Sunday, November 30, 2014

Photo-of-the-Week #187 Walking Through Trees, Kings Canyon National Park, California, May, 2009

Yes, I mean, literally, walking through a tree, not through the forest. This photo was taken at Kings Canyon National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in central California, east of Fresno. It is north of and contiguous with Sequoia National Park. This tunnel bored through a tree giant sequoia. The person at the other end of the tunnel is my son, Pete, who is about 6' tall. That should give you an idea of the size of this tunnel.

Kings Canyon National Park, as well as Sequoia National Park, is home to a grove of giant sequoia trees known as the General Grant Grove named after President Ulysses S. Grant. Most prominent of the giant sequoias found in the park is "General Grant," the third largest tree in the world, dating back some 1,650 years. It is 268.1 feet tall, 34.2 feet in diameter and 107.1 feet in circumference at its base. That is one BIG tree. It's actually less than 7 feet shorter than "General Sherman," currently ranked as the largest giant sequoia and tree in the world.

It is awe inspiring to stand amid these giants that have not only endured more than a millennium, but some have endured two or more millennia. There is actually one tree (not a sequoia) that is estimated to be well over 5,000 years old. This tree is in the United States, but it's location is a very tightly held secret for security and preservation reasons.

I imagine the National Park Service fears that if its location becomes known to the general public, the tree might suffer the same fate as the, somewhat, famous landmark single tree on One Tree Hill in Auckland, New Zealand. It was attacked twice by activists, once in 1994 and again in 2000. The tree did not survive the second attack, was removed and has yet to be replaced. I was fortunate enough to visit One Tree Hill and the tree in January 1991.

There are few places where you can walk through or drive through trees other than California. I also drove through a giant redwood once in the Pacific coastal redwood groves. Regardless of whether you walk or drive through a tree, it's an awesome experience. Just think of all that has happened in our world since some of these trees first sprouted roots.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Photo-of-the-Week #186 - Titillation or Natural, Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, September 2003

No pun intended with the title of this Photo-of-the-Week, although, I'm sure many will think there is. I'm going to wax philosophic over the topic of, in particular, breasts, boobs, hooters and a plethora of other terms used for a natural part of ALL humans' anatomy, plus the human body in general. I'm sure some of you may be put off by this, however, I can assure you nothing perverse, lewd or lascivious follows. This will be fairly long and unusual for my Photo-of-the-Week post, but I'll reveal my motivation for this article near the end.


I took this and several other photos of women exposing their breasts on Bourbon Street in New Orleans in 2003. The question is WHY do women bare their breasts in public like this? The next question is, WHY do men  go crazy over seeing bare breasts? Is it because they get to see nipples? Interesting! Every time I take my own shirt off and look in a mirror, I see . . . guess what? Nipples! I've also seen men who have developed larger breasts than some women have. Yet, we don't get all crazy when we see bare breasted men.

Okay, maybe at my age, old enough to be a certified "dirty old man," I've seen enough women's breasts that they no longer (I'm going to use the word again) titillate me to quite the same degree they did when I was in my teens, 20's and 30's with my raging hormones. But, think about it, breasts or, for that matter, male and female genitalia are as natural parts of every human body as fingers, toes, the nose on your face and the ears on the side of your head.

We go to museums and see beautiful paintings and statues of the female and male body completely exposed. We even take our children there and expose them to, what we call, ART. Yet, we have turned the same parts of the human body that are part of this art, into objects of (again, I use the word) titillation, lewdness and worse. We even have laws against indecency for exposing these parts of the body in public.

Until relatively recently, the anatomical names of these body parts weren't even allowed to be used on television, radio or even movies. Even the press was loathe to use them in news stories. We called them private parts or private areas (and still do in many cases). A more recent slang term that's become somewhat popular, especially when referring to male genitals, is "junk." Sorry, I ain't got no "junk."

So, why is this? There are tribes of people around the world, still, who wear little or no clothing. We even show video documentaries of these indigenous people in their natural state on television. Nudity is as natural as sleeping and eating to them. Well, until we and, dare I say, missionaries, indoctrinate them in their shame. Shame they never knew.

There are countries, in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and even Canada, not to discount Australia and New Zealand, where nudity (not public displays of sexual activities) is generally legal and/or tolerated. And, yes, there are private naturist resorts and some public beaches in the U.S. and places like San Francisco, Oregon and Key West, Florida where public nudity is accepted for certain situations and events.

Are There Rewards?

The women who expose their boobs in New Orleans are typically rewarded with a strand of cheesy plastic beads. I'm sure they don't put any greater value on those beads than any other cheap trinket. I believe they do it to express their own desire for personal freedom, freedom from being told or forced to conform to someone else's values, standards or definition of moral behavior. The more beads, the freer they feel.

And, where did this all start? Could it have been in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve discovered they were naked and ashamed? I won't even approach the topic of religious oppression and open a MEGA sized can of worms.

Standing around the woman in the photo above, who, by the way, does not have a super model body, but she does seem to be enjoying her opportunity of free expression, are both men and women ogling her. It's as if the guys have never seen boobs before. I interpret the expressions on some of the women as - "Geez, I'd like to feel the freedom of doing that," but they are remembering everything they have been taught and conditioned throughout their lives about how "good girls" should behave in public.

Follow The Money!

We can take another tact on this issue. Is this not about MONEY? Think about it. How much money does the clothing industry make every year designing and selling push-up and Wonder bras, see through blouses and dresses, mini skirts so short they more properly should be considered belts, sexy panties and thongs and bathing suits.

It amazes me that women, in particular, are exploited for huge amounts of money for sexy underwear, but don't want men to see it in public because the men are seeing too much of their bodies. Yet, the same women will prance around beaches in bathing suits that often expose more of their skin than the underwear does. Sometimes the tops barely covers the nipples and the bottoms, well, those have spawned another industry called "waxing" that's required to remove hair that would be seen peaking out of the skimpy bathing suits and bikini bottoms. There is even a name for that - the "bikini line." These bathing suits and the necessary "grooming" associated with them cost more than a full skirt or pair of dress slacks for business. And they cover so little, nothing is left to the imagination anyway. Why even wear them?

A Slap In The Face

As an aside, as a young teenage boy,  I had my face slapped one time. The assailant was a particularly cute girl in, believe it or not, my biology class, because I mentioned the cute birthmark she had on her inner thigh near her crotch. She wore the shortest mini skirts in the school of nearly 4,000. She accused me of looking up her skirt. Actually, I saw the birthmark during the preceding summer when a bunch of us went to the movies and she was wearing the shortest, tightest short, shorts, again, of any girl in the school. She didn't try to hide the birthmark then and it was obvious to everyone. I tried to explain, but got nowhere. Secretly, I think she was flattered and (here it comes) titillated herself that I (or any guy) would want to look up her skirt.


Joe Francis, an entrepreneur of questionable character, amassed a fortune estimated at $150 million. He achieved this bounty by photographing and video taping thousands of young, mostly attractive, women, typically of college age, who would bare their breasts or drop their pants, or even perform sex acts in public places. He typically gave them a T shirt as payment and had them sign model releases. He then produced DVD's and later streaming videos by the millions and sold them to men.

Joe's company's name, started in 1997, is GGW, LLC (Girls Gone Wild). He went to college campuses, Mardi Gras, Spring Breaks, Fantasy Fest and similar events. The girls exposed their bodies willingly. The market, of course, was men of all ages.

But, Joe didn't want to be unfair, so he started another GGW for Guys Gone Wild using the same business model except he sent our female camera crews and the market was, you guessed it, women. Joe got himself into a lot of trouble over the years. He's no longer owner of the company. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013, but not because there isn't still a huge market for the product. 

I could go on and on with examples of both female and male strip clubs, so-called, high-class "Gentlemen's Clubs" where men could bring their dates (and the dates would actually be treated with respect), as well as, adult lingerie and "toy" stores and "glamour" photographers. The list could go on and on.

Idealizing The Body, Yet Oppressing Free Expression Of The Body

Here's the thing. As a species we have allowed ourselves to become repressed by religious doctrine, moral standards dictated by someone else and conditioned into us and laws enacted by people (unfortunately, often hypocrites) who determine what is legal behavior and legislate morals. I contend this has done two things.

First, it has spawned several huge, multi-billion dollar industries (hooray for free enterprise and capitalism). Second, it has turned something that is natural and beautiful into something considered by many to be lewd, dirty, sordid and tawdry, the nude human body.

We allow television producers to depict horrific scenes of violence and disembowelment in high definition. There is even a new category of actor in the Screen Actor's Guild, "Dead Body." Yes! Actors who play dead bodies. Meanwhile, it creates news of epic proportions and public outrage when Janet Jackson's nipple appeared on the TV screen for a fraction of a second during a Super Bowl full of violent gladiators attempting to rip each other's heads off. Because of this horrendous event, we now have millions of children who are scarred for the rest of their lives. Me thinks there may be a problem with the definition of "public indecency."

The Wrap Up

Okay, time to wrap up my philosophical diatribe on the breast and human body. But, first. allow me to explain my motivation for this article.

I have posted two other photos of women baring their breasts on Bourbon Street in past Photos-of-the-Week. They are, to date, two of the three most viewed photos on my blog, to the tune of thousands of views. They vie only with one other photo and God only knows why. It's a photo of the barracks I stayed in during basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. In those other two photos I blurred out the nipples and left the faces exposed and I'm sure all the viewers were disappointed. I may go back and reverse the blurring process as I did with this one.

I believe we are an unbelievably hung up society. I am as bad as the next person, male or female. I won't be a hypocrite. Actually, I think, and this is my opinion based on a very small sampling, that women truly want to be freer. Since Women's Lib, they have come a long way. Many choose to express their desire to be less confined by tradition, various forms of conformity and a male dominated society through opportunities to wear revealing and/or skin tight clothes or, even public nudity. Perhaps it is actually with the specific intent to titillate.

I've talked with any number of women who have said they would love to be able to walk around topless, as men can, especially at the beach and other social events. Some are comfortable with total nudity in public and social arenas. Some said they often wear little or nothing in their own homes because they are most comfortable that way. I don't believe it's because they want to turn men on sexually or titillate them in public. It's simply because they feel confined in clothing.

I honestly have not questioned men on the same subject. They may have similar desires and feelings. I'm personally turned off by men's baggy, long swim trunks. I'm, also, not into the Speedo swim suit (especially at my age). But, I keep looking for a decent swim suit that allows me freedom of movement. However, there is nothing like skinny dipping.

Obviously, clothing definitely serves an important purpose with regard to various kinds of weather. Certainly, that was a factor in humans creating clothing, after all, we are "The Naked Ape." Clothing in our current culture also defines who we think we are, how we want to be accepted, how we are feeling on a specific day and, certainly, for workplace safety in certain occupations. So, I'm not dissing clothes for women or men.

 I'm simply suggesting that if we weren't as hung up about the natural aspect of the human body and conditioned to be modest by some other individuals' standards, beliefs and values systems, perhaps we wouldn't experience the kind of guilt and exploitation we currently deal with and my New Orleans photos views wouldn't outnumber my other photos-of-the-week by magnitude of tens and hundreds.

Who knows, maybe, if we were all more "comfortable in our (nude) skin in public, it might even reduce, hopefully, by significant numbers, crimes against women. But, then again, maybe women actually do use clothes to purposely titillate men . . . for their own reasons.

 I keep forgetting that "Women Are From Venus and Men Are From Mars." Maybe in the grand scheme of things we're never supposed to truly understand one another. Meanwhile, I sure don't mind the Victoria's Secrets commercials and I enjoy Bourbon Street (and similar) when I can visit them.

I'm sure I'm going to get blasted for this post, especially, (or possibly) by women readers. But, at this age and since this is my "living free" blog, I feel completely free to express my thoughts, opinions and beliefs. I, of course, invite all feedback. Comment away.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pimping - Oops, Make That - Primping and Prepping My McVansion For The Next Major Trek.

Well, as the old saying goes (from Robert Burns poem), "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." And that's true of my plans to be on the road heading west by October 1st. I had a project from a very long-term and very good client come in about 2 months later than it was supposed to. So, while I could have managed the project on the road, I was dealing with at least one new vendor and that made me a bit more wary.

The project was the production of a new book. It was an informational book about metal roofs and the ultimate client (my client's client) for the project was the trade association representing that segment of the industry. So, everything shipped from the book manufacturing plant (the new vendor) this past Wednesday and most of the drop shipments reached their destination today. My invoice is out and I'll hopefully receive payment very soon.

The Primping And Prepping

During parts of the summer and the fall, especially during this two month delay in my departure, I've been getting little things done on the van, making a few changes and modifications and so on. It's like having a house and a vehicle. There's always something that needs to be done. The only difference here is that the house and the vehicle are one and the same. And, as I had some extra time, I'm doing some of the projects I planned for a little further down the road.

Here is a short list of some of the general things I needed to have done to the van itself to be ready to get back on the road:

*Oil Change
*Top off all the fluids
*New cable linkages for the side door and the back door
*Front end alignment
*Make a modification to the van so I could get to my spare tire
(I'll explain that more if you ever see My McVansion in person)
*New wiper blades

My mechanic also ran the OBD1 codes (sure wish I had OBD2) and found one code that should not impact anything

There are a number of modifications/improvements I'm making to the interior "house" part of the van. Here's a list of what's done or will be done before I roll down the road in the next week and a half or two:

*New 1,000 watt (though it will run 1,200 if pressed) inverter
(the 400 watt inverter remains and will feed certain electronics
when necessary)
*Changed the storage units for clothes, food, cooking/eating utensils and other sundries (thanks again to Walmart)
*Added an indoor/outdoor thermometer
*Raised the galley counter top about 2" to accommodate the new storage units
*Higher current capacity 12 volt wiring and sockets in the galley area
*Mounted the LED digital volt meter in a panel with an on/off switch
*Installed the side and rear door block out curtains (sides were done)
*Built and installed 2 extra shelves in the right rear storage under my workstation desk accessible from the rear doors of the van
*Wired 12 volt power sockets to the workstation to power both 12 volt gear and USB equipment (I have USB adapters for the 12 volt sockets)
*Ran an additional 110 volt circuit to the right side of the van behind the refrigerator to use to power electric space heater from shore power
*Permanently mounted multiple 12 volt power socket blocks in the cockpit to be used for 12 volt power or USB power (with adapters) also ran various wires to appropriate electronics in the cockpit.
*Acquired a new ceramic radiant space heater
*Acquired a new Mr. Heater Portable Buddy propane space heater
*Acquired a Fantastic Fan Endless Breeze high velocity 12 volt box fan
*Acquired mosquito netting for several windows
*Acquired Sirius satellite radio with an A La Carte service ($8/month)
*Prepared moveable acoustical panels for when I need to turn the van into a voice-over studio for a client's work or some of my own projects
*Acquired a new Bluetooth speaker system that is one of the best I've heard anywhere to use for monitoring while I'm working on audio editing projects. It doesn't come close to matching up to my studio monitor system, but it's too large and this is a very good compromise (and it will sound great for playing back music and movie sound)
*Acquired a 12 volt power adapter for my laptop computer (more  energy efficient than using the 110 volt adapter)
*Acquired a two burner propane stove
*Acquired a few new cooking and food prep utensils and repaired the 110 volt plug on my small smoothie/chopper unit

And then there are the works still in progress:

*Install a microphone stand mount on the workstation desk to accommodate either a microphone or one of my digital recorders for voice-over projects (I think I have everything I need)
*Change out the driver and passenger seats with another pair I have in storage
*complete a cover for the right side rear wheel well shelf - shelf in place just needs cover
*install a drop leaf counter extension on the side of the refrigerator enclosure for added food prep area (counter is ready to mount)
*Sand, remove rust, prime and paint a few rust spots on the right and rear rain gutters
*Acquire a new large capacity back-up hard drive
*Acquire a variety of SD Flash Cards
*Acquire a new GPS unit (almost bought one, but decided against it, still shopping for the right unit at the right price)
*Acquire a new dash cam to replace my great Kodak Zi8 (that I want to use for more video documenting - I acquired another dash cam, but I'm trying to send it back, totally disappointing piece of equipment)
*Acquire a new 2 meter amateur radio rig and 2 meter and 10 meter antennas (I seem to have misplaced the ones I had)
*Rethink what recording gear I need to carry with me, the least possible
*Reorganize and reassign storage space for maximum utilization

Projects still in the research phase:

*Find some kind of better sink or camping sink arrangement for the galley as well as finding a satisfactory gray water arrangement.

The Work Is Never Done!

Like I said earlier it's like having a house and a vehicle, they just happen to be one and the same. Sometime after I get back on the road, I'll take a batch of new photos showing the variety of improvements to the lifestyle in my particular tiny house on wheels.

Some folks keep things very basic, simple and almost primitive. They like the flexibility of being able to reconfigure whenever they choose to.

I prefer to have things laid out for my convenience and creature comfort. Don't misinterpret that last statement. My van is not a luxury unit like most of the $90,000 to $140,000 commercially converted vans known as Class B motor homes. But, my van is designed specifically for my needs and works darn near perfectly for me. It cost me many tens of thousands of dollars less than those classy Class B units. But, I haven't found a Class B that actually fulfilled my expectations. That being said, they are perfect for many other people and they are very popular.

A house (whether on a foundation or on wheels) isn't a home until you make it your home and that's what I keep working on with My McVansion. And there will always be one more thing, like, eventually, adding solar power to make it even easier to stay off the grid for longer periods. It's just a continual work in progress. For someone like me, I enjoy the challenge of using my creativity and the variety of skills and experience I have to create something that is my own designer original.

I will get more of these projects complete before I hit the road, however, the call of the open road is getting louder and louder. Stay tuned, the wheels will be turning westward very, very soon. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Photo-of-the-Week #185 Pride & Disappointment - Clifton High School, Clifton, New Jersey, September 2013

50 Years! Yes, it was 50 years ago in June of 1963 that I graduated from Clifton High School. And, here I am back at this school 50 years and three months from my commencement into adulthood. An interesting factoid is that my Class of 1963 was the first class to graduate from this structure or, as we termed it back then, the "new" Clifton High School.

A lot has happened during those 50 years. Clifton High School seems to have aged well. It is still a very pretty, clean and well manicured campus. The trees are now mature as opposed to the newly planted saplings in 1962 when we first walked on the campus. Other than a new wing being added sometime during those years, the structure appears to be much as it was 50 years ago.

Another factoid about CHS is that when it opened in the fall of 1962 it was the largest single high school in the state of New Jersey. Fifty years later, it is still the largest single high school in the state of New Jersey. There are larger school districts in the state, but they have multiple, smaller high schools. Clifton is, also, still the 11th largest city in New Jersey.

I think most of us hold a certain pride in the schools we attended and graduated from. I certainly do. I'm proud to say I'm a CHS, the Fighting Mustangs, graduate. Of course, CHS was only 10th, 11th and 12th grade when I attended. The new wing that was added was for the 9th (freshman) grade. When I was in school, we were on the junior/senior high school plan. Clifton, like most boards of education have gone to the elementary - K-5, middle - 6-8 and high school - 9-12 model, necessitating the addition of a 9th grade, freshman, wing to the campus. But, I also felt some disappointment while I was visiting the campus. I'll explain that after this short montage of photos. Like the old saying a picture speaks a thousand words.

This is the main entrance to the school. The high, windowless brick section is the auditorium. I forget the seating capacity, but it's a lot of people and you can see it's pretty large, the small section with windows in front of the auditorium is the administrative offices. The covered portico area is the main entrance where the school buses discharge pick up their passengers. To the right of the administrative offices are dual gyms for the guys and gals. 

This is one of four classroom wings to the left of the auditorium in the photo above. The other three wings are lined up behind this one. I don't recall the order of the wings, but there is one for each of the four years of classes, freshman through senior. The classrooms are designed for classes taught in those particular years, though different grade levels may take classes in the different wings. 

This is the side view of the first wing shown in the photo above. There is our Mighty Mustang mascot on the side of the building. I don't know if it's still the same now, but when I attended, we could go out the side doors and migrate from wing to wing for our various classes. You can see on the third level there is a bridge that connects the various wings. I don't recall that bridge being there when I attended. Classrooms are on both sides of the doorway.
This shows just how large this campus is. I took the photo standing in the parking lot beside the first wing in the photo above. If you look carefully, you can see the three other wings. They are all identical on the outside. And if you look way up the parking lot across from the buildings, you can see My McVansion parked and it's not all the way to the end of the complex. It's a little more than midway. You can get an idea of how big this structure is. 
This is from the other end of that same parking lot. I'm standing near the fourth wing and looking vack down toward where I took the photo above. Again, you can see My McVansion in the photo and gain some perspective as to the size of the complex. Look at the number of the parking space - 276 - I wonder what the highest number was. Obviously, they are all assigned. 
This sign on the main entrance set me back a few paces. I.D.? I was looking to see if they had an eye retina scanner anywhere around the door. 

This sign also set me back on my heels a bit. Yeah! I know about Columbine and Sandy Creek and Virginia Tech and so on, but this just chilled my blood thinking we've reached this point in our society. Personally, I don't think as a species we've advanced. If anything, we've declined as a society.

So, there is Clifton High School. What you didn't see is the dual gyms, one for the guys and one for the gals. You also didn't see the library and what used to the home economics, industrial arts, art and music part of the structure that was in the back of the school. And, you didn't see the circular cafeteria located in the center of the school structure like a hub with the kitchen in the center feeding the four quarters of the cafeteria. There were halls that led off each quarter of the cafeteria to different parts of the school. It is quite a structure and was probably the most advanced public high school complex in the U.S. in 1962/63. Many community colleges have been modeled after the design of the CHS campus.

Now for my disappointment. First, the school is now locked like a fortress. And the doors are so solid they feel like they may be armored, probably not, but I couldn't even rattle them. I visited after school hours, but there was still activity going on and I could see workers in the administrative offices. I couldn't get in the building to stop in the administrative offices and see if I could walk the halls of my alma mater and relive some memories. There was an intercom outside the main entrance that asked for me to press the button and communicate with the "guards" inside (I was beginning to feel like the place had turned into a prison). No one replied to my repeated buzzes. Ultimately a gave up.

The signs on the front door were also jarring. Wear I.D. as a student when I entered the building? It also looked like there may have been metal detectors inside the door. It also felt like I had just driven up to a major airport with a sign saying if I was dropping off or picking up a passenger I had to remain in the car. And that if I didn't act appropriately I would be prosecuted. We had none of this nor did we know anything of this nature when I attended the school 50 years prior. Also, there were substantial gates at all drivable entrances and exits from the campus. Again, something unheard of when I was there.

I noticed a number of students around the school and they were of a variety of ethnicities, races and nationalities. This showed that the school population (as the city population) had become diversified from the working, middle class, "white bread" (my term because I'm one of them) community that populated Clifton and the school system 50 years ago.

So, is diversity good or bad? Yes! I embrace diversity. I love people. I do my best to be color blind, respectful of all religious beliefs, nationalities, gender preferences, ethnicities and socio-economic differences - EXCEPT, when someone else of another of any of these characteristics, other than my own, makes an issue of it. So, sure, I think diversity is good. But, I've also seen visual changes in my hometown, many detrimental and degrading, as well as the surrounding cities. These changes are in communities and neighborhoods that used to be well kept, quiet and peaceful. So, in those cases, maybe not so good.

As for good old Clifton High School? Well, I'm happy to see that 50 years has been kinder to it than to most of us from that first graduating class. We're now dealing with aches, pains, wrinkles gray or loss of hair and moving slower than we were back then. That is, those of us who are still alive from the original class of 1963 that numbered about 800+ (The Class of '64, had around a thousand, I believe).

I'm proud to say I'm an alumnus of the Clifton High School, Class of 1963 and the first class to graduate from the "New" CHS. I'm disappointed to see some of the changes that have taken place during those 50 years. Technology may be light years ahead of where it was back then, but I think, in many ways, society has declined. You may feel differently, that's your right. But, I calls it as I sees it. I felt like a stranger in my hometown.   

One final note to any of my classmates from the Class of  '63 who read my blog, especially those still living in Clifton or the nearby areas. Nothing I said here is a reflection on you or who you are or have become. Each of us left CHS to begin journeys as diverse as there are opportunities in the world. We each trod our own paths, experienced different things, lifestyles and parts of the United States and other countries. We are a now a product of all of these. I am only reporting my thoughts and feelings about Clifton and CHS from my perspective, as one who left Clifton in 1967 never to return to the area to live. Your views and feelings may well be very different from mine and I respect you and your views. If you care to leave a comment and voice your views, I welcome you to do so. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Photo-of-the-Week #184 - Remembering Our Veterans, Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina, December 2004

I want this photo to stand on its own. It was taken at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. It was at this location that the first shots were fired of what became the bloodiest war in U.S. history. A civil war that pitted brothers against brothers and fathers and sons against one another.

There is not much more to say except that I'm proud and glad to be an American despite all our problems as a country. As a Vietnam Era, U.S. Air Force veteran, I'm proud to be one of those who took the oath to defend our Constitution and serve our country during one of, if not the most, unpopular wars in our history.

As an American and as a veteran, I salute every American man and woman who took that oath and served our country regardless of whether they are alive today or passed on or suffered disabilities or made the ultimate sacrifice, from the Revolutionary War through our current strife. It doesn't matter what branch of the service, whether a member of the Union or the Confederate military, what war they served in or what their job was. Everyone deserves our undying gratitude and I hope everyone reading this who is a U.S. citizen will remember that on Tuesday, November 11, 2014, Veterans Day, especially my fellow veterans. I'm sure there are citizens of other countries who are grateful for our veterans' sacrifices on their behalf, too.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Photo-of-the-Week #183 The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music, New Creek, West Virginia, September 2010

The musical genre known as Bluegrass is alive and well and moving people around the country. This photo was taken at a small bluegrass festival in a small, unincorporated area of West Virginia called New Creek, probably named after the creek of the same name that runs through the area.

As you can see, there are hills in the background and this site was actually up on a hill. It doesn't take much to set up and bring people together for events like these. Bluegrass musicians seem to be as plentiful in the mountains of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina. Of course, many current bluegrass musicians come out of city locations like Washington, DC, Baltimore, Nashville and so on.

What I like about these musicians is that most of them are home grown, most have never had any formal musical training or lessons and they most often have full-time jobs ranging from hard working blue collar occupations to the professions, often with multiple degrees and certifications.

I've been to a number of these festival gatherings over the years and you not only get to enjoy the musicians on stage, but often there are jam sessions with many equally talented and capable musicians in the parking lot or camping areas. As you can see from this photo, some of the musicians at this festival take this business seriously and do it full-time as evidenced by the tour buses in the background.

You meet some mighty fine folks at these events and they are family events the entire family takes part in. The music basically originated in the mountains and was one of the main ways mountain folks, often of Scotch and Irish ancestry, entertained one another. The list of country musicians who came from these humble roots is long.

So, if you've never been to a bluegrass festival, I highly recommend you avail yourself of an opportunity when it arises. If, like me, you have been and enjoy going to these musical events, just jump on that Orange Blossom Special and join me for some great music.