Monday, September 17, 2012

Arnold Ziffel meets Art Potatoes and the Butterfly Girl

My tiny rural Indiana town was overwhelmed this weekend by hordes of out-of-towners bent on some German music and a beer&bratwurst&funnel cake buzz. Kunstfest—literally “Artfest” (thus the “Art Potatoes” served up steaming by the Boy Scouts of America).

Made friends with this little pig. He was shy, but happy, wagging his pig-tail the whole time I was chatting with him. Reminded me of my childhood obsession with owning a smart, funny pig like Arnold Ziffel from Green Acres. “Farm living is the life for me.” ;)

Kids everywhere with painted faces. Ella was a butterfly.

Also, I was strangely attracted to the Ruritan’s funnel cake stand, but was victorious over temptation...I’m on a low-funnel cake diet.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ms. Inman

Sweet Allison Inman. I love this woman to pieces.

Her skills are manifold. In these pictures, you’ll thrill to: curious stick-handling, nut tossing, old-dog loving, mysterious-look throwing, vintage porch-glider riding, car standing, etc.

We had been talking about my photographing her for ages, and she was always mysterious and reticent about reasons not to. For some reason this day she said “I think I want to take some pictures”—I picked up my jaw, hid my surprise, and grabbed my camera. The wardrobe styling is all her. She manages to look un-ironically lovely in overalls and bare feet, in her happy backyard.

Sometimes pictures of certain people feel kind of private and special, maybe a little fragile. These are like that. Look on them with your gentlest eyeballs, kind blog-reader.

Later that same day—I had been house-sitting for a week while Allison was in San Francisco for work. Was heading back home the next day. We went to see Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom at the Belcourt, and seemingly the next thing I knew I was in the ER with her at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Blood and morphine and worrying. Most of you will know she had a nasty bike wreck which left her badly concussed, with a bunged-up neck and some broken facial bones, a scraped-up face and a bloody eyeball that would frighten small children.

Thankfully, all’s well (relatively) and after much drugging and resting and good nursing from her mom Norma and many other caring friends, she’s back weaving in and out among the living. Her sweet face is going to be OK, except for a small, hardly noticeable scar. Glad to have documented this calm before that storm. I had been putting off posting these, hoping to say something more perfect. But this will do.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Land O’ Goshen, Paw!

As a young boy, I remember this phrase being uttered by one Miz Loweezy Smith, wife of Snuffy Smith of the Sunday Funnies. There’s an interesting William Safire “On Language” column that deals in part with the phrase and its ilk here.

The Land of Goshen apparently was originally land given to the Israelites in Egypt, from whence they split on the Exodus.

Goshen, Indiana is the home of one of my new BFFs, Sara Klassen. The niece of my pal Holly, Sara was staying in Nashville for part of the Summer, and we met briefly back in July. On her way back to northern Indiana, she came through and visited with me one afternoon in New Harmony. Visitors here are a rare treat and we had a lovely (if brief) time.

She had just turned 21 in Nashville, and since I missed the occasion, she put on her birthday dress—not to be confused with her birthday suit—and we wandered about and took some commemorative photographs.

Sara’s one of those rare birds who seems both very young and very old. I like her.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

President Jefferson Davis

As I was heading home from Hopkinsville, Kentucky last week, I was about to drive past the exit for the Jefferson Davis Monument. I’ve always intended to check it out, but always find a reason to drive on. Wasn’t even sure how far it was off the Pennyrile Parkway. Turns out it’s just about ten miles, through lovely country. Corn, tobacco, look-out-for-Amish signs...then all of a sudden BANG, this crazy thing rises up out of the surrounding countryside.

Located in Fairview, which was Davis’ birthplace, the monument is situated in a sweet little park with beautiful old trees. It’s apparently the tallest unreinforced concrete structure in the world. The rebel Washington monument.

It was closed when I got there, so I didn’t go up inside it. But the light was nice. Part of my current programme of seizing moments. Glad I did. Strange and wonderful. Even though I went to a school in Alabama from 5th grade to 12th that was named after Gen. Robert E. Lee, I’m not a big CSA booster, so it wasn’t a religious experience, but it’s our common history. All y’all. Turn it up.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

FIle Under: Not the way I want to remember these guys.

Sitting outside a House of Blues kiosk at Midway in Chicago.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Uncle Dan, Ampex, Rommel

Have been in Alabama for a visit and some family business for the last week and a half.  Oddly, Auburn’s normally steamy environs were slightly cooler than both Nashville and New Harmony—although when all parties are showing mercury in 100┬║+ territory, slightly cooler makes little difference.

My old uncle Dan—my pops’ older brother—skipped this mortal coil while I was there. He’d had esophageal cancer and went through some pretty dramatic surgery and treatment, so it wasn’t a big surprise, but nobody expected him to go quite so soon. His two sons, John and Drew, were closest cousins and long-time playmates to me and my sister Natalie growing up. I still remember the phone number that they had forty years ago—haven’t used it in decades—don’t expect anybody will be answering it now. was kind of musical—as was our home number 887-3377. Somewhere along the way we  turned into adults, although it still doesn’t feel quite right. The four purportedly grown-up cousins now co-own our family lake cabin. Weird.

In related news, I happened to be out driving with my mom one day and we drove past the old industrial park where Mr. J. Herbert Orr founded Orrtronics—later Ampex—later Quantegy. Texted my buddy Marc Chevalier, figuring he would know something about the history of magnetic tape. He asked if I’d taken any pictures. I had been camera-less on the day, so Miss Anne and I drove out another time to see if there were any signs of the old place. Hopefully a big, beautiful, literal, vintage sign saying “Ampex.” So, right there on the corner of Orr Avenue and Marvyn Parkway, a piece of the history of how music was recorded is now...a giant moonscape of strewn rubble.

(Marc, I brought you a nice bit of souvenir rubble)

The related news part is that uncle Dan worked years ago as an engineer at Ampex, and I think years after that went back to work for a brief stint at Quantegy before it went bust.

Where does Erwin Rommel the “Desert Fox” (die W├╝stenfuchs) come in, you might ask? Well, my favorite lunch-box as a kid was from the old Rommel-era TV series The Rat Patrol, but that’s another story. Turns out the property on which Ampex etc was later built was a P.O.W. camp during WWII! Crazy... Nazis!! Right there where I was a kid—of course I wasn’t a kid yet, but my parents were. Seems like I had some very vague memory of this, but it was very vague, indeed. My mom told me that my great-uncle Sonny and his wife briefly lived at this camp after he got out of the military, when it was turned for a time into housing for returning G.I.s. I actually found what seems to be the only remaining bungalow from the P.O.W. days, when I got out to photograph an old Quantegy sign, overgrown by some holly bushes.

From the historic marker:

“Camp Opelika—World War II Prisoner of War Facility—Located on this 800 acre site was an enemy prisoner of war camp. Construction of Camp Opelika began September 1942. The first prisoners were part of General Erwin Rommels’s Africa Corps. The camp prisoner population was maintained at about 3000 until the end of World War II, in May 1945. In September 1945, the camp was deactivated and deeded to the City of Opelika. For a brief period the camp quarters were used for veteran’s housing before the site became an industrial park.”

(FYI, for those not familiar, Auburn-Opelika is sort of like Minneapolis-St. Paul, only much smaller)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

WrenFest 2012: Part 2

Hallelujah, It’s Good to be Alive!—declares Baby Wren.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Aaron Douglas Murals at Fisk

One of those out-of-the-way Nashville treasures I’ve meant to see for years. The Aaron Douglas murals on the second floor of the main administrative building at Fisk University. After being a part of what is commonly known as the Harlem Renaissance in New York, Douglas moved to Nashville in the late 30s and started Fisk’s art department. Finally enjoyed these on a recent trip to Nashville, after visiting the Stieglitz Collection, which I’ve seen a dozen times over the years, but keep returning to something new. A must.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

WrenFest 2012: Part 1

After so many years of having friends with grown or nearly-grown children, it seems everybody I know has a baby right now. I’ve been joking about them replacing ironic Victorian facial hair as the new #1 Portlandia-style hipster accessory ;)

Was in Nashville recently, house-sitting, and realized the only way I was definitely going to see one of these new little punkins was to stay with said punkin’s parents for a few days. So, I started with my pals Mack and Holly and made my introductions to little baby Wren (Pictured below).

She’s a pretty sweet little egg. Except for, you know...the kid stuff, like pants-pooping, crazy sleeping schedule, and inexplicable, sadness-inducing hollerin’—but she’ll grow out of that soon enough. Also, she was fascinated by ME, which gets bonus points.

Not pictured—but equally fabulous—are Caroline and Nick’s little buddy Emmett, and Marc and Amanda’s Senna, both of whom I had nice, but much briefer visits with.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Death of a Barn, the DVD extras.

I was going to try to find a little freeware GIF animator to make a sequence of these, but in the end felt like I might rather just post the images and head for a nap after’ll get the picture.

A little sequence of the barn finally giving up life as a building and becoming a flaming pile of rubble.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Death of a Barn, Part 2

OK, this is the exciting second and final installment. The fireworks, if you will. The second day was the controlled-burn of the barn, quite a group of volunteer firefighters in attendance. All pretty exciting. Without the intervention of the Klan or a lightning-strike most people never get to see a barn burning.

They had a big ladder extension with a water-sheet making sure the fire didn’t hit any power wires, and hoses on stand-by from several sides on the ground.

Some of you will know that I still have a little dose of PTSD from a house-fire in Nashville years back. Makes me kinda like a squirrel when I hear sounds that remind me of my fuse-box exploding, gas igniting, that kind of thing. My fire wasn’t anything like what this turned into. The old barnwood was tinder-dry and ready to go. After burning for a few hours rather calmly on the street side, the backside—which had the most wood and also some old hay storage—started to go up.

Man, is fire a scary thing up close, when it really starts to rage. There had been a big storm sneaking up most of the afternoon, and just as the fire was reaching its peak and the building collapsed, the storm came on hard. Rain, wind, hail. I had my bike on the car and camera gear so I bolted. The end was all a blur. There was a lot of primal excitement when the old barn finally seriously flamed up and pretty quickly collapsed. I was amazed that I had the presence of mind to shoot a little collapse sequence.

My most vivid memory was that even without much structure, the roof alone held in this enormous blaze and before the end it looked literally like a house built of fire. Stunning.

What an afternoon.

Juan and his crew are back in town this weekend heading toward the actual installing part of the installation. Interested to see what evolves.