Travel Theme: Sensory

This week, the travel theme at Where’s My Backpack? is: Sensory!

OK, look. There’s a part of me that wants to make crap jokes asking “are you ready to be stimulated?” *tee hee* but then I think, what am I, twelve? My struggle is real. Onward to maturity! Here’s to our senses, and please enjoy the ride.

Paris. There are small ponds in the park that surrounds the Eiffel Tower. If you lean over the railing and look straight down from one of the upper observation decks, you can see them for yourself. And it’s a little disconcerting. Note: if you have vertigo, perhaps you should avoid this exercise.

Watch that first step. It's a doozy.

Watch that first step. It’s a doozy.

There’s something profoundly invigorating about getting on a boat. At least there is for me. When I’m on the water and the smell of the salty air hits me, and boat’s engine roars to life and we are seaward bound, and the wind whips my hair around my face, I feel everything come alive. I think I was a sailor in a past life.

See you later, Boston.

See you later, Boston.

Welcome to the Day-Glo Garden at the Great Lakes Science Center. Fun fact: I totally want to build an inner sanctum that looks like this. With a killer stereo system and all the streamable TV I want. Because really, this is what things look like inside my brain most of the time. Hashtag when I am a millionaire.

The only thing this is missing is are tiny sparkly pixies.

The only thing this is missing are tiny sparkly pixies.

When in Rome

Go to the Jewish ghetto, find a nice place to eat with sunny, pleasant outdoor seating and, if the fried artichokes are in season, eat them. When you go inside to use the restroom, prepare yourself for the smell of garlic wafting down from the rows and rows of corded bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

 

I had no idea what I was walking into.

And nary a vampire to be found. Savvy.

Behold! Music is just moments away with this handy-dandy travelling turntable and a trusty guitar. Photo taken at an Ellis Paul concert. Who I need to go see again, soon, but I digress.

Looks like the party's about to start.

Looks like someone has the party well in hand.

And finally.

My place. Black bean burgers with cilantro pesto on a bed of shredded sweet potatoes. It was delicious. My mouth is watering at this photo: Paging Dr. Pavlov!

I like vegetables. That is all.

Therein lies my sensory challenge. I hope you have fun checking out the other participants in this week’s photo challenge. Thanks for dropping by!

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Ellis Paul, Wilkes University, June 1 2014

Ellis Paul guesses we didn’t save the LP. Or the 8-track, or the cassingle, or even the CD, as his story about a recently rented car that featured an MP3 port but no CD player will attest. But goddamn it, he’s not giving up an LP (or, in the broader spectrum, non-digital music) without a fight.

Check out the swingin' record player!

Nothing like traveling with a harmonica and a swingin’ record player! I had one kind of like this when I was a kid, but…it also played 78s*. I miss that record player.

*Some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, do you? Add this to the hashtag #whippersnappers.

Not that I can blame him for not giving up the LP…says the girl who has three record players hanging around her house, and regularly has LP-only dance parties in her living room.

Avec l'harmonica!

Avec l’harmonica!

I can’t find a bit of fault for anyone mourning the way the music industry has turned on itself. When everything’s digital, there is no “big picture”. There’s no concept album, there’s no cohesive narrative, there’s no reason to create an album your listeners will play from beginning to end, from the start of Side A to the close of Side B (#whippersnappers, that’s how it was done). There’s not even cool cover art. It’s all short, easily digestible (OK, is debatable) 3-minute bursts of electronica. It’s shortsighted at best, and only provides one tiny sliver of insight into music and humanity and life. For a storyteller…no es bueno.

Storifying us all.

Scoffing in the face of autotune.

See, he said, when everything is digitized and downloadable, there’s nothing to care for. There’s no item that you can hold in your hands, nothing to blow the dust off, no liner notes to read. There’s no fond memories of a tone arm weighted down with a taped-on nickel to ride over the scratches (#whippersnappers).  He did say he’s going to release future recordings on LP, which I will of course be buying. Because it’s vinyl and I can’t help myself.

Speaking of scratches, gearheads, no, you’re not imagining things. There’s duct tape on the guitar. It seems that the appropriately-named (because look at it) guitar, Guinness, had an unfortunate incident during transport, and the airline he was flying on (United, maybe?) cracked it…but of course accepts no responsibility. Saying this guitar has gotten its fair share of dings is an understatement. Maybe there’s a cabal of rogue luthiers trying to boost business by creating unfortunate guitar incidents.  Here’s another picture of it.

Boo boo guitar. Plus rock-star pose.

Boo boo guitar. Plus rock-star pose.

Guinness really is a gorgeous guitar. Want to see it again?

Well, hello, beautiful.

Well, hello, beautiful.

So, Ellis Paul showed up in NEPA and provided a bit of a discourse about the dominance of digitized music. I didn’t expect to have to get all philosophically thinky-like, but there you have it. Inspiration strikes in the oddest places. He did this with a harmonica, a guitar, and a record player for two full hours of storification and musical regalement. And he brought a friend along! Laurie MacAllister from Red Molly stopped in for the least jangly, most soulful rendition of “If I Had a Hammer” that I have ever heard.

Having teh funnies on stage.

Having the private smilies on stage.

All in all, it was a fun evening, though I think I may have set myself up for something. When I went to the merch table (because I’m all cool and in-the-know and say things like “merch”) to get…ummm…merch, I…well, I not only requested (and received!) permission to go on stage and photograph the Official Ellis Paul Touring Record Player….

Record player, with conveniently-placed (not even by me!) non-Guinness acoustic.

Record player, with conveniently-placed (not even by me!) non-Guinness acoustic.

…BUT I decided to toss out a pitch for a song. “Next time you’re in PA,” I began, and he added, “Which is in a few weeks.”

Oh, right. I remembered that as soon as he said it. I mean, he doesn’t normally come back to this area so quickly. But you know? Too late to stop now.

“Next time, would it be possible for you to do “Paris in a Day”? Because I would love that forever.” What I didn’t say is, it would go right next to that little spot in my heart where his 2003, Austin TX, Cactus Cafe performance of “Conversation with a Ghost” lives, and I would blow it kisses and nurture the memory and work it into my mental loop of awesome things that keep me happy. Because it is goddamned “Paris in a Day” and all other arguments are invalid. 

He said, “You know, I was just listening to that song on the way up here today.”

Really? D’oh!  Ahem. So. Looks like I’m going to Bethlehem, because if he does polish up that chestnut and I’m not there? I’m the worst fan ever.

Yeah. See you in a few weeks.

Yes you would be, he seemed to say.

Who’s with me?

I mean, really, if he doesn’t play “Paris…”, the worst that will happen is we’ll see a really good show.

Here’s “Paris in a Day” to play you out. And “Conversation with a Ghost”, for good measure.

Sad but true. And yes, I own this. And it's not an LP.

Sad but true. And yes, I own this. And it’s not an LP.

Sunrise: Normandy Beach, NJ; May 4, 2014, 5:52AM

I had considered and rejected the idea of getting up for sunrise photos this Sunday. I was exhausted after a weekend of celebrating my niece and her new husband, and making the concordant travel, and general busy-ness. After the wedding, we visited two friends who have a beach house in Normandy (to extra-clarify, Normandy Beach NJ, not France), which was near the general area of wedding festivities. Awesome, right? A few days with the fam, and then a groovy night with friends. What could be better? We (as in George, said groovy friends, and I) wandered around a few different boardwalks, had some beers (including my first summer shandy of the season, joy!), found a nice bar in which we watched the Kentucky Derby (sorry, Wicked Strong, I was rooting for you!), then went out for dinner and stuffed ourselves silly. I am one of those people who needs downtime in order to recharge my batteries. I had none. I was beat. Sleep was my objective, not early rising.

Fate had other plans.

Something–and I swear, I don’t know what–woke me up at 5:20. And you know, you start to weigh options and make bargains. “If it’s even a little cloudy, I’m going back to sleep.”

It was clear.

OK, OK. “If it’s windy and cold, I’m going back to sleep.”

It was surprisingly warm(ish), and not windy at all.

Pffft. Hmm. OK. “If George isn’t willing to go with me, I’m going back to sleep.” (Please note: I’m not sure why that was important to me at 5:30 in the morning, but it was.)

George got right up and started getting ready to go. Bless his heart.

So, bejacketed and bleary-eyed, we walked five minutes up the road to the beach and climbed the newly installed sand berm to the much-beleaguered Jersey shore, and watched the sun come up. While I hesitate to say that something is “magical” because really, anyone who says that is hopelessly twee, I’ve got to say…I’m really glad I was there. The sunrise went a little like this:

Well, hello, bird.

Well, hello, bird. And charter boat. Thanks for being scenic.

Off to the side, houses keep watch.

Off to the side, houses keep watch.

That rock has waited a long time to be exactly in this position to see this sunrise.

That rock has waited a long time to be exactly in this position for me to photographically exploit. Thanks, rock!

And here it comes.

And here it comes.

It's relentless.

It’s relentless.

I mean, this all took place in what was only a matter of minutes, really.

I mean, this all took place in what was only a matter of minutes. We’re really whizzing around in space.

Oh noes! That ship!

Oh noes! That boat! It will never survive!

Suck it, Eye of Sauron. You've got nothing on this.

Suck it, Eye of Sauron. You’ve got nothing on this. (Plus, *chomp chomp eat ur boat*)

While I strive to love all my photos equally, I think this one is my favorite.

While I strive to love all my photos equally, I think this one is my favorite.

In psychotic weather news, two hours later it was overcast and drizzly.

Meanwhile in psychotic weather news, two hours later it was overcast and drizzly.

Or maybe this one's my favorite. I love the textures you can see.

Or maybe this one’s my favorite. I love all the textures you can see.

Even crazy silhouette guy likes a good sunrise.  (Full disclosure: it's George, in a hoodie.)

Even scary silhouette guy likes a good sunrise.
(Full disclosure: it’s George, in a hoodie. *phew*)

Almost free of the horizon line...

Almost free of the horizon line…

And there it goes! Le soleil, off into the yonder. Which I would say is wild blue but we can clearly see is seething orange.

And there it goes! Le soleil, off into the yonder. Which I would say is wild blue but we can clearly see is seething orange. I love that the waterline looks like liquid gold.

So. There you have it. Sunrise, Jersey shore style. There’s still so much work to do down there after Hurricane Sandy, but you know, lesson learned. This world of ours keeps on rolling along, and so must we.

Here’s a little Ellis Paul to play you out.

Travel Theme: Brown

Oh, brown.  You are much maligned.  You are the color of chocolate, coffee and good earth and yet?  Brown = meh.  And I get it; you don’t have as much zazz as, say, fuchsia, or orange, and looking across a field of brown doesn’t tickle the imagination like looking out onto the sparkling blue vastness of the ocean.  But brown, take heart.  I don’t know how to quit you.  Neither, apparently, does Ailsa, as “Brown” is her travel theme this week over at Where’s My Backpack?

Getting started.

Occasionally I drive around where I live, because it’s pretty, and look for things to photograph.  There’s a row of wooden stalls in serious disrepair next to a now-defunct business; I think it was a garden supply store and the stalls held different flavors of mulch, but that’s not terribly relevant, except that decaying infrastructure has an inherent photogenic appeal.  Plus, the woods are creeping in on it and I love it when nature wins again.  Check it out.

I can't quite say it's urban decay because we're so not urban, but nevertheless...always interesting. Lewisburg PA, April 2013

I can’t quite say it’s urban decay because we’re so not urban, but nevertheless…always interesting. Lewisburg PA, April 2013

I took this during some sunrise photo fun in Myrtle Beach; I love the brown of the wooden boardwalk and the golden tan of the sand.  Plus, I always thought the boardwalk looked like some kind of massive sci-fi bug-creature lumbering (no pun intended, but I’ll take it) back to the waters from whence it came.  Because that’s how things work in my brain.

Under the boardwalk.  Surfside Pier, Myrtle Beach

RAWR I’m a scary monster.  Under the boardwalk. Surfside Pier, Myrtle Beach, June 2013

This is a photo of the aptly-named Cascade River, in Lutsen, MN.  Why is the water so brown, you ask?  Because it’s busily engaging in the process of erosion and is packing a TON of silt.  It’s all good.

There it is, cascading.

There it is, cascading.

Meet Guinness.  Guinness is an exceedingly beautiful guitar owned by folk singer Ellis Paul (who I’ve written about here, here, and…).  This past June, Ellis played a kid’s show at the James V. Brown Library in Williamsport, PA, and I was fortunate enough to be part of the setup team (thanks, Shawn and Robin!).  As I was hauling chairs and such I couldn’t help but notice the guitar (’cause it’s priddy) and HOLY POCKETS!  Look at the inlay on the neck.

That is one mighty fine lookin' guitar.

That is one mighty fine lookin’ guitar.

And finally.

Every summer here in the ‘burg we get to enjoy Rural Heritage Days (see: we are so not urban), a several-days-long event that celebrates all things rural and heritage-y.  I learned how to twist rope, how to make lead shot, and, in this photo, I got a demonstration on blacksmithing, from some kid who probably got his first hammer and anvil in the cradle.  I love the combo of old and new–the safety goggles, the old-school leather apron–and the proud father (or maybe grandfather, who knows?) watching on just behind the boy.

You go, kid! Make that nail.

You go, kid! Make that nail.

So there’s my “brown” theme for the week.  Have fun looking at the rest of the other participants!  (Or play along yourself. 🙂 )  I’ll leave you with a video of Ellis Paul playing the lovely Guinness.  Enjoy.

 

Ellis Paul at the James V. Brown Library

Or rather, at the “liberry”, as I like to say.

Ellis Paul, the folk singer I’ve written about once or twice before, finally played somewhere that’s a reasonable driving distance from my little hamlet of a town.  I’ve been known  to make the three+ hour trek to Philly to see him, or drive an hour and a half to Harrisburg.  Twenty-six miles?  Less than thirty measly minutes?  To Williamsport?

Pfft.   Chump change.

OK, so it was a children’s show and I don’t have any kids.  Understandably, one might think that was a little quirky (Hello, my name is Terri but you can call me Aunt Creepster) BUT I am friends with one of the programming coordinators at James V. Brown Library.  The library, opened in 1907, is a gorgeous building bequeathed to the city by lumber baron James VanDuzee Brown (and thus not to be confused with a certain other James Brown, regardless of the music being performed).  Performers–Ellis, and anyone who plays there for First Friday events–get to play in the Rotunda Room, which boasts a beautiful stained glass rotunda and wrought iron gazebo.  It’s kind of an amazing place to spend a day regardless of why you’re there.  I got to help set up and hang out and feel all cool.  What a different person I’ve become, now that I think hauling chairs around a library on a Saturday morning to prep for a kids’ show is “cool”.  And yet I was.  A girl can’t help it, even if I wasn’t quite a roadie and was more of a…ummmm…venue monkey.  Or something.

Here’s the thing: even when he’s putting on a kid’s show, Ellis Paul is a great act to catch.  He’s funny and engaging.  He keeps the kids entertained and throws in enough references so the parents “get” that he’s winking at them.  He plays long enough to be worth it but not so long that the kids are losing their minds.  And even though these songs are written for children, they’re still conceptually interesting.  I didn’t know there was such a thing called “wabi-sabi“, never mind that it was a Japanese aesthetic that focuses on the acceptance of imperfection.  Not until I heard a song about it at a kid’s show.

It’s a great message for kids.  Not a bad one for adults either, when you come down to it.  But it’s one that’s far more challenging and evocative than “I love you, you love me.”  Which I suppose is nice too, but a little pedestrian and not always true.

Here’s some photos from the show.

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32 Reasons Why I Love Boston

As we are surely aware, my beloved city of Boston suffered tragedy yesterday as [an as yet undetermined person or organization who I hope chokes on a bag of dicks] set off a few bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Now.  I could focus on being angry and sad, but it doesn’t change what happened.  And I get the contingent of people who say, “Oh, a bomb went off in a crowded public place?  Here, that’s called “Tuesday”,” though really, people, that sort of self-righteous cynicism only adds to the outrage so until tempers cool, do us all a favor and STFU.

Until we figure out who did it and ran, I don’t feel like I’m qualified to add fuel to the socio-cultural-impact fire.  I didn’t lose a loved one or know anyone who was injured.  I just hate senseless violence and so, I am sad.

So rather than focusing on the glum and the negative (I’ll let the various investigative departments worry about that), I figured I’d look at some of the many, many reasons that Boston kicks ass.  This is in no way a comprehensive list but rather, one comprised of the photos I have handy.  You can argue about what belongs on here all you’d like and I’ll welcome it, but I maintain: it is because of things like these that Boston kicks ass.

The MFA.

243

The Big Noodle.

034

This.

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This staircase.

030

This guy.

283

Cuervo Games.

036

The Feast of St. Joseph.

100_1795

This street performer.

100_1833

And this one.

Feasting at The Green Dragon.

356And live music at The Black Rose.

IMG_0214

The T.

198

The Citgo sign.

100_7614

This harbor tour boat.

IMG_0058

Boston Harbor at night.

055

Rehearsals for Shakespeare in the Park.

389

Ducklings.

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Donkeys.

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One badass dude on a horse.

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This lady.

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Faneuil Hall.

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The Sam Adams Brewery Tour.

IMG_0222

The Hancock Building.

075

The surreally beautiful Public Garden.

086

The North End.

373

The Mary Baker Eddy Library.

100_1706

This.

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Eric Clapton’s boat.

IMG_0145

World’s saddest snowman.

244

Whale watches.

169

The wall of saints.

044

The skyline at sunset.

IMG_0115-002

Ever Forward!

My sister-in-law snapped an extraordinary picture of my niece, on her first day of kindergarten.  After putting her on the bus (which had several more stops to make), Debbie high-tailed it to the school, waited for the bus to roll in, spotted Jen still at her seat and clicked away, nabbing the shot that makes my jaw drop every time I look at it.

jen

Welcome to the moment where everything changes.

This took place in the days before the advent of pre-K orientations, when the first day of school was one’s first encounter with their school.  This was, literally, the first time Jen was seeing the building in which she’d spend the bulk of the next few years.  There are so many emotions she conveys in this shot–you can see she’s nervous and scared, and excited, and so wholly absorbed in her assessment of the school that she doesn’t even notice her mother standing just below her on the sidewalk.  Can you feel the butterflies flitting around in her stomach?  This picture makes me want to practice my zen deep breathing.

She looks so…little.  She was so little then.  I mean, come on.  She was five.  And yet–despite the fact that she was so young, and nervous, and facing an entirely unknown situation–she got off that bus and went in those doors.

You could argue that she had to go.  You could rightly claim that there was nothing she or her parents could have done to prevent her from going to school, and even if she broke down into hysterics and threw herself on the ground at her mother’s feet, eventually, she would have had to walk through those doors anyway.  Therein lies my point.  She was five, and when children are five we don’t just expect, but mandate, that they do things like go to school and learn how to read and add and become functional members of our society.  Which is fine and as it should be since they need to start doing that at some point, but ultimately what we expect a five-year-old to do is blow up her or his comfort zone and launch into a journey of self-improvement.  Think about it.  We expect our children to go to a new building where they are surrounded by people they don’t know, abide by rules they haven’t had to live by yet, incorporate new skill sets into their repertoire, and perform those skills on demand.  Daily.  For twelve years (thirteen, counting kindergarten).  When they cry and say they hate school we assure them, “You’ll get used to it, it gets better, I promise.”  And every day the kids go back to school, to stare down new expectations, and meet them.  Or not, as also happens.

Kids, I’ve come to realize, don’t hate school because it’s hard–the word “hard” is so ambiguous in this situation that it renders itself meaningless.  Math is hard, grammar is hard, history is hard, science is hard…but so what?  Anything new is “hard”, since you lack the learned skill for it. I can think of fully grown, seemingly functional adults who would rather peel their own faces off than walk into the unknown like Jen did that day, and like every five-year-old does on their first day of school. Kids hate school because it constantly pushes them out of their comfort zone.  They may change…or they may fail to change in comparison to the peers that surround them.  Which is worse?  How many times have you made the face my niece is making, mentally or physically?  How many times have you resisted doing something because it’s different?  How many times have you said (or heard someone else say), “No, I won’t do it, I hate change.”  How many times have you tried to do something once, lacked the innate skill for it and defensively declared it “stupid”?  (You should have seen my first and only knitting lesson.)

I understand the desire for order, and I understand why we as adults tend to resist change.  I understand why we’re attached to our status and our stuff; I don’t even want to imagine a road trip without my smart phone handy anymore.  But I suspect that’s not what It, in the big-picture, capital-I “It”, is all about, no matter how much I love to surf the web while my boyfriend is driving.  We were born programmed to learn, to think, to experience a range of emotions, to make our time here on this planet an insightful and emotional journey and not just a chronological one.  So.  With this new year, I wish you all peace and joy and health.  I wish you love, and I wish you all the ability to attain the goals you’ve set for yourselves.  And I wish you all the courage of the five-year-old girl who rides the butterflies into a great unknown.  Ever forward!

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