Monday, December 30, 2013

Great White North? Yeah, Right

We don't really get serious winter up here anymore. I forget that during the months between May and December. I always get my hopes up. I remember back when I first moved north back in 1989. That winter I saw multiple storms drop more than two feet of snow with each passing storm. Snow drifts over my head. In January we had a week where the daytime highs were never above zero. It was my first winter outside of Miami, FL. I was so excited.

Every winter in the Northeast has been less impressive than the one that preceded it since then. What I always overlook is that nasty grey/black dirtiness that accompanies the snow. When I lived in Utah, the snow was white and fluffy. VERY fluffy. The sun would come out after the storm abated. You could sweep the snow off your steps with a broom. Even when the snow was a foot deep, it was always fluffy. The roads would be free of snow usually within a day or so. The only downside was that at night, the preponderance of of black ice was insane. I swore off driving through the canyons at night after seeing accident after accident.

Aurora found this massive pile of "Christmas" snow piled up in the parking lot of our relatively local outlet mall. Grey day, grey snow. Yay, holiday spirit! Since then, it has rained almost daily. Rain... in December. Sheesh. Makes me excited to move to Seattle where the rain is rain and the green sticks around all year.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

You'd Think, After All This Time...

You would think, after all this time, that I would be done feeling and thinking about the coma experience. For the most part, those memories are safely boxed up and set on a shelf. Every now and then, something jogs my memory and that flood washes over me. Tonight I was listening to music as we put away the remains from our roasted turkey dinner. Lyle Lovett was singing "Church" and we were singing along... "it's time for dinner now let's go eat." It reminded me of the Thanksgiving we spent with some friends of ours four years ago.

I had been home from the hospital only a few weeks. My strength was almost non-existent. I was struggling with some of the logistical basics of driving and getting around town. We had to cancel our holiday dinner plans with my in-laws simply because I couldn't handle the drive to their home, an hour away. I simply lacked the stamina to make the journey.

A couple of our friends who we knew through the craft community (having done shows together for years) invited us to their home for the holiday dinner. I have never been one to dive headfirst into anyone's family traditions... I am just not a big "joiner". Holidays with family I can usually manage, but with relative strangers I was expecting a fair bit of anxiety. Lyle Lovett was playing through their sound system while we enjoyed our evening. The gathering was wonderful. The meal was splendid. The company was superb. At the end of the night, Nancy and I drove home feeling very cared for. All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving.

Less than a year later I was told by them that they couldn't be my friend anymore.

Lyle Lovett was playing "Church" when I read that email from them.

No explanation. Just: I can't be friends with you anymore. Click.

Four years on now, I still wrestle with my feelings around this. I have no resolution. There is no closure. They slammed the door shut and locked me out of the rest of the experience. Gives fear of conflict a whole new meaning.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Broad Side of a Barn

As I drove home in the gentle snowfall yesterday, I stopped beside this barn. I marveled at the white roof covered in snow, against the white sky, against the white field, with still more white snow falling. It gave the barn boards something to stand out against. Something about those openings between the boards... like missing teeth in an otherwise closed mouth... just spoke to me. The lightning rods on the peak of the roof, poking up into the white sky like porcupine quills embedded in cotton.... I guess this study in contrasts is giving me more ideas to play with.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

And To Think, This Will All Be Gone...

It is hard to imagine that in a few days, all of this snow will have melted. There is cause for concern over the potential for flooding in low lying areas and in creeks where ice dams may occur. A few days ago, we were living in the single digits. By this weekend, it will be above freezing even at night. I figured I should get outside and shoot today, while there was still white stuff all over the place. Naturally, the sky opened up and obliged me with lots of more flying white stuff. Yay.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


We all have different ways and reasons for celebrating. I took these images a little over four years ago, on the day before I left the hospital after the month-long coma and the month in rehab, relearning how to walk, eat, ect. It wasn't a celebratory time. And yet we celebrated. I was never more ready to get on with my life. These horrible, out of focus, low-res images give you a tiny taste of my world for over a month (once I was awake). Thankfully, Nancy didn't take any photographs of me during the coma. I don't think I could have handled that.

So what do we celebrate? We celebrate the fact that I didn't end up in this wheelchair for the rest of my life the way the doctors originally said I would. They were sure at the very least, I would need a walker for day to day use. I walked out of the hospital under my own power, with ski poles in each hand.

I am grateful not to have to have someone bring me ice water with a straw all the time. I'm thrilled to be able to celebrate not needing a cane to walk to the bathroom. Or having to call for a nurse so I can pee.

I celebrate being able to thermo-regulate on my own now. Not needing a huge fan in my room to cool me off is a big deal. Not needing ice water all the time is a relief. For the longest time, I was sure this would be a permanent fixture in my life.

So we celebrate different stuff this time of year. It isn't about the tree (which we don't have) or the ornaments or sparkly lights. It isn't about the presents we struggle to figure out how to pay for. Instead we revel in my recovery... in being alive and able to walk without fear of dropping dead. When I went out for a walk last night at 9pm, it was 4 degrees. Last year I would have been afraid of what that would do to my heart. Now, I figure it is time to push on. As the weather warms up this week and the snow melts I want to get out on my bike to ride some more. In December, in upstate NY... it sure seems like an odd way to celebrate the holidays, but there you have it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Starting To Feel It

My friend Lee, explained to me the idea of doing lower intensity workouts in hopes of me riding me frequently. As we talked it dawned on me that while the miles weren't that great (yet)... the intensity of some of these hilly climbs were really sapping my energy in the days after the ride. Lee suggested I take shorter rides and make them more often... aiming for at least a daily ride. Today's ride was considerably shorter... less than half the distance of yesterday's ride, but I barely feel it. Makes me wonder if I could squeeze in a second ride later today before it gets dark.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Nose Is Growing Despite The Change In Seasons

Feeling the sun on my face on the first seriously cold day of fall.
Reminded me of a poem from Richard Brautigan, one of my favorite writers.

My Nose Is Growing Old

A long lazy September look
in the mirror
say it's true.

I'm 31
and my nose is growing

It starts about 1/2
an inch
below the bridge
and strolls geriatrically
for another inch or so:

Fortunately, the rest
of the nose is comparatively

I wonder if girls
will want me with an
old nose.

I can hear them now
the heartless bitches!

"He's cute
but his nose
is old." 

Our Quick One-Day Jaunt to NYC

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Getting In The Way Of The Light

Made with my iPhone and Moku Hanga app. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Celebrating Different Things

It seems like the fall has become one big celebration. We go straight from Halloween into Thanksgiving and Christmas all the while tripping over the Jewish high holidays. It is a heck of a time of year! In our family, we celebrate all sorts of different things this time of year.

November 8th, 2009 was the day I walked out of the hospital. With the help of Ken's hiking sticks beside me, I stumbled out the sliding doors. Everyone was sure that I would fall and be unable to lift myself back upright. It was icy that morning. Our friends, Jan and Dave came to give Nancy and I a ride home from the hospital. Jan was sure I was going to die getting up the icy stairs into our house.

Fast forward to last weekend... I was photographing the schooner, the When and If, as she traveled along the canal between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. I caught up with the crew as they brought family and friends on-board for the last stretch down Seneca Lake and into Watkins Glen on Saturday. My goal was to photograph the boat as it motored under the bridges and around bends in the canal, while taking in the last of the autumnal colors.

Everything was going great until I decided I wanted a better angle under this particular bridge. As I threw my legs over the guardrail and started traversing the wet grass, down the slope of the embankment, I noted that my shoes really weren't the best choice for the day's walking. No sooner had I looked down, when WHAM! My feet slipped out from under me and my gear and I went for a muddy ride down the embankment with my head bopping out a staccato beat against the wet ground.

When I finally stopped sliding, I sat up, checked myself, my gear and realized I had come pretty close to knocking myself out. The camera was fine, but I was now covered in mud. Worse, my shoulders felt like a 2yr old was about to crawl out from between my shoulder blades. My back seriously needed an adjustment! But I still had more photos of the boat to capture before she slipped into the locks at Waterloo.

Needless to say, I captured some wonderful images of the schooner as she made her way through the locks... but more to the point, the fall didn't ruin the day. So why this long winded story? Four years ago the surgeons, doctors and nurses were all convinced I would never walk again without a walker or cane. They were sure I would need at-home nursing care. Now I am back on my bike and riding as often as possible, even with the weather getting colder.

As we celebrate the changing of the seasons, I tend to look into that bleak sky and smile, knowing that the cold north wind means that I am alive and on this side of the coma. That means that there's hope... and that is worth celebrating.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The When and If Heading Through the Canal

On Wednesday, after getting the When and If into the water at the marina's launch, the crew motored her up the canal and moored for the night in Seneca Falls. As I have come to understand, when you're working with a narrow window of good weather, you change plans accordingly.

When I arrived this morning, the When and If was sitting silently on a very still canal, just where she's been since Wednesday. Today the plan was to motor from Seneca Falls through the locks in Waterloo, and then down Seneca Lake to her next temporary home in Watkins Glen.

The day started out still and grey with foreboding skies on the horizon. By the time the crew and friends were loaded on board, the sun peaked out from behind the clouds and gave a nice warm glow to the waning autumn colors on shore.

In the past, I have stood and watched as boats have passed through the locks in Waterloo. It is such a fascinating way of moving vessels. At some later date, I'd like to write more about the whole process. Today however, it was all about watching this beautiful vessel sail off down the last bit of the canal into the expanse of Seneca Lake.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Portraits From the Launch of the "When and If"

Captain Jay and Captain Seth, on-board the When and If  while she was being carried by the boatlift.

Ken helping tie off the When and If, now that she was floating free.

Cody, the most incredible woodworker I have ever met.

A toast to everyone who worked on the schooner over the past year.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Launching The "When and If"

Yesterday everyone gathered at Cayuga Wooden Boatworks in the town of Cayuga, NY to watch the moving of the "When and If" back into the waters of Cayuga Lake. A year ago, almost to the day, I photographed this beautiful schooner coming out of the water for all manner of repairs. Now, with a new transom, new hull planking, and new decks, as well as numerous repairs, she is back in the water and under power. This weekend the "When and If" will be moved down to Watkins Glen where more work will continue on her below decks. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


macro photograph of my water glass, taken with my iPhone4 and a strap on macro lens

On the 11th and 12th of October, Nancy and I celebrate a whole host of special days in our lives. The 12th of October is the day we got married, eleven years ago. The 11th is the day that I first walked into Nancy's office and asked her out on a date. I had no idea it was also her birthday. So many wonderous things tied up in those two days.

I think that is why I struggle with reflecting on the other celebration that happens for us on the 11th of October. It is the day I woke up from the coma. This year, we did our best to not let old memories intrude on the new life we are making for ourselves. I figured, it could wait. There is always plenty of time for reflection.

Today I reflect.

How do you say "thank you" to someone who has sat by your bedside, for a month... when every day the doctors had nothing but bad news? How do you say you "are sorry" for all the grief that came afterwards....the rehab, the bills, the closing of the pottery studio, the disolution of a dream, the bankruptcy, the legal morass.. all of it?

I had no idea what was in store when I woke up four years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago now. In some ways it is. When I woke up, and looked into Nancy's beautiful eyes, I saw the look of someone who was so glad to see me, so excited to see me alive, so grateful to know I was there...and I couldn't say a word. When she saw my frustration and understood that all I could do was cry, she asked me if I was trying to tell her that I loved her. More tears.

As I reflect on the time since the coma, and the time before the coma, I often skip over the time in the coma. I have avoided writing about it for months now. I figure it is  not something most folks want to read. At this point, I think that anyone that bothers to read this blog can either skip over the scary stuff or go look at cat pictures on the intertubes. This blog has always been about my way of seeing things. Which means that as I begin more reflecting, I will begin to flesh out some of the coma stories. There is a mountain of time that passed for me.... many many years. Different places, different times, very different lives... but all of those memories are still very much a part of me now.

My hope is that by spending a little bit of time reflecting on those experiences, and sharing them, perhaps some of these memories will soften with the telling. To that end, I welcome your comments and questions as I begin to share my reflections on that very strange time in my life.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Putting It All Back Together (on the When and If)

It is all coming together. Starting with the decking.... row after neat row of teak was laid down. Then screwed down with bronze screws...whose holes would later be plugged with teak plugs. You can see Seth Salzmann flush cutting the plugs in the first image.

About a week ago, a caulking crew was brought in from Maine to drive the cotton and apply the rubber that overlays the cotton. Now the decks are nearly ready to have the boathouses reattached.

There is so much that goes into every step of restoring this schooner. It seems like a never ending process, and yet, we are getting close to the end of her time on dry land. I expect that these boathouses will be painted this week and probably reattached to the deck before next week is done. The goal is to get the When and If back into the water and moved down Seneca Lake to Watkins Glen for the winter. The locks on the lake close in November... so time is of the essence.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bottoms Up

I realized this week that I have been photographing the When and If for over a year now. There has been such a huge change in tempo over the past month or two. There are a host of new folks working on the restoration. They had a crew of guys come down from Maine to take care of caulking the decks. While I was there this past week, they were working on painting the hull and painting the interiors of the boathouses (more images of that soon). So much has happened since summer turned into fall. Soon, the When and If will be moved down to Watkins Glen for the winter. My understanding is that by getting it back in the water soon, it will help re-swell the things that have dried out, and it will also make the boat much closer to the guys who are doing all of this work.

I look at a shape like this and it speaks to me of organic forms like the face of a great whale. It is difficult to grasp the scale when looking at photos on a computer screen. This boat is sizeable! About 60' long. Out of the water it is over 12' to the deck. As I looked up at the bow, from the ground, it was (and always is) a strange experience. Imposing, perhaps is the best word. You feel almost like as it rises over your head, that somehow, you should recognize its massiveness. I can't wait to see it from the water's edge soon!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why My Ten Year Old Digital Camera is BETTER Than My New iPhone

So why does my iPhone suck? This is a brand new iPhone... oh wait. It's an iPhone 4. So, part of it is that the iPhone 4 isn't that new to the rest of the world. Sure is new to me though. The iPhone4 is only a 5MP camera.  But wait, the first photo here was shot with my 10yr old Olympus C-5050Z camera... which was a 5MP camera. Pre-DSLR days. The only reason I never sold this camera is that for macro work, it is still top notch. It has great glass! And best of all, the way it renders flesh tones is second to none. Even my Nikons aren't able to render colors as faithfully as this ancient Olympus. As for my iPhone, it isn't even a contender (as we'll see.)

Here's the first image I shot immediately after the one above. This one was shot with the iPhone 4. Hmmm. Selective focus wasn't cooperating. Or maybe it was just being more selective. 

So here are some "serious" side by side comparisons. Mind you, the iPhone is BRAND SPANKING NEW, high tech, straight out of the box, no tinkering, no special filters. The Olympus is ancient, seriously broken in, and downright archaic in the digital camera world.

So would I ever choose to shoot with my iPhone as my camera of choice? Sure, you betcha. In good light, with still, non-moving subjects, IN GOOD non-contrasty light, where high quality image fidelity isn't that important... absolutely. I tend to think of the iphone as a great way to sketch out an idea. Quick and dirty. Then I can review the image, figure out what I like, what didn't work and then go back in and redo it with my camera of choice.

These are some thoughts in closing:

"The best camera is the one you have with you"... and sometimes takes really shitty photos.

Know why your iphone takes bad photos? Because it is a phone. Yup. Your old cordless phone took terrible photos too. They are still developing.

"Newer tech always beats old tech",... unless that old tech was good.

Now, if you're still reading this, and I doubt anyone is at this point, there was a wonderful write up in another blog comparing all the different iPhone and iPad cameras. Yep, someone did their homework. If you want side by side, apples to Apples comparison, don't look at me... look at this other blog. And enjoy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Craftsmanship That Goes Into the Schooner, "The When and If"

When I first began photographing the restoration of "the When and If" last October, I had so many assumptions about what craftsmanship meant in terms of boat building. Nearly a year later, I am continually amazed by what it takes to restore a schooner of this caliber. When I was observing back in October of 2012, as they removed the plugs that covered the bronze screws that held the planking on, I assumed that an impact drive or cordless drill would be the preferred weapon of choice. As I came to understand the nature of restoration and also the issues surrounding boat building, I came to realize the value of hand tools and creative problem solving. 

I had no idea that a manganese bronze screw was so fragile that in most of these hardwoods, the head will just shear off if too much torque is applied. These woods are tough! Removing a screw that has lost its head is no small matter. Watching the gentlemen working on this boat using bit braces to drive these expensive screws is a lesson in patience. So many ways to mess up, and that is just driving a screw!

There are precious few straight lines on a boat. Out of the water, nothing is ever truly level. All of the compound curves, the math to make these angles and curves fit together... the sheer volume of wood that it takes to get one board to fit where the old one had rotted away... is mind boggling! 

On my last visit to Cayuga Wooden Boatworks in the town of Cayuga, I made an off-hand joke about how many stores had run out of clamps to sell since this project began. I kid you not, there are piles and piles of clamps of all sizes, shapes and styles. So many are in use at any given moment! Things are constantly being fitted, removed, more material planed away, then refitted, cleaned, glued, and finally screwed back into place.

If you note the blue painter's tape on the board above. It is there to make it easier to clean up the adhesive being used to join both boards. In most construction, that little squeeze out of glue is no big deal. On this schooner, it is critical that every little bit be impeccable. That glue line will be cleaned up, scraped down to bare wood, completely, before the next board is laid in place next to it. That is serious craftsmanship!