Matt And Geoff’s Great Brooklyn/Queens Adventure

I was born in Brooklyn and went to high school there (via a bus and two subways). I figured I’d done my time. Did I have to go back?

I asked fellow meteorologist Matt Scott if he wanted to go to the city? Helaine had business on the other side of the state and I’m drawn to New York. I know Matt is too. We just didn’t know what we’d do once we got there!

Not to make a joke of it, but even as we left Connecticut we didn’t have a clue where we’d go or what we’d do.

IMG_1552.jpg“I’ve never been to Brooklyn,” he said.

I was born in Brooklyn and went to high school there (via a bus and two subways). I figured I’d done my time. Did I have to go back?

We drove over the Throgs Neck Bridge, onto the Cross Island and then the LIE.

There are signs on the Throgs Neck stating photography is strictly prohibited. At the same time on any given Saturday and Sunday the Brooklyn Bridge is infested with thousands of tourists and locals–most with cameras. What makes the Throgs Neck so insecure? Do they really think it’s a more tantalizing target than the storied Brooklyn Bridge?

I asked Matt if he’d like to see where I grew up and went to grade school? What was he going to say? I was driving!

A few minutes later we were standing in front of PS 163. The front door was propped open. A man was outside smoking a cigarette.

“I went here 50 years ago,” I began.

Shit, that makes me sound old. Luckily, I’m immature for my age.

Before long we were in the school.

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This building is the equivalent of one of the locales for MSNBC’s prison doc block! It was a school unsuited for me run by a woman I suspect hated me. From grade two to six I suffered inside.

The only saving grace was it was an amazing school for learning–even for someone who fought learning as much as I did! PS163 was firmly grounded in “tracking.” That’s the practice of grouping students of similar abilities together. Tracking has lost favor today. I’d be surprised to hear it’s used anywhere, though it certainly benefited me. I spent five years competing in a class of overachievers.

We had no gym. We had no recess. We had little outdoor activity–ever. Imagine.

There was… there still is a large room in the front of the building where, for a few years, we did some sort of cockamamie square dancing.

I was astounded to see numbers still painted high on the walls. This was where each class lined up in the case of emergency. The numbers corresponded to room numbers. This paint job is at least fifty years old!

PS163 worked out so well I asked Matt if he wanted to see Electchester, where I grew up? Again, to my surprise he said, “Yes.”

Everything looked smaller as we wound our way through the south end of Flushing. We headed to Kissena Blvd. then the LIE’s service road and up Parsons Boulevard where I lived. I put the top up on the convertible and we got out.

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I’ve used this analogy before, but these buildings (and the ones across the street at NYCHA’s Pomonok Houses) are reminiscent of the worst of Soviet style architecture! Considering the two complexes had well over 5,000 residents we were pretty devoid of amenities and services.

Because of how our individual building was turned to the street it was always much more convenient to enter through the basement which was 100% concrete and had asbestos wrapped exposed pipes and conduits. Maybe if I’d used a more formal and ‘softer’ entrance my experience would have been different. I’ll never know.

Matt and I walked around the building as I took photos. I wasn’t about to go in an see who was living in 5E where my family moved in 1953.

Stopping at these two places was amazing even though my experiences at both were sub-optimum. I decided to give Matt his trip to Brooklyn… but would he mind if we stopped at my high school?

We drove down Jewel Avenue to the Van Wyck Expressway then westbound on the LIE to the BQE. Without a GPS the rest was dependent on instinct and luck.

“See that tall antenna?” I asked Matt, pointing at a tall radio tower atop a building. “That’s my high school.”

We took the turns I thought would get us there while Matt tried to keep the antenna in sight. When we turned onto Fulton Street we were home free.

The neighborhood has really changed for the better. The brownstones on Ft. Greene Place were decrepit and often abandoned when I went to Tech. Now the neighborhood is gentrified. Don’t think of looking at a brownstone for less than seven figures.

I remember getting off the GG (now G) train at Fulton Street and walking by three bars before turning toward the school. Even at that early morning hour I remember watching drunks stumble out as I walked down the street. The bars are gone. The new stores are nice.

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Brooklyn Tech is currently surrounded by scaffolding. There’s some sort of major renovation going on. This is, after all, a school built as a stimulus project during the Great Depression. It’s aged.

We walked three sides of the immense school building stopping at every outside door to see if it was open. At the very last door we saw three men at a car. The adjacent door to the school was slightly ajar.

“Do you work here?”

New Yorker’s aren’t usually quick and free with information, but they answered yes.

“I graduated forty years ago and haven’t been back since. Can we go in?”

The boss looked at one of his workers and told him to take us in. We couldn’t stay long. There was work to be done.

No matter how large a high school you went to mine was larger! Allow me to sing.

Tech alma mater molder of men.

Proudly we rise to salute thee again.

Loyal we stand now six thousand strong.

The rest of the song is inconsequential. Six thousand boys went to Tech. That’s the important part.

Most of the school was eight stories tall with five corridors per floor. A smaller part of the building went to eleven stories. Yes, we had elevators, but you could only use them between certain designated floors.

“What’s that up there?” Matt asked looking at a glass covered area on the highest floor.

“That’s the foundry.”

Yeah, we had a foundry. In high school I poured molten pig iron! I know what a cope and drag are and how to make a wooden pattern for pouring.

Tech was where you learned to be an engineer. Our course of study was perfectly designed to fill the needs of 1940’s America. Alas, it was a little long in the tooth upon my arrival in 1964.

We stopped for a few photos in the 3,000+ seat auditorium and a look at some of the intricate work produced by government employed WPA artisans. Remember, Tech was built both as a school and as a make-work project to employ people during a horrific economic crisis.

Again, this was a great stop. I was totally shocked we’d been let in. Thank you unknown custodial staff. I appreciate your kindness.

When Matt originally mentioned Brooklyn it was because of a weekly flea market he’d read about. It was in the neighborhood and we headed right there.

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As is the case with much of New York City this flea market was a veritable United Nations. Every possible shade of skin as well as an immense variety of accents were represented. There was enough diversity to make everyone a minority.

It’s tough to describe what was being sold because so much of it was totally off-the-wall. Yes, there were books about Hitler. Yes, there was a Jesus Christ Action Figure.

“It has wheels,” said the guy trying to sell it.

Like Tech this was a bad neighborhood at one time. Not anymore. I said to myself, “I could live here,” though I’m not really sure that’s true. Certainly on this lazy summer’s afternoon it was quite lovely and inviting.

The flea market closed at five and we were back in the car heading toward the Brooklyn Bridge. Last August I’d walked the bridge with my friend Steve. I thought Matt would enjoy it too. I had only the vaguest of guesses where the bridge was as we set out.

“There it is,” Matt blurted, but he was looking at the Manhattan Bridge.

Typical out-of-towner mistake. A bridge is a bridge–right? But knowing where the Manhattan Bridge was the same as knowing where the Brooklyn Bridge was because they’re so close to each other.

We found on-the-street parking a few blocks from the entrance to the bridge’s walkway. A whole day in New York City without paying for parking! My father is proud!

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The Brooklyn Bridge provides an incredible vista from which to view the city. Crossing the East River the bridge connects Downtown Brooklyn with Downtown Manhattan. It’s about a one mile walk.

I bought a bottle of water from a vendor and we headed over.

I cannot recommend this trek enough. Looking south you see Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. In the distance tall cranes mark the port facilities in New Jersey.

To the north is the nearby Manhattan Bridge and a glimpse into Midtown. The Empire State Building dominates most northward views.

The East River is a working river. There’s plenty of commercial traffic though not the international fleet found on the Hudson.

There were lots of interesting looking people on the bridge, but none more interesting than the couple (by her accent, French) who found a girder with hand rails which led over the auto roadway to the edge of the bridge. It looked scary. They had just begun to head back when I spotted them.

After the bridge roundtrip we were hungry and found the Water Street Restaurant and Lounge. Surprisingly it wasn’t busy. I had a Cajun Blackened Sirloin Burger with BBQ Sauce, Andouille Sausage, Crisp Onion Ring, Cheddar Cheese. Matt had the Norwegian Lox Sandwich with Avocado, Pickled Cucumbers, Lime Mayo on Black Rye.

Good choice! Dinner was tasty.

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Our last stop was the area under the two bridges. This being the weekend there were weddings taking place with the Manhattan skyline as backdrop. When you get married down by the banks of the East River you’re inviting anyone around to stop and watch. It’s really quite sweet, romantic and frugal!

We stayed near the river until the sun went down, then headed home.

We’d set out with no firm plan and yet (even Matt will admit) had a really fun day. It was nice to go back home. It was nice to see how Brooklyn’s changed. It was good for Matt to discover Brooklyn.


Dog Training With Bells

After hearing this story I went to Google and found this is a fairly common behavior to teach a dog. Stefanie finds it hysterical, but we plan on giving it a try.

Roxie at three poundsRoxie arrives at the Fox home in under two weeks. We are told she’s progressing nicely already tipping the scales at three pounds.

Already doggie accouterments are arriving. Stef has gotten toys and bowls and a Barbie placemat (please–don’t ask) plus a ‘crate’ large enough for a family of Roxies! I was thinking of putting in a loft and closets… but I digress.

All our friends and family, knowing the dog is coming but not when, have been quizzing us and in some cases giving us advice. Sunday evening, at Cathy and Steve’s, I was told about ‘bell training.’

“The dog was totally trained over a weekend,” was Cathy’s claim!

This is not exactly potty training. Cathy was talking about training their dog Yankee to signal when he wanted to go outside.

She hung some small ‘jingle bells’ from the door knob. Then, when it was time for Yankee to go out, she jingled the bells before leaving the house. Cathy started this on Friday.

By Sunday a strange thing happened. While watching TV bells began to ring! Sure enough Yankee wanted to go out.

After hearing this story I went to Google and found this is a fairly common behavior to teach a dog. Stefanie finds it hysterical, but we plan on giving it a try.

When you think about all of this in the abstract isn’t this the dog teaching you?

If you have any experience with this will you leave a comment or drop me an email, please?

Two Days Of Shooting In The O.C.

I’m cautiously optimistic by what I see, but I am by no means a portrait photographer.

IMG_0080.jpgWelcome to California. I am 536 photos into my trip! Long day.

Cousin Melissa and her son Cousin Max met me at the Orange County Airport. With a larger than life bronze statue of John Wayne as a sixshooter wearing cowboy in front of a larger than life American flag there was no forgetting the conservative rep The OC has claimed through my lifetime.

This is a trip all about photography. Melissa is running for office and I’m her shooter. All I can think about are the stories I heard about the friend who shot my parent’s wedding and never produced the photos! My folks have no wedding photos. Please–don’t let that be me.

The idea was to find a bunch of setups where Melissa would interact with her potential electorate. I had been schooled by my Cousin Michael who sent links to some political websites featuring candidate photos. Without naming names I can safely say some of them used a friend with a point-and-shoot or got horribly ripped off.

We took dozens of pics yesterday afternoon and then restarted the process this morning. With friends and relatives in tow we went to parks and schools and other picturesque and/or identifiable spots.

IMG_0180-1.jpgI’m not posting any of those photos. Not yet at least. We need to go through a photo culling process and some minor post processing. I’m cautiously optimistic by what I see, but I am by no means a portrait photographer.

My biggest concern and constant shot-by-shot problem is controlling the Speedlight. I’ve been using my friend Steve’s “pope hat” made of Ikea plastic shelf liner to soften the light. I’ve probably taken more flash augmented outdoor shots in full sun today than in all my previous uses of the flash!

I can tell you this. Orange County is beautiful. Though this area was desert a few decades ago it is lush, green, full of people… and vacant office space. Orange County is ground zero for America’s financial meltdown.

Return To Daffodil Hill

It is acre upon acre of daffodils growing wild and free. Four shots from that trip are now framed and hung in the eat-in portion of our kitchen.

geoff-photographer.jpgLast April as daffodils began to bloom Bob Maxon from Channel 30 posted a comment on the blog.


Have you ever been to “Daffodil Hill” in Litchfield County? With your love of photography, and a rag top, you should venture up there next weekend, as its still little early for the hills to be blooming. It is a breathtaking spot…if you want directions, drop me a line.

He said the magic word–“photography.” It’s more obsession than love. I asked for directions.

This weekend last year I drove up, fell in love and shot a few hundred photos at one of the most beautiful spots in Connecticut. I walked out of the car and looked at acre upon acre of daffodils growing wild and free. Four shots from that trip are now framed and hung in the eat-in portion of our kitchen.

I don’t know the full story, but in 1941 Virginia and Remy Morosani planted them “for all to enjoy.” It’s now run by the Laurel Ridge Foundation.

This year I asked my photo buddy Steve if he wanted to come along? We met on site late in the afternoon (his wife’s idea to get more dramatic lighting). The daffodils didn’t sem quite as fully in bloom as last year. Maybe that’s a product of our brutal winter?

Here’s how I know photography has become an obsession. I brought a backpack and a separate bag with my tripod! This was going to be a technical exercise for me.

It didn’t take more than a few minutes for the tripod to be unpacked with my camera placed on top. The tripod and camera were low enough I had to lay on my belly to focus and shoot. My idea was to get sharp foreground and fuzzy background, meaning a long lens (my 70-300mm at 300mm) and fast shutter speeds.

Much of the rest of the afternoon was spent executing this very specific game plan. I’m not sure if this is how photography is supposed to work? It’s only recently that I’ve been taking a large portion of my shots this way.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know I feel photography is much more technical execution than artistry. I’m just following my own advice and, at least this time, I was happy with the results.

At one point a man walked by carrying a tiny dog. I asked if I could take a few shots? As I did a woman walked by with a little girl. The man asked if the girl wanted to pet the dog?

As the dog was put down on the ground the little girl began to giggle uncontrollably. I think my best shot of the afternoon was a candid, handheld, of the girl with the dog. i wish the lighting was better, but this was really on-the-fly.

Tallulah And Buddy Sleepover

It’s a sleepover so Tracey can spend a romantic evening.

Tallulah came and visited tonight. It’s a sleepover so Tracey can spend a romantic evening. Tallulah has been joined tonight by Buddy.

It’s a long story. They’re not related. They live together. I’m not going any further. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Thanks to a new $.50 light diffuser from my friend Steve, here are some doggie candids.








A Little Computing Advice

PCs aren’t as expensive as they once were, but for years they’ve been a whole lot faster than we need for most tasks. If you surf the web, read email and occasionally play with photos, a computer that’s a few years old is plenty fine.

If you’re thinking of buying a new computer and you don’t play games or use your machine for other really stressful things, save your money! Really.

This comes up, because I went to my friend Steve’s house last Sunday and, for an investment a little north of $100, refurbished his computer.

He says there’s a real difference. That makes me smile.

I increased the RAM from 512 mb to 2 gb. At the same time, we added a second hard drive. There he added 300 gb to his original 120 gb.

If the darned case wasn’t so anti-intuitive, the whole process would have taken five minutes. Unfortunately, it took closer to a half hour as I fiddled and fuddled, trying to get the hard drive in its bay.

I finally realized pulling the front panel off was the way to go. I’m an idiot.

Steve’s computer had slowed down. There are a few reasons for this. First, with most little utilities you install, programs like Real Play, Quicktime or Adobe Acrobat, small starter programs are also installed. They run every time you boot your PC.

These little programs sometimes check for updates and often pre-load helper files, making the programs start quicker. Each also ‘steals’ a little RAM. That makes the computer run slower!

None of these programs uses enough memory to be a problem on its own, but in the aggregate, they become leeches. Using MSCONFIG, I turned a bunch of these little applets off.

Most computers also run antivirus and spyware suites. These are real resource hogs. I personally choose not to run either. It’s the Internet equivalent of unsafe sex, but it works for me.

I’ve never cleaned a virus from a computer that didn’t have antivirus software! Most new viruses are designed to get around them anyway.

Steve’s computer was also running slower because he was doing more with it. He now loads larger image files from his digital camera and manipulates them with Photoshop. Those files are compressed on disk, but must be expanded to their real size when played with. There’s a lot of complex math involved with photos.

When the new drive formatted (a long and tedious process) and the machine rebooted, he looked at me as if I was a wizard. It was really pretty simple. I’ve yet to kill a machine while trying to upgrade it.

PCs aren’t as expensive as they once were, but for years they’ve been a whole lot faster than we need for most tasks. If you surf the web, read email and occasionally play with photos, a computer that’s a few years old is plenty fine.

Real hard core ‘big iron’ computing is the answer for video editors, heavy duty photo manipulators and gamers. For everyone else, save a few bucks and wait.

Oh – and if you really have your heart set on that quad core smoker with 4 gb of RAM and a terrabyte of hard drive space – I won’t rat you out.

Down Eleven Pounds

If you invent the dietetic pretzel, you will be as rich as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined. I will kiss you on the lips.

My diet continues. So far, so good. I’m down 11 pounds. Yesterday I was down 12.

You shouldn’t look every day – right? How can you not?

When I last dieted, Dr. Steve looked at my blood numbers and said, “No more Atkins.”

Actually, he hinted at it. I picked up the hint. He said he was glad I did.

This diet is very different for me, in that I’m not being 100% strict. I have had cake. I have had pasta. Just less than I would have had before.

Mostly, I’ve made healthier choices… and avoided pretzels. I love pretzels. That’s the most difficult part.

If you invent the dietetic pretzel, you will be as rich as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined. I will kiss you on the lips.

Nowadays, instead of getting the “Chicken Caesar Wrap” at dinner, I’ll get the “Veggie Wrap.” No potatoes or fries, it’s grilled vegetables there too. Mayo is replaced by mustard. I’ve developed a taste for salmon. I’m losing weight a few hundred calories at a time.

My biggest change happens when I get home from work. There’s a whole lot less grazing, and (as I mentioned) no pretzels. I do eat a lot of fruit.

These are simple things. They are working.

I have dieting and weight theories. They aren’t based on ‘real’ science, but they make sense to me.

For instance, I don’t think I could go below 160 pounds and still be healthy. I have found 200 pounds is much too much weight. So, there’s a 40 pound range to ‘play’ in.

With that in mind, I’ve lost about a quarter of this ‘optional’ weight. I’d like to lose another 12-13 pounds, bring me into the mid-170s. As a grown-up, that seems to me to be my ideal weight.

Of course, the best part for me is seeing the results. It’s easy to see how much better my clothes fit. I’ll never become a swimsuit model.

When I was in my twenties, home cooking was Hydrox Cookies and Coca Cola. I had daily lunch at Burger King – Whopper, minus onions and mayonnaise, and a chocolate shake. I never put on an ounce.

Age is cruel. You metabolism changes and hair grows in all sorts of strange places.

Health aside, I’ve got too much invested in clothes to be heavy.

Learning About Lenses

When I carry my camera, I usually also take along my four lenses. I bought two when I got the camera, another one for my birthday and the fourth… do I really need to make up an excuse?

As it turns out, the fourth is the cheapest, simplest, most basic of my lenses. Made of plastic, it feels like a toy when held.

It’s called a prime lens – no zooming here. It has a fixed focal length of 50mm. What makes it different from my other lenses is its speed. It is a 50mm f/1.8.

I didn’t always know what that meant either.

It’s not the fastest, but this is still considered a fast lens. They’re called fast because low “f stop” lenses pass more light, allowing you to shoot with a faster shutter speed.

The added bonus is, low f stops produce a very shallow depth of field. In other words, the area in focus is quite small. That ‘feature’ makes this little lens perfect for portraiture.

I had the 50mm in tow Sunday when I went to a friends house to take some shots of his nearly one year old daughter. I’m not as good with people as I am with inanimate objects like trees and rocks. Still I managed to get off a few nice shots.

I used my all purpose 18-125mm zoom lens too, but the 50mm was absolutely the best. The softness of the background makes the shots.

Every time I pick up the camera, I learn something new. Getting at ease with this lens is part of that process. Even after 30,000 shots (really) on this Canon Digital Rebel, I’m far from proficient.

After seeing a few samples, my friend Steve sent an email tonight:

I won’t say “I told you so” but I told you so. If you recall, that is the lens I urged you to get and told you you’d fall in love with it. It’s what

will make you more of a “people” photographer.

Lenses are like children. You should never have a favorite. It’s just, I’m beginning to appreciate this lens more than I had.

Ameen’s Big Adventure

This is the story of a very good day. I credit it all to Ameen, someone I hadn’t met until this afternoon.

Today really started yesterday, when I called my friend and fellow photographer, Steve. Saturday was going to be beautiful. I had some free time. Would he like to drive to Litchfield County to take some photos?

Steve was here at noon and by 12:30, with my car’s top down, we headed north.

Where were we going? I had no clue. I’d printed out two Google maps. They were wide shots of Litchfield County – Connecticut’s northwest corner. The maps were good enough to help find a road back home, but not specific enough to take us anywhere in particular.

We took Route 69 through Bethany and Prospect to I-84 in Waterbury, then up Route 8 to Winsted. We were in the country now. We continued northwest on Route 44 to North Canaan. Not one photo had been snapped!

That’s why I hit the brakes and turned into the parking lot when Steve caught sight of the Collin’s Diner. It was very retro and very photogenic.

The diner was tiny, sitting toward the back of a large, but mostly empty parking lot. The building itself had a glass brick foyer, enameled outer panels under the windows and sweeping curved lines where corners are usually found.

We took our cameras from the trunk and began shooting away. A minute later a man walked out of the restaurant and in our direction. He was short, but muscular, with a do rag on his head, a chain with charms around his neck and tattoos on every part of his body not covered by a Wesleyan University t-shirt and Dolce & Gabanna sunglasses.

We soon learned he was Ameen. The restaurant was his family’s business. And, he didn’t mind us taking pictures if we’d send him copies.

We continued to chat and within a few minutes he’d invited us inside to meet his mom and the rest of the family working there.

When we were ready to leave, I asked Ameen where we could go to take some good pictures? He said, “follow me.” For the next few hours we followed Ameen’s hybrid SUV through rural Northern Litchfield County.

Over the past few years, property in Litchfield has become very desirable to New Yorkers looking for a country place. To many people, that’s the new face of Litchfield County. But Ameen has spent a lifetime in these hills and he was going to take us to meet some locals and see things only locals know.

I can’t tell you exactly where we went, but the first stop was the side of a quiet country road where the view was expansive. The mountains in the distance were part of the Catskills in New York State. Between us and them were working lime rock quarries.

We continued uphill. Ameen must have really known the roads because my little sports car kept falling way behind his top heavy SUV. We stopped at Rustling Wind Farm.

Ameen knocked on the door to make sure it was OK for us to take pictures. He got a yes and a hug! As it turns out, at one point he lived in a little house on the property.

Rustling Meadow is the kind of countrified place once foreign to a city boy like me. Even now, it’s heartening to realize places like this really do still exist.

We walked through the upper field, past reminders that horses run here, and stopped to listen to the wind. There was no city noise – nothing mechanical. There was, however, the rotting exterior of a real outhouse!

Back in the car, we headed to the Munson’s. They are a family out of Litchfield County central casting – Karl and Laura are very attractive and earthy parents with two exquisitely beautiful children&#185. As we drove up, mom and daughter were playing in the front yard. The younger son was up in a tree, sitting comfortably as if it were a living room chair.

It didn’t take more than a few seconds to notice a large, four panel solar array, mounted on a post. This single installation provides all their electricity! In fact, power lines from the local electric company don’t even come onto the property!

I’ve met people who were off the grid before – but they usually had to live spartan lives to make it happen. Not so the Munson’s, who store their solar bounty in an array of batteries and have enough for a few weeks of rainy days. There are a few concessions, like a gas powered refrigerator and fluorescent lights, but mostly you wouldn’t notice the difference… until the electric bill didn’t come.

The next thing I noticed was the stone. Karl is a stone mason, and there was what looked like a small stone home off to the side, with a bigger one in the process of being built.

Before there were any buildings, the Munsons lived in a yurt! Like I said, they were out of Litchfield County central casting. They could not have been friendlier or nicer, nor could their life seem more idyllic.

We headed out again, to our next stop at Wangum Lake, a reservoir for the local water company. Like so much else in Northern Connecticut, it is isolated, rural and beautifully pristine.

This was our last stop with Ameen, who was taking his sister out for her birthday. We said goodbye and headed south on Route 7, along the western bank of the Housatonic River. There was one more stop to make.

A few hundred feet off Route 7 in West Cornwall, Route 128 crosses the Housatonic via a covered bridge. There aren’t many of these left. It’s a one lane bridge running not quite the distance of a football field. Could there be anything more New England than this?

It was time to head home, a little over an hour away.

Connecticut never ceases to amaze me. It really is a beautiful state, with sharp contrasts between the shoreline and the hills in its northwest and northeastern corners. Today it was worthy of nearly 200 photographs from me alone. Steve and I had an excellent time.

There’s no doubt, we wouldn’t have seen half as much without Ameen. If you’re ever up in North Canaan, please stop by the Collin’s Diner and tell him we were raving about the hospitality. Next time, we’ll even try the food!

&#185 – Both Munson children were incredibly photogenic. However, this being the 21st Century, I’m not going to post their photos online.

Poker Night With The Boys

With Helaine gone, and me alone, it was the perfect night to have some friends over to play poker. They were scheduled to arrive at 7:00pm. I had six here by 6:45pm.

First, it’s nice to entertain. When I lived in Philadelphia as a bachelor, I did everything humanly possible to keep friends from my place. I’m a little more prepared now. Helaine may be away, but her influence is here.

This was an eclectic group of ten. There were Jeff, Matt and Erik from work, Tim and Steve who went to high school with Erik, Woody, Rick, Dennis and Ashley who drove in from Boston.

Ashley actually writes about poker for a few magazines. In a good and just world, he won’t write about my bad play… or bad hosting. If there are points to be made from what he experienced, he’ll make them gently.

There was beer and soda and snacks and lots of good conversation. At its essence, poker at home is really about conversation. Card playing is secondary.

My Car Is Sad

A few weeks ago, I opened my car door and heard something fall. Unfortunately whatever it was was inside the door panel. The door start opening with a bad sound.

A little while after that the driver’s window stopped retracting about halfway down. I didn’t connect the two right away. I do now.

The car is going for service next week, and my friend Steve (who is in charge of all things mechanical) said he would fix it.

End of story… except I opened the door today and it wouldn’t close! Whatever is broken inside is now wedged in such a way that it stops any motion.

Think about it for a second. Of all the mechanical things that can go wrong, this one is among the most serious. After all, the car no longer fits through the garage door! Even if it did, you can’t exactly drive with your door open.

I turned off the map light. I’m hoping there’s nothing else pulling current while the car sits idle in its parking spot.

Helaine, Steffie and I did a car swap this afternoon. Since Steffie and I are both working tonight, Helaine is homebound with strong thunderstorms moving through the area.

On My Way To Nashville

My friend Mike runs a television station in Nashville. Another friend, Steve, is the news director. They are in the midst of an interesting experiment. Depending on who you ask, you will be told it’s the future or the demise of local TV news.

On Friday, I’m going there to make up my own mind.

WKRN has decided to eliminate the line between reporters, editors and photographers. At that Nashville station, everyone’s a reporter who shoots and edits. They are called VJs, even though, to me, that name brings up memories of Mark Goodman, Allan Hunter, Nina Blackwood and Martha Quinn.

When I told this to some people at my station, they wondered how you could concentrate on getting the meat of a story while you were also worried about running the equipment? I don’t know. I want to see.

I think the vast majority of the photographers I work with could easily be reporters. They have to think like reporters to shoot well (and most of our guys are phenomenal shooters).

I don’t know about the reporters going the other way. Shooting a video camera is as much an art as anything else I can think of. It doesn’t seem to be something easily learned in a short time.

Reporters like to be seen in their stories. Stations like their reporters to be seen. How do you do that when you’re shooting and reporting? I want to find out.

What this rejiggering of resources does buy is a much larger head count on the street. You can cover many more stories, or assign people a longer time to cover a story, or you can use this technique to spend less money.

It would seem that last one is a very tempting outcome for a station’s owner. I am assured by my friends that’s not what they’re doing.

Moving to this new method of electronic journalism also brings new editing and storage techniques which should make the melding of TV news department and Internet news website easier. It’s all a brave new world, but will it be successful?

Is this how TV news will be done in the future? There are lots of vested interests who say no. In the right to work state of Tennessee it’s easier to give it a try.

I do know the hot breath of the Internet is being felt on the back of TV’s neck. At Yahoo, an ambitious plan is underway to add all sorts of video programming. It will all be on demand and without many of the content or time restrictions of over-the-air television. I’m still trying to decide if it will be a more or less expensive method of distribution?

Anyway, I’m excited about seeing my friends and spending time with them. I’m also excited, and in some ways petrified, that I might be taking a peek at the future of television.

I’m A Published Photographer

A few months ago I got an email from Ann Marie Schaummann from the Columbia County Tourism Department in New York State. She had stumbled upon my photos from Flag Day 2004 in Hudson, NY. Hudson is in Columbia County.

They were planning a brochure or a calendar or something. Would I make any of my photos available? The pay would be zip.

Of course. Are you kidding? I’m too naive to care about anything other than seeing my work in print.

I gathered all the photos, even the ones that hadn’t made it online in my photo album and burned them onto a CD.

And then… nothing.

In fact, I had totally forgotten about the whole thing until I got an oversized, slightly stuffed, yellow envelope in the mail. Inside was my CD, a letter and four calendars.

We selected an image of the Hudson High School Marching Band and placed it, appropriately, on the June spread in the 2006 Columbia County Wall Calendar.

Holy cow. It’s there.

The calendar is made to hang from a nail, thumbtack, or other suitable post. The top half of the June page is my photo. The bottom half is the calendar over a low contrast monotone blue version of my photo.

I can’t begin to tell you how cool this is. I am really quite excited.

I told my friend Steve, who remembered the photos in my gallery and wondered which one they choose?

I looked and looked and looked some more. The shot they used wasn’t there. It was my photo all right, but one I hadn’t thought enough about at the time to post to my website!

The photo they chose for the calendar was overexposed and not a particularly good composition. They cropped away a small portion (and I have too) where one half of a girl stood (her other half being outside my frame).

It’s OK, but it’s nothing special. Really. This isn’t false modesty. There were dozens of better shots.

I suppose this picture scratches an itch. And, with a few dozen kids at least partially visible, it’s sure to get on some walls. I even got a photographers credit at the bottom.

As I said, it’s very cool.

My Parents’ Medical Care – Not Well

My sister popped up on IM tonight. I couldn’t hear her voice, but I could sense she was upset. I’m not sure how that works in a few short typed words, but I knew. I picked up the phone and gave her a call.

She had spoken to our folks earlier in the evening and was upset. By the end of the call I was upset too.

Their doctor… their internist… had decided to affiliate with a program called MDVIP. Basically, in order to stay patients of his they would have to pony up $1,500 per year each.

The $1,500 would buy them an examination and wellness program. The bottom line is, they would receive similar care, still paying for each visit under Medicare, at an additional cost of $3,000.

The physician said this would allow him to limit his practice to 600 patients. Well yeah! Because his end of the $1,500 is $1,000 ($500 to MDVIP). Six hundred patients is $600,000 per year, plus whatever he charges to be a physician.

My blood is boiling because I consider this medical extortion. To me (though probably not to our legal system) this plan allows doctors to charge more than they are allowed to charge under Medicare.

Maybe I’m too naive – a babe in the woods. Grow up! Get with the program, Geoff.

A few years ago, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida got involved.

Nelson has introduced legislation in the Senate, S. 1606, that would prohibit doctors who charge access fees from also billing Medicare for their services. “If this practice continues to spread, it could mean the end of Medicare,” Nelson said. His legislation doesn’t address people covered by private health insurance. It would be up to the insurer whether to allow doctors in its network to charge consumers such fees.

The fact, three years later, my folk’s doctor is doing this, says Nelson failed.

Maybe I’m missing something? I dropped a note to my doctor/friend, Steve. No answer yet, but I’m anxious to get his read on this. After all, he’s on the other side of the stethoscope.

Yankees Versus Angels – At Yankee Stadium

Last weekend, I took in a Phillies game. It was the first major league baseball game I’d seen in at least fifteen years. Yesterday I took in my second.

I got the call early in the week from my friend Steve. A friend of his, a Yankee season ticket hold, had an extra ticket. Would I like to go?

Later it came out, Steve knew I wasn’t a Yankee fan, but thought of this as a photo safari for me. Good thinking! Our seats were down low in right field, beyond the dugout.

I met Steve at 8:50 and we drove to our rendezvous point where Norm, the ticket holder, picked us up.

The drive to the Bronx was a breeze. We made one stop on the Hutch (see my previous entry) and then headed past Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo to a stop on the #4 train.

This was a great idea. I haven’t been to Yankee Stadium in nearly 50 years, but I’ve heard traffic is horrendous. Taking the train for the last few minutes eliminates the crush of traffic going into and out of the stadium. Anyway, I love the subway and can’t remember the last time I was on this classic elevated line.

Looking down the tracks from the Fordham Road station, all I could think of was a roller coaster. The tracks went downhill, not steadily, but with few little bumps along the way. Finally, they took a dip and disappeared.

Getting off the train put us right next to the stadium. We were too close to have any perspective of its physical size. There are majestic views of Yankee Stadium from the Major Deegan Expressway, but none from our vantage point.

Norm’s daughter joined us here and the four of us walked around the outer edge of the park and into the Stadium Club. The Stadium Club is a very nice restaurant. In a venue where a beer can cost $8.50, the Stadium Club’s prices keep pace! We sat down for brunch.

Norm had celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, like me. Part of what he wanted had to do with Yankees and he had made arrangements to get us down to the edge of the dugout before the game started.

Unfortunately, being that wasn’t quite enough. The players never showed and we retreated up the foul line to our seats.

Let’s talk a little about Yankee Stadium. I have been there before. It was some time in the late 50s or early 60s. My dad had somehow gotten tickets to a football Giants game.

It was a day as cold as I can remember. We sat under an overhang, in the end zone with an unobstructed view. The smell of cigar smoke was thick enough to cut with a knife.

I don’t remember anything about the football game. Nothing.

Sitting in our seats a few minutes before game time gave me a chance to look around. The stadium itself (as opposed to the field of play) was smaller than I expected. Though the paint and fixtures seemed to be in good repair, the stadium looked old and tired.

The field itself was spectacular. We had come early enough to watch the ritual as the lines were carefully painted up the base paths, along with the batter’s and coaches boxes. The infield dirt was gently raked and then lightly sprayed, turning it a beautiful brown.

I’m sorry I’m not a Yankee fan, because this was an amazing win for them. Trailing all game, and looking sad doing it, they rallied in the bottom of the ninth and won as Hideki Matsui lined a double into left field.

A few sections up, a group of Japanese fans celebrated in a way I haven’t seen since I saw my grandparents celebrate at my Bar Mitzvah!

All I could think about was the pitcher, Francisco Rodriguez – aka “K-Rod.” He’s on my fantasy league team. He had just given up two runs, four walks and picked up the loss! Ouch.

I must admit, the vast majority of the game was seen by me through the lens of my camera. I brought the Canon, both lenses and nearly 2 gb of memory. Nothing was wasted.

In fact, it wasn’t until after the game and a chance to thumb through my photos that I realized how awkward and stressful a pitcher’s motion is. This is the kind of thing you just don’t get to appreciate unless the motion is stopped.

Having seen the Phillies last week, I was ready to try some new and improved techniques. My timing on fly balls and swinging bats is better. I also decided to sacrifice ‘noise’ (the digital cameras equivalent of graininess in an old fashioned photo) in order to shoot with a very fast shutter and open aperture.

For most of the game I was capturing images at 1/3200 second. That was enough to freeze every bit of action I saw. Opening the lens a little less increased my depth of field, making it easier to get sharper pictures.

When men were on first, I turned the autofocus off, focused on 2nd base and hoped for a play there. A few times that move paid off. Mostly it didn’t.

My favorite shot came as Juan Rivera of the Angels chased down a home run to right. I caught him as he jumped, hoping to find he ball. He didn’t get it but I did… well, at least I got the shot.

As the game ended, we poured out of the stadium and headed back to the “el.” This strategy of Norm’s worked again. In ten minutes we were in the car and faced no traffic all the way home to Connecticut.

Isn’t this strange? After all these years I get to see baseball games on consecutive weekends. And, there’s the possibility of more. My friend Bob is coming up from Charlotte, North Carolina in a few weeks. We’re not totally set in our plans, but he’d like to see the Red Sox play the Angels at Fenway.

I’m ready.