as Charis did. And it’s not the least bit ironic that I work entirely in the digital domain in both worlds!

Today was a big day for me. Big big. Like, HUGE. Gigantic. Mega-big. (I think you get the picture, so I’ll stop with the big adjectives for now.)

This morning began with breakfast at a local Santa Cruz spot with Ted and Frances Orland. They graciously picked us up from our hotel and took us to a place that, if we had one in St. Louis, would cause me to weigh 400 pounds. Many cups of coffee and lots of laughter later, we parted ways – but only for a few hours.

M and I packed up and headed south to Carmel, where we got our bearings, found the road to the Weston’s (it’s pretty hidden) and spent some time at Point Lobos. I made a lot of images, but have yet to really dig into them. That’ll probably wait until I’m home and on the Mac, where it’s easier to work and where I have my full Photoshop suite. After getting thoroughly chilled on the Point, we checked in at Bodie House and got to meet Gina and Kim Weston, who are about the nicest folks since, well, since Ted Orland. We’re hoping they’ll carve out some time for us tomorrow morning so I can tour Edward’s house and darkroom, and Kim’s studio. After ditching our things and a quick glance around Bodie House (and more than one pinch to make sure I wasn’t dreaming), we headed into downtown Carmel and ate at a great little place recommended by Gina called Village Corner. We stuffed our gullets and then walked a few blocks to the Center for Photographic Art where the Ansel, Remembered exhibit was taking place. Ted was on the panel, along with other noted photographers like Martha Casanave, Al Weber, David Bayles and Mark Citret. Ansel’s children, Michael and Anne, were also on-hand. We heard lots of great stories about Ansel and his workshops, and saw a wonderful exhibit. Afterwards, we met with Ted, Mark and Martha in the courtyard and I got to purchase some books. The photographers were all so accommodating and signed them on the spot for me.

For the second time today, I stumbled when a well-known photographer asked me a simple question. It happened first when I met Kim Weston, then mere hours later when talking to Martha Casanave. It’s not complicated, and it’s easy to understand.

“Are you a photographer?”

“Uhhhhh.” I sounded like a moron. It’s one thing to call myself a photographer when I’m hanging out with the family and doinking around doing my thing in St. Louis. It’s an entirely different matter when talking to Photographers (with capital P’s). Especially kick-ass West Coast Photographers.

Thankfully, Ted was there for the second stumble and helped me out. “Amy’s still working up the courage to call herself a photographer.” Yep, when I’m talking to Photographers, I sure am.

Martha looked at me shrewdly, and, with a warm and generous tone, said, “You should just say it.” She signed my book, “For Amy, fellow explorer…”

Ahhhhh! I’ve been on cloud nine ever since.

M and I left the reception when it started to weigh heavier on the hoity-toity side (we were wearing jeans and sweatshirts and, I’m ashamed to admit, I stooped to wearing socks with my Keens sandals – yes, yes, Stef, I know you told me to already, and I did it today only because it was freakin’ cold here!) and walked around downtown Carmel a bit. Got to visit Weston Gallery and a few other places – including a local coffee house - and found an incredible toy store for M to explore. Later we hopped in the car and headed to Monterey, just to see what we could find. We found beautiful scenic stops next to the ocean and a phenomenal restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf called Rappa’s, that has the best damn clam chowder since the old Noah’s Ark in St. Charles.

Tomorrow morning we’re shooting Point Lobos again (finding Weston Beach this time!), and hopefully will get the chance to visit with the Westons some more. Then we’re headed inland to Yosemite and hopefully warmer weather.

My Bucket List grows shorter and shorter!

Vacation Update

Thursday, May 21, 2009, 8:33 p.m. local time
Somewhere near Winslow, Arizona

We’ve now spent two full days on the train, and we’re heading into our second night. I’m not sure if two days on the train qualifies me as a veteran railrider, but I’ll say this: traveling on the train is THE way to go, bar none. If you have the time, and the desire to sit on your ass and do not a damn thing, this is the ticket. We’ve had steak for dinner two nights in a row, and an Angus beef burger for lunch (yes, we’re consuming more beef than we typically do in a month at home, which is probably why we’re doing it). We’ve had cheesecake, ice cream and some sort of apple crisp thing for dessert. We’ve had a small bottle of wine, and right now we’re relaxing in our roomette with a Bailey’s on the rocks. Sweet.

The dining car booths seat four, so if you’re a party of one or two, chances are you’re going to sit with strangers. By the end of the meal, though, they’re friends and that’s been pretty neat, too. We’ve met a woman from Maine who is traveling to visit one of her three sons who lives in California. We met an older gentleman from Los Angeles who is returning after a brief trip (business and pleasure) to the Ozarks. He was a real character, and presented the question, “What is the difference between the forest and the woods?” I’ll be damned if we couldn’t answer it, and neither could anyone else in the dining car. If you’ve got any ideas, lemme know. I have Al’s e-mail addy and would love to send him the answer. We also met a couple, Karen and Eric, who work for a Gap distribution center in upstate New York. To combat the high cost of living, they parked their RV in a beautiful campground and set up housekeeping. They’ve got all the amenities, including two bedrooms, a couple computers, satellite TV, the works. Their site looks out over a stream (that they claim runs north…the only one in the US to do so) and a gorgeous open field where their grandchildren play when they come to visit. In the observation car last night, I sat near an African American gentleman who was grooving to his iPod shuffle, whistling along. After awhile he put the shuffle away and was talking to people around him. I asked, just out of curiosity, what he had been listening to. “It’s a praise song,” he said, and then he backed up the shuffle and let me listen. It was an awesome song, but he couldn’t remember the name of the singer and I just might have to google some of the lyrics when I get internet access again. Today, for lunch, we sat with an older British gentleman who flew into New York and was going cross-country to see his daughter and her family who live in Torrence, CA. He told us stories about his granddaughter who lives a few miles from him in England, and we told him stories about Zozer, and all three of us roared with laughter.

Today, except for meals, we holed up in our tiny roomette and just spent the day looking, dozing, and talking. M got out his laptop to mess around with Christmas stuff after lunch, and I did a bunch of crossword puzzles. We just got done with dinner, and are now both on our computers. I’m typing this in Word so I can copy/paste into the blog once we get Internet access again, which unfortunately won’t be until late tomorrow night when we get to our hotel in Santa Cruz.

I’m looking forward to our second night here sleeping on the train, because now I know more of what to expect and should sleep better, and I’m booting M up to the top berth. He sleeps like a rock and has no need to get up in the middle of the night, whereas I’m a tosser/turner and risked breaking my neck climbing down from the top in the dark to go pee sometime around 3 a.m.

Speaking of going pee, let me tell you that it’s a fine art to pee in a train. Well, it’s not really that bad once you get used to the swaying and sudden lurches. It’s one of the few times in my life, though, that I’ll bother to use a seat cover instead of just hovering, because let me tell you, hovering on a moving train is damn near impossible. And some asshole in our car a.) never puts the seat down, b.) leaves a big stinking mess all around the sink and c.) is getting poorer and poorer with his aim, to the point where, this last time, I used a seat cover AND hovered. Blech. I’ve given up using the potty on this level of the train and will troop downstairs from now on, where it appears civilized human beings use the potties.

We’ve had a couple of brief stops to get off the train and stretch our legs. For me, this means shooting as much as possible in the shortest amount of time, including having to sprint back to the train when I hear the two whistles blow. For M, this means checking out the train station at the current stop, most of which are extremely old and very cool. For some of our traveling companions, this means getting off the train only so far as to light up their cigarettes and take deep breaths of polluted air. There is one woman who, with every stop, is right there at the door, clutching her cigs and her lighter like she’s about ready to kill anyone who might get in her way. M thinks that ought to be some sort of red flag to her, but I responded that she’s probably telling her spouse, “There’s this one woman who, with every stop, is right there at the door, clutching her giant camera like she’s about ready to kill anyone who might get in her way.” We all have our vices, don’t we?

Ahh, we’ve passed through Winslow and are now on our way to Flagstaff, where we’ll have another smoke/camera break before turning in for the night. Actually, unless there are klieg lights blazing away at the Flagstaff station, I won’t bother to take the D300 from its berth as it’ll be too dark to see anything anyway.

We’re to debark the Southwest Chief around 8:15 tomorrow morning in Los Angeles, and will depart on the Coast Starlight bound for San Jose at 10:15, arriving at 8:27 that night. We’ll get our rental car and head down to Santa Cruz, where we’ll have a real hotel room with an honest to goodness shower. I’m still debating on showering on the train. Haven’t yet, and considering not trying it. I’ve only sat on my ass and dozed so it’s not like I’m filthy, and given how mucked up the toilet/sink bathroom got in a short time I’m wary of using the shower room. Part of me wants to try it just for the experience, but the other, louder part of me is screaming, “Ewww!”

I could type more, about how the landscape changed from our verdant pastures of the mid-west to hardscrabble rock and sand of the southwest, and some of the sites we’ve seen (antelope! Prairie dog holes! More rusted cars than I ever thought possible!) but I’m on vacation, dammit, and right now I feel like going back to doing nothing. A girl can get used to this.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Night (Saturday Eve!)

Friday, May 22, 2009, 10:51 p.m. local time
Santa Cruz, California

We've arrived in CA! This morning we debarked our beloved Southwest Chief and boarded the Coast Starlight for the ride from Los Angeles up to San Jose. Because we weren't on this train overnight, I decided to save some bucks and opted for coach class seats. We lucked out in that we got the left side of the train, which is the side that got to view the ocean. We didn't luck out in that we shared a car with people who could charitably be called socially challenged. Having been spoiled rotten on the Southwest Chief with our roomette, it was disconcerting to have to ride with the masses for 10 hours.

Two guys a couple rows behind us felt it necessary to insert the f-bomb about 7 times into each and every sentence. Now, I'm no saint, and I've been known to drop f-bombs here and there. After all, there are some circumstances that simply warrant nothing less. But to have to hear it about a bajillion times in 10 minutes got to be too much. Thanks to our iPod, I left the Brothers F*** to their own conversation and rocked out to the Cure. Later, while we ate dinner in the dining car, two other guys walked in looking for the cafe car. I'd bet good money they are the surviving members of the grunge band Nirvana, dude. They were harmless, though, and good for a laugh.

Anyway, we had an uneventful ride up the coast and saw all kinds of crops (lettuce, grapes, strawberries, cabbage, and some that were entirely unidentifiable) and scenic ocean views while relaxing in the best coach seats imaginable. Airlines would do well to adopt the sort of consideration Amtrak gives to the idea of "coach class."

Caught a cab in San Jose and went to the Avis rent-a-car at San Jose airport where, thanks to Stef, we got a rental car for 24 bucks a day. We got there 10 minutes earlier than our Priceline pick-up time of 9 p.m. and had to wait, as they'd have charged us $51 to get the car 10 minutes early. Car rental places are a total racket.

After that was squared away, we hopped in our gray PT Cruiser (M is beyond thrilled, let me tell you), and headed south to Santa Cruz. First we went up a little bit, then we went down, down, down. We didn't think it was possible to go down any more, but down we went. Touched base with Ted Orland, with whom we're breakfasting tomorrow (sweet!) and found our hotel where we are currently crashed.

Tomorrow is a rather exciting day, at least for the photographer in the family. I get to meet Ted and his wife, and Kim and Gina Weston, and attend an Ansel exhibit and panel discussion in which Ted is participating, and stay that night in Bodie House, which belonged to Edward Weston. I'm not sure my little brain will be able to handle all that excitement, but I'm gonna do my best. M told me he's along for the ride, to handle my gear and basically be my photography caddy. Such a good hubby!

I'm tired now, and have a big day ahead, so I'm going to try to get some sleep. Looking forward to a quiet room that stays in one place and doesn't have mysterious noises throughout the night.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 1: 2 Trains

Left this morning at about 6:30 (thanks to Dad for taking us to the Amtrak station downtown...and extra kudos for showing up at 5 a.m. to do so!) on a coach class train to Chicago. My very first train ride, not counting the Frisco-Wabash out in Glencoe or the Zoo-line train. I was impressed by the roomy seats and big windows. I was not impressed by the airliner-type potties and two bucks for a can of pop. Breakfast was good: a ham, egg and cheese biscuit samich that M would never in a million years eat if he weren't on vacation.

My sinus infection is clearing up, although it's currently left me pretty speechless. My voice is shot, cutting in and out randomly and many times not showing up at all. I guess you could say my voice is on vacation, too. M says his ears are on vacation. I say he's a smartass.

We're sitting in Amtrak's Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago now, waiting for our train, the Southwest Chief, to board at 2:45 p.m. Been here a couple hours...lunch at Burrito Beach, then a bit of wandering to find the lounge and get out of all the riff-raff, including the guy who kept hitting us up for a few bucks so he and his brother could catch the Amtrak to South Bend, Indiana. The fact that he kept coming by and lingering near us made me nervous, so we beat it to the relative safety of the lounge and discovered, to our great delight, free Wi-Fi.

After we sat here for a bit (and I visited the potty and M got a free beverage), M observed that we are the youngest people, by far, in the lounge. I looked around and realized he's right. By about 40 years. I guess young whipper snappers don't travel by train these days. They're missing a good gig. I like stopping traffic all across the mid-west while watching the world glide by outside our window.

I know I said I was going to post our itinerary here, but then I got busy finalizing things for the trip (and Zozer's stay at Camps Grandma and Grandpa) and didn't get around to it. So here it is, in a nutshell:

Today: train from STL to Chi, where we board the Southwest Chief headed for Los Angeles. It'll take a couple days to get out there, and we then catch the Coast Starlight that gets us to San Jose. We arrive late Friday night, grab our rental car, and head for our hotel in Santa Cruz.

Saturday: I'm not quite sure how this worked out (I must be the luckiest girl alive), but I get to have breakfast with Mr. Ted Orland, photographer extraordinaire. For those of you who don't remember, he's the way-cool guy who sent me the new Photographic Truths poster. I thought the least I could do is buy him breakfast to say thanks. In setting that up with him, he let me know about an event at a Carmel gallery that involves a panel of Ansel Adams' assistants (including Mr. Orland himself) remembering "the good old days," a tour of the exhibit by Michael Adams, AA's son, and then a closing reception for the exhibit. I'm not sure how the planets aligned to allow me to attend these things, but they did and I'll be forever grateful. And, as if that's not enough, Saturday night I'm sleeping at Bodie House, where Edward Weston lived and where his grandson still lives and works (as a photographer).

Sunday: Shooting Weston Beach, Point Lobos, etc. Then heading to Yosemite, where we'll enter the southern part of the park and stay at Wawona.

Monday: Morning will be shooting the giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove, then driving up to Yosemite Valley, where we're staying Yosemite Lodge in rooms that do not require us to stuff our belongings in a bear locker (thank gawd).

Tuesday: More Yosemite.

Wednesday: More Yosemite, then driving back out to San Jose to turn in our rental car and re-catch the Coast Starlight, this time taking it to Emeryville. We'll spend the night in another Hampton Inn there, catching the California Zephyr to come back home Thursday morning.

Thursday: On the train.
Friday: On the train.
Saturday: On the train, transferring again in Chicago to catch the coach class train back home. We arrive a little after midnight on Sunday.

So, it's a worldwind trip with lots of relaxation at the beginning and the end. Sounds good to us!

Probably won't have wi-fi until we arrive at the Hampton Inn in Santa Cruz in a few days, and it'll be late when we arrive so I'm not sure how much I'll feel like blogging. In fact, I'm not sure there'll be much to blog about: "We sat in our roomette, we ate, we slept, we sat in the observation car, we slept, we ate..." We pretty much plan to just play brain dead for the next couple days.

A few things I noticed out our train windows this morning: a house with a fridge (looked like in good working condition) on the front porch, a house with an exercycle in the front yard, a mowed corn field with two poles and a giant banner strung between that read, "MODELS." This puzzled me, and I spent several minutes pondering what sort of models to which it was referring, and what target market it was trying to hit. Still no clue...if any of you have any ideas, I'm open.

M is grabbing our bags from the redcap now, as we're boarding in 10 minutes or so. Guess that's my cue to sign out and say, "Happy rails!" Or whatever it is you say when you're going on a train trip.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Yesterday, two very special people graduated with Bachelor degrees. Hats off (or would it be mortar boards off?!) to Martin James Winkler and Cristina Garcilaso.

While I wasn't able to attend Cris's graduation (or her, um, "surprise" party), my thoughts and best wishes are with her. Way to go, girl! Cris earned a Bachelor of Social Work, all while being very active in her church and raising four children with her husband, Scott.

We did make the drive out to old Como (that's Columbia, Missouri for you out-of-staters not familliar with Missoura lingo) to watch Marty walk. It was very cool, although I was reminded that it's been 13 freakin' years since I made the same walk.

So, here are a few images from the graduation of Martin James Winkler, Bachelor of Journalism (Radio-Television emphasis). There are a couple of photographs in particular that I feel represent the erudite graduate and his equally distinguished family. Befitting of what The World's Finest School of Journalism churns out, I think. And I should know, being a graduate myself.

Do you think he'll do this on TV?

"Mommy, it was loud at Mizzou."
"Wait til you go to your first football game, sweetie."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rosebud, MO

I didn't have much time yesterday, and was pleased I got this much. I really want to go back, given the richness of the subject matter. I spent weeks every summer visiting my Granny and Gramps, who lived on some acreage with 2 lakes just outside of Rosebud, Missouri. These are some of the best memories of my life. A few things have changed in Rosebud since then, but not a lot.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Farewell, Auntie Betty

We said good-bye to my Auntie Betty today. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to write something for her and share it with friends and family.

I’ll admit that it was hard for me to write something for my Auntie Betty. She was such a unique person, so different from anyone else I’ve ever known…how do you capture that sort of personality in words? I dug back through my memories and realized that knowing Betty was something of an educational experience. No, really. Bear with me here.

There are a few things I’ve learned from my Auntie, and I’d like to share them with you today:

  1. Keep your friends for life. Auntie Betty was still in touch with her childhood friends right up until the end. I had the great pleasure of meeting one of those friends when we worked together at Red Cross, and enjoyed learning what a hell-raiser my aunt was when she was younger. Come to think of it…that never really changed, did it?! Which leads me to the second thing I learned from her:
  2. Life is much more interesting when you’re raising hell. Who wants a boring life? Some people go through their entire lives not experiencing anything out of the ordinary, while others go through at about a million miles an hour, fishtailing all over the place and having a bunch of fun along the way. I’d rather do the latter.
  3. Laughter doesn’t really count unless you have a good snort thrown in the middle. I will never, ever forget Betty’s loud, infectious laugh. There was never any doubt when she was tickled pink by something, and I’ll be damned if you couldn’t help but laugh right along with her. I remember Jen and I practicing Auntie Betty’s snort, and laughing our butts off, ourselves.
  4. There ain’t nuthin’ a little retail therapy can’t solve. And, when in doubt, go blonde. Or more blonde. And get something pierced.
  5. The best way to kill a squabble, or start one for that matter, is to throw a little dog water on the situation. I can’t remember who started that particular water fight, but right up to the day of my wedding she threatened to bring a water bazooka to the church. And I never really knew if she would… ;-)

The best way to talk about Betty is to say that words simply cannot describe her. She was truly one-of-a-kind, and she made an impact on every life she touched. Anyone who has met her will be hard pressed to forget her. For better or for worse, she was my Auntie, and she’s been a big part of my life for over 35 years…starting with her giving me my very first shampoo and style, since my own mama was a little freaked out by her newborn.

She’s been a little sister, a big sister, a daughter, a mother, a step-mother, a wife, an auntie and a friend. She was a pain in the ass and shitload of fun. She’s given her heart and her love, and we will always, always, love and remember her.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I give it 4 phasers

We saw the new Star Trek movie last night.

It was incredible and awesome and funny and edge-of-your-seat thrilling, but it wasn't Star Trek.

The original Star Trek (and by that I mean not only the original series with Shatner, but the movies and multiple spin-off series like Next Generation) nearly always grappled with complex moral, social and ethical issues. I mean, sure, you had to deal with Shatner's overacting and off-beat staccato delivery of his lines, but after awhile that becomes rather endearing and part of the Kirk persona.

The new movie doesn't really have any of that deep ethical undertone. It's pretty much bang-bang shoot 'em up action-packed hilarity.

So, I've formed a theory on this. (Because I apparently have nothing better to think about.)

The end of the movie leaves the door wide open for sequels. As in, so wide open there isn't really even a door, but a gaping hole left by a photon torpedo. And since they shot the original timeline all to hell by creating an alternate reality - you can do that when you're dealing with little things like the space-time continuum - they can boldly go wherever the hell they want now. So, okay, we all walk out of the theater knowing there'll be more Trek movies coming down the pike.

My theory (and I hope it's true) is that this first "new" Trek is designed to appeal to the masses. It's supposed to draw in everyone, not just the people who actually know how to speak Klingon and Vulcan and both dialects of Romulan. It's supposed to lure non-Trekkies with big explosions and hand-to-hand space fights before tackling the bigger moral issues as Roddenberry originally intended. That's my hope, anyway.

And now has come the time to admit I am on the cusp of Trekkie-ness. I realized this after recognizing that I a.) got much more out of this movie having seen all the original episodes with Shatner and Nimoy (there are boatloads of inside jokes and references) and b.) I was laughing at all the same times as the true, hard-core Trekkies also in the theater.

I'm not quite ready to don the uniform of the Federation, but those space skirts are looking cuter and cuter.

And I stand by my Facebook assertation that Spock is hot. I can't figure out if it's the ears, the logic, or the dryly-delivered witty cut-downs, but he's way, way awesome.

Monday, May 11, 2009

MOTDs and Shoes

Lately, I've been dreading picking Zozer up from school. It's not that I don't want to see her...I really do and my heart still flips over when she sees me, lights up, and comes barrelling across the playground to hug me.

It's that I dread hearing what she's done wrong today. The Misbehavior of the Day (MOTD), so to speak. It's usually one of several things:
  1. Pushing to get out the door to the playground, so she can be first on the swings. This might be reasonably unnoticed if she weren't pushing the teachers out of the way.
  2. Running away from the teacher, down the hall, to heaven knows where. So now, every morning, from the backseat, we go down the litany of pre-school mis-doings: "I will not push the teachers to get to the swings. I will not run away. I will say please and thank you." And so on. Through the various assorted past MOTDs.
  3. Telling the teacher, "Ms. Marya, you're poopy!" and just generally screaming, "Poopy! Poopy! Poopy!" A lot. To the point where she and her little buddy Jed were both given the choice of either shutting up or going to the potty to continue their poopy tirade. They chose the potty. One in each, with the door closed, and yet Ms. Maria* could still hear them yelling, "Poopy!" Not sure of the fascination with it, I tried it the other day once I was alone in the car driving to work. Damn it, it is funny. You try it and see if you don't laugh.
  4. Talking too much at naptime. Instead of, you know, napping. She was so disruptive to the other students that her cot was moved waaaay across the room, from the block area to over by the potties. After three days of exile, she was contrite and ready to apologize. "Mommy, I won't talk any more. Can I please sleep in the block area again?" I told her to tell her teachers, and she did, and they gave her a shot and she's been quiet ever since. So that one worked.

Today I showed up and Ms. Kendra saw me and said, "Oh! I have to tell you..." My stomach sank. Holy Mother of God, what did she do today?

With that, the child in question saw me and came catapulting across the playground. "Mommy!" I braced myself, physically for her tackle and mentally for learning the MOTD.

"Um, well, if you look at her shoes you'll see she's actually wearing two right shoes. She and Sydney have the same shoes, and they got switched. At naptime, we throw all the shoes into a basket, so in case of an emergency we can grab the basket and run. I guess we didn't pay close enough attention after nap today, and Sydney put on the two left shoes and Zoe put on the two right shoes. Sydney's mom called when they got home and gave us the heads-up."

It was hilarious. I kept expecting her to veer sharply to one side when she ran, but the two right shoes didn't seem to bother her a bit. Apparently, two left shoes don't bother Sydney, either.

Easy solution: take her to school wearing the two right shoes tomorrow, and Sydney will return wearing the two left, and the teachers will make the swap. I inspected the shoes...they appear to be pretty evenly worn, which means we must have got them at approximately the same time.

Mental note: next time, label her shoes. And don't always assume that when the teacher says, "Oh, I need to tell you..." that it's going to be a bad thing.

*Yes, she does have a Ms. Maria and a Ms. Marya in her classroom. To adults, they are pronounced slightly differently. To Zoe, they are Ms. Mu-REE-uh and Ms. MAAAAAR-ee-uh. That first part goes on for a bit before she finishes up with the ee-uh.

Did you miss me?

Oh my.

It's been quite awhile since I've visited, hasn't it?

Many apologies. Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging, dang it.

So, let's see. Is a recap in order, or does anyone really want to know what I've been up to?

I'm not feeling particularly witty these days, so it might be hard to do a recap that's really worth reading. So let's not.

I do have a funny Zozer story from yesterday, though. In the morning, after we had breakfast and I got cards and a balloon from M and Zoe (and Zozer ratted out M by saying, "Daddy brought those up from the basement!" which gives me a clue as to where his super-secret pre-holiday hiding spot is), we got ready for church. Zoe was in the other room and I heard her chirp, "Happy Mother's Day!" She had already wished me a happy Mother's Day and we hadn't seen anyone else yet, so I was curious. "Zoe, who did you wish Happy Mother's Day to?" "Tachi!" Great. The cat got the same greeting I did.

One of our classes this term is complete. We're waiting on the final grade to get our final grade. I needed an 80% on the final to get an A in the class, and M needed a 78% or some such nonsense. Seeing as how the final wasn't nearly as awful as the mid-term, we're pretty confident.

Should have econ wrapped up by Tuesday of this week, thankfully. Then we'll have a blissful 2.5 weeks off before tackling Business Law and Managerial Economics, to which I'm strangely looking forward (both of them!). Nerd, I know, but sometimes I can't help but get all geeked out about stuff.

A week from this Wednesday we leave on our trip. First vacation in 11 years, so yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. I should say we're looking forward to it. M is tapped out, too, and ready to unplug for awhile. I'll share our itinerary here later this week. My plan is to post to the blog as much as possible on the trip (keep in mind that I won't have internet access the 5 days we're on the train), but don't hold me to it. I just may decide that the only reason to fire up the laptop is to dump images off my cards to free them up for the next day's shooting.

I've been thinking over my packing list for this trip and have decided to really pare down all things not directly related to photography. Make-up? Gone. Hair dryer? Ditched. Tried to convince M to give up shaving for the 10 days, but he's not buying into it. Of course, the boy is also considering taking both his laptops, so obviously he's of a different mindset than I. My goal is to travel as light as humanly possible, although that'll be a bit difficult given the photography gear I'm insisting on bringing:

Camera body: 1
Lenses: 3
Tripod: 1 (and it's a heavy mother)
Flash: 1
Plus all the other little crap: CF cards, the card reader, filters, extra batts, etc.

No way am I hitting Carmel/Weston Beach/Yosemite without everything in my arsenal. Gawd knows when I'll be back, so I better take advantage when I can.

I'll try to be better about posting here this week, what with the diminished school workload. Although I forsee going into the pre-trip freakout soon, when I decide that we cannot leave until the linen closet is clean because should I be hit by a bus while on vacation I do not want the family members going through my belongings to be appalled at state of my towels. I fully realize that this makes no sense, and yet, I insist on doing it every single time.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

We are the rulers of Nerdville

I'm upstairs working on the term paper for Ops. M is downstairs working on the term paper for Ops. We had to split up our workspace because apparently I still type too loud.

Anyway, we've just resorted to instant messaging each other. We are happily married, living in the same house, taking the same MBA courses, and we're instant messaging each other. About the term paper.

Because it's too damn difficult to actually stand up and walk upstairs/downstairs to have a conversation.

Gotta love technology.

(We've also resorted to flirting through instant messaging, but I'm not sharing any of that with you. It's just to serve as yet another example of our overwhelming dorkness.)