17 August 2014

Today is the seventh anniversary of Ruth’s passing.

I’ve flown back to Virginia to honor the date in my usual manner by visiting with her at the University Cemetery in Charlottesville. I believe I’m now more familiar with this section of The Grounds than any single other. Until the move to California I’d been in habit of visiting several times a year. I had thought from time to time about moving to C’ville just to be closer to the site. I suppose there are other reasons not the least of which the affinity with the area in general and the University in particular but the more I pondered the possibility the more it seemed a poor idea.

Dealing with memories is an uneasy task for me. By nature I’m inclined toward the past, nostalgic bordering on melancholy. The characteristic has it’s advantages, especially for someone who, Continue reading


Another 6000 ft to go; time for coffee


Train Time

New Orleans to Los Angeles: Forty Six hours; no gas stops but I do get to go by Bayou Teche


Scooter Bob

Despite good intentions, I was not up and about very early this morning. Too much coffee the night before and still too left coasty time zoned. But after a light breakfast at the Inn I’m staying at I wandered downtown in search of a vehicle; specifically a motor scooter. The people at the Inn had told me there were ones to be found in Wharfside Village.

Downtown Cruz Bay

Downtown Cruz Bay

Sure enough it didn’t take me long to ferret out the rental place. There was not a lot else going on that time of morning and few people about save the two women in front of me turning their vehicles in.

Scooter Bob's Death Machines

Scooter Bob’s Death Machines

“Can I help you?” says Bob.

“I’d like to rent a scooter to tour around the island” I say.

He smiles and inquires if I have any experience with a scooter.

“Well, I’ve never actually driven a scooter but I have driven motorcycles, ah, one motorcycle, and I know how to ride a bike. Will that do?”

“I don’t know” says Bob. “How long ago was that?”

“Ummm” “Probably ten years or so.” (Why am I lying? Try thirty years ago, and then only for an afternoon on my roommates Suzuki. Ego! Egads!)

I get a very – well deserved – skeptical look.

“Don’t you think you’d be more comfortable in a something with four wheels? A Jeep?” says Bob. “We have those too.”

“Maybe” “But these look like a lot more fun than a Wrangler.”

“Ok” says Bob and hands me the forms to fill out. When I’m finished he displays a map of the three major roads and very carefully describes how steep, hilly, curvy, hair pinned and dangerous each of them is.

“Think that will be ok for you?” he says.

“No problemo” I respond with a distinctly hollow sense of confidence.

So he shows me how to start the thing, points out the front and rear brake handles and the throttle, hands me a helmet and wishes me a good day.

I got on. I got it started. I was feeling pretty good about the situation. Then I released the brake handle and turned the throttle. Whoa! Scoot left. Scoot right. Buck a little. Both legs spread to the side to ward off, well, everything.

I’m thinking to myself: This is the dumbest fucking thing you’ve attempted since Angels Landing in Zion NP. In fact every additional foot I made it down this otherwise quiet street, the more idyllic Angels Landing was looking as a memory.

I made it to the end of the street, which fortunately was one way in the direction I was heading.

A stop sign. Thank God! Time for a break. That first hundred yards or so was, ah, exhilarating. Needed to catch my breath.

I’m now faced with a few (possibly grim) realities: I have to leave this spot in a matter of seconds. It says stop, not rest. I have to figure out – and fast –  why my two hands and two feet are having such a hard time communicating with one another. I have to make a left turn on a two-way street subject to ridiculous British driving rules and I’m not entirely sure which side I need to be on. I have to quit feeling as ludicrous as I’m sure I look to the people standing on the corner waiting for me to make my move so they can get on with their day. I have to fight the urge to dump the scooter and run – before it dumps me. And last I have to face the fact that I’m probably about to die.

I made the turn. Unbelievable! Maybe this isn’t as terrifying after all as the first minute or so seemed. I even made the next turn. The next stop sign was at the major intersection downtown. I panicked and pulled to the curb – working on my next move: Brake? Throttle? Which way? What!?!

I see Bob running down the sidewalk waving his arms at me. He had circled round the block in the opposite direction. For a second I’m wondering why. But only a second.

Scooter Bob

Scooter Bob

“Mr Harrison” he says, “Maybe you ought to rethink this.” “You looked a little shaky when you headed out.”

“Really?” “Well, you know. I should get the hang of it soon, don’t you think?”

“I’m sure you can” he says.  “But you’re on vacation. Why stress out over a scooter? You can do scooters any day but you can’t do St John except now. Do yourself a favor. Let me get you one of my Jeeps. What say?”

Bob is good at this. He probably chases half his would be scooter customers down that street. He’s in good shape. I’m glad he’s practiced.

“Well, you talked me into it. Have you got a red one?”

“I do”,  he says. “I’ll take the scooter and go get it and meet you back at the stand, ok?”


And that is how Scooter Bob saved my life after having been dumb enough to rent the damned scooter to me to begin with. True to his word he pulled up at the stand with a red Wrangler that had also been around the block a few times. But it sat steady on four wheels and had brakes and steering in the places God meant them to be. My feet and hands were back into themselves – as was I.

When I say Bob saved my life, he did. The roads on SJ are horrendous. Navigating them in the Jeep turned out to be quite a task. Hair-pinned switchbacks on 20 degree grades with no shoulders and on the wrong side! I would not have survived on that scooter.

Bob overcharged me for the Jeep by $20 or so and I knew it but I figured I owed him one. And I’ll certainly give him a good recommendation on Yelp! or whatever.

Thanks, Scooter Bob. You did well and I’m here to tell the tale.

And to show you one of the things I got to see:

Sir Frances Drake Channel between SJVI and Frenchman's Cay, BVI

Sir Frances Drake Channel between SJVI and Frenchman’s Cay, BVI



Cool Pakul

Cool Pakul



They’re grown now. Gone their separate ways. Pursuing their lives in accord with the values and visions they developed over the years. Their paths cross from time to time. Holidays. Weddings. And at some point births – and funerals.


Charles and AnnaSummer Circa 1989

Charles and AnnaSummer Circa 1989


I had no idea the day  made this photograph where it might go. What it might ultimately mean to me. How incredibly precious a piece of history it would come to represent. The truth is were it not for this photograph I would probably have no memory of the events of that day at all. As it is I can only vaguely recall our activities: Visiting the Tidal Pool at the Jefferson Memorial just off the National Mall in Washington, DC. A spring day and from the looks of it shortly after the cherry blossoms had disappeared. I always enjoyed making photographs of the kids. Most parents do.

It’s more difficult now. These days more often than not we’re simply sharing our lives through photographs we post to various social media sites or swap by text and email. Charles, entertaining us with images from his latest trek with Green Tortoise and Anna most recently with the daily growth spurts of Ben the Mutt who joined her and Massie in Austin a few weeks back. We’re now observers of one another’s lives rather than daily participants.

It takes a while to adjust to that. Sometimes I wish we lived in a smaller country.

Eastern Sierra - 2013

Eastern Sierra – 2013

Reston - 2011

Reston – 2011




Slow Night Selfie

2013-11-28 at 9.01.49 PM



I’m in Texas these days for three reasons. First, to visit with AnnaSummer and Massie to deliver one last wedding gift; second, to attempt to pry a few records out of the registrar’s office at Port Arthur Memorial High School; and last, because when you’re headed west and you’re this far south, Texas gets in your way. When I crossed the state line I saw a sign that said “ElPaso – 857 miles”.  I’m not even sure that will get me out of the state. And there is not much in the middle.

I’ll see my kids tonight.

The High School is as recalcitrant as ever – I’m getting myself an attorney.

That leaves only getting through here. Last night I went looking for perhaps a few other reasons, such as adding to the portfolio. I drove out along Texas Route 87 that trails alongside the Gulf of Mexico. This part of the visit at least was fruitful.


TX - 87

TX – 87


I know why my relatives migrated here in the ’30’s – it was about work and there was plenty to be had in the area, a booming oil center and shipping point – third largest in TX in 1934.  That was then.  TX-87 seems more representative now.


Mountains vs Models

When people ask about my career I generally respond that I am a photographer. That at least is my latest reinvention and since it’s stuck for the past 3-4 years, I’m going with it. I don’t make my living this way; I make myself and a few others happy in this pursuit, so perhaps it’s more accurate to characterize as an avocation. Whatever. I spend a lot of time behind a lens and increasingly enjoy exploring the myriad nuances associated with using it.


“So, you’re photographer” she says. “What do you photograph?”

Fair question, to which I usually respond “things that don’t move or that have four legs,” meaning for the most mountains and trees and rocks and rivers – ok, water moves – and architecture and, of course, dogs and horses. I suppose what I’m trying to convey is I rarely deliberately and seriously shoot humans. Portraiture ain’t my game.

Until now.


I recently had the opportunity to shoot an old friend of mine whose photogeneity I’ve admired for years. Her name is Renée and to most people’s eyes she is quite comely.

Well, OK. She’s gorgeous.


She’s also uninhibited in front of a camera and, I came to discover, fun to work with. I figured that given those circumstances I’d have to work hard to screw things up. So, we met at Lake Anne in Reston one late afternoon several weeks ago and gave it a try.

I failed to get it entirely right in the camera for the most for lack of the correct lighting, which is more important than dealing with the model, which in this case was a breeze. Fortunately I’m better at post-processing than at portraiture (at moment) and managed to correct the lighting issues. I also discovered that I liked the processing more in black and white than in color although this might have been because of the lighting dealt us. I was more than a little anxious about how the images would be accepted but since they met my standard of publishable, I was happy with the work. And my anxieties aside, Renée was very pleased as were both our respective audiences.

The positive feedback heartened me and that encouraged me to spend some time studying lighting techniques. I concluded lighting was an art unto itself but for my purposes could probably be sufficiently mastered to engage in exploring this channel of photography further. I doubt it will ever supplant landscapes in my portfolio but if most of it is as uplifting as the first venture it will boost the happiness meters of everyone involved. I’ll be back in LA by the end of November and there is no shortage of lighting experts in that town. Should be easy to track down a mentor.


Maybe next time it’ll be a model with a mountain backdrop.

Thanks Renée!


Home Sweet Temporary Home


Well it took from the 4th Oct 12 to the 1st Sept 13 but this afternoon (17000 + miles later) I managed to walk back into the condo in Ivystone Court. A great journey so far, assisted by a lot of friends, the National Park System, a well- built Acura and a sense of nonsense.

It’s far from over. I’ll be in residence for a month. The big event upcoming is my daughter’s wedding on the 13th Sept in C’ville. Afterward I suppose there will be a lot of handwringing about what I need to fetch from here for the relocation west. Lots of memories and memorabilia to deal with. But no matter; its going to happen.

In the meantime I’m enjoying what is unquestionably a comfortable existence here and perhaps having a thought or two about cold nights on hard ground in tents. But only one or two.

It’s been a wonderful year. Looking forward to the next one which once again will begin in Oct and follow a leisurely route from Virginia to Key West, Tampa, Port Arthur, Austin, Big Bend, Grand Canyon and as many unscheduled stops as can also be fit in between then and Thanksgiving back in LA.

Thank you Maura, Mitzi, Jennifer, Kathleen & Jack, Sonja, Don, Ron, Bill, Ken, Carole, Juan, Vero & Joseph, Vickie, DJ, Alyta, Janet, Terry, Jayne-x2, Andrea, AJ, Warren, Bonnie, Beverly, Indre, Chris, Mike, Barbara, Scott, Brian, Susan A. (and Debbie and Angela), Sue V., Azura, Priscilla, Linda & Dan, Dana & Rick, Andy, Renée, Robin, Patty, Joette, David T., Dave D., Massie, Chaz and AnnaSummer. And, of course, Ruth.

It takes a village; this is mine. It keeps growing.


Eighteen Years

Eighteen years ago today my life was a shambles. After a very long fall I had finally hit bottom. Far from there being no end in sight, it was staring me in the eye. I was locked on that gaze, enthralled by its deadly invitation.

Then Ruth entered my miserable existence and broke the connection. She proffered unconditional support. “You don’t have to live this way. Lets go home.” she said. The edge softened. The abyss dissolved. Her invitation overcame the previously compelling alternative. To honor this day is to honor her.

She’s gone now. Lost to a murderous disease that destroyed her body but not her spirit or her faith and certainly not her gifts or her legacy. I’ll never understand the cosmic forces that directed my salvation at her hand and then her subsequent destruction by cancer. It makes no sense to me. It’s driven me to seek an answer and is almost certainly what fuels my otherwise seemingly aimless wandering. Reconciling this paradox has become my life pursuit. I doubt the odds of success are weighted in my favor but I also realize that the process itself may in fact be the answer. It’s one of those things I’ll always know but never know.

I soldier on.

Even though the answers have so far escaped me, by Ruth’s grace I remain these last eighteen years a sober person, curious, more sane than not and far removed from the confused and tortured state she snatched me from that Saturday evening in 1995. For that and for the time I was allowed to spend with her and for all the help and support I received, and continue to receive, from the community she introduced me to, I will be forever grateful as I trudge the road of happy destiny.