Friday, April 30, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 119

Taken: April 29, 2010, 3 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca.

Know what I was thinking about when I took this photo? The secret of life.

I am not kidding. As presumptuous as it sounds, I'm pretty sure I've discovered the secret of life.  I'm not going to make you wait any longer, either. The secret of life is ... paying attention.

Stop rolling your eyes. I'm totally serious. Think about it for a minute. Think about how many times you kicked yourself for missing something. You can tell yourself you were distracted or the signs were too subtle or whatever excuse you have handy at the moment. But if you're really honest with yourself, you know you weren't paying attention.

It's like that famous test where a roomful of criminology students are interrupted by a guy who runs in and does something crazy and suddenly leaves. More than half the class won't be able to tell you what he was wearing, will miss obvious details and even some students will be sure they saw something that didn't happen. Society runs by fast as shit I know. It's like we're in a bullet train and life is that blur speeding by us outside the window. No wonder we miss so much.

I started this project because I wanted to see more. I wanted to pay closer attention to the stuff that's happening around me. Here's the biggest revelation: I'm spending a lot less time online now. Crazy right? An internet project has got me to go offline more. Go figure but it's totally true. And in some ways, it's totally great. I've been visiting fewer web pages, posting less on message boards, concentrating more of my time sitting at the computer at creating (and yeah, editing photos too).  And best thing of all, I'm reading more.

Trust me, you learn a lot by shutting up and watching. By sticking your nose out and breathing in, by touching and feeling, tasting and hearing. And the more you concentrate on being aware I find, the more you're prepared for surprises, both physical and emotional. You'll amaze yourself by how much doesn't surprise you. Everything is in the details.

365 Photo Project - Day 118

Taken: April 28, 2010, 10:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

As I post this, I'm coming up on being almost three days behind schedule. That's how hard I've been working. So hard, I've had nothing left in the tank for my blog. Hopefully, this won't be a regular occurrence. I apologize in advance for any more lapses. Since I'll be posting three days of photos tonight, I'm going to make this post very short.

I went out to shoot the full moon for this image -- it was so bright you could turn off your headlights and drive by its light.  This is one of my "mistakes" -- a more experienced photographer can tell you better what's happening here because I have no idea. I assume it's a lens reflection. Whatever it is, though, it's kind of cool. I didn't edit this image at all. I mean I did try to edit it believe me, but everything I did to it made it look worse than the original. And since I have precious few shots to choose from, this will have to do.

Shot this with my K100D and my old manual 300mm fixed lens.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 117

Taken: April 27, 2010, 5:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I promised myself I wouldn't post too many of these kinds of shots even though around here, temptation is everywhere.  All you gotta do is turn one way or the other and there they are just waiting. Calling out for you to just stop and snap. And occasionally, I do just that.

Such a day was today, I just couldn't help it. After the rain last night and most of the day, the sky was painted blue and white, dark and light -- like it was a psychedelic's trippy dream. It was very neat -- enough that when I stopped to pick up the mail at the bottom of our hill, I decided to take a few shots. I really expected to use a different image but I couldn't get away from this one.

The one saving grace is that I don't think I've taken this shot before -- normally I take them looking south (I don't know why, I just do). This one is looking north toward Healdsburg's town center.

Anyway, I hope y'all won't mind one more wine country photo op.

I shot this with my K100D and edited in Photoshop.

Monday, April 26, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 116

Taken: April 26, 2010, 11:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

It started to rain tonight. Haven't been keeping up with the weather reports so the inclement turn of events caught me by surprise. Here I was getting used to the sunshine.

Isn't that just how life is, always sneaking up to bite you in the ass? Shoulda known it was coming by the tenor of the sky this afternoon. I stepped outside for a break and it was heavy with bluish gray clouds. You could smell rain. But I didn't believe my eyes and ears. I'm so used to the lovely last few days, I figured whatever was stirring would pass on by with barely a whimper. Not quite. Spring's showers ain't done with us yet.

My husband tries to make sure we always have fresh flowers in the house. It's a wonderful idea and not too expensive if you dont care what kind of flowers you buy. We've got several vases around the house and every other week or so, he brings new flowers home to replace the old ones.

He doesn't think I notice but I always do. They make me happy.

Probably, I should tell him. Tomorrow I just might.

365 Photo Project - Day 115

Taken: April 25, 2010, 3:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

This weekend was one of those wine country events we have throughout the year. That's when crowds descend on our little town and visit all the wineries with wine glasses in hand. Sort of like our own little mini Mardi Gras, only people here are much better behaved. Which can be a good or bad thing depending on your point of view.

Normally I avoid going anywhere near the center of town but friends from Napa were passing through and it was a breathtakingly lovely afternoon so meeting them for a brew seemed like the only civilized thing to do. Even took a window-shopping walk around the Plaza.

A well-known local designer, Myra Hoefer, had this line of chairs with hats on them set up outside her small shop on the Plaza. It was hard to get a good shot of it -- one side was a wall of parked cars. But I like the way this one turned out.  All credit to Myra -- just glad I was there to get a shot of it.

Taken with my K100D and edited ever so slightly in Photoshop.

365 Photo Project - Day 114

Taken: April 24, 2010, 7 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Stop me if you've heard this before but I had a mini revelation this weekend. The big lightbulb? Make my life simpler. So okay I realize you didn't just faint dead of shock right there but seriously, is there anyone you know that doesn't make their lives harder? Not only by the choices they make but the things they don't do?

I'm guiltier than most. I put off things until the 11th hour when I'm forced to deal with something that some part of me probably hoped would magically disappear.

Bad enough when we do it to ourselves but much worse when we make things harder on the people in our lives. Harder to see yourself doing that, too.

I've always gotten a buzz from helping people. I know in that is an inate selfishness but if that's what you call the wonderful high I get when I can do a good turn for another person, than so be it. I know what's in my heart - don't gotta prove nothing to nobody.

I'm not the only person who faces the tasks of one's life in a seemingly shrinking time frame. More stuff to do - fewer hours to do it in. My answer today is to simplify and organize. To make my life easier in practice if not reality.

Possibly harder than it sounds naturally. But then easy is its own make-believe, providing there's any truth to the hard road being the best road. It often is if your goal is not simply to get there but to arrive a more complete person.

Today, I'm going to take baby steps toward arranging my life a little better. Putting the focus on the work, getting stuff done, letting focus back in house. Organize. Simplify. Gotta starrt somewhere.

The image is of a barn on our street, lit by the dying day's light. Yep, The Magic Hour.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 113

Taken: April 23, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I had some technical trouble today (that's Friday the 23rd to be precise) - my camera's batteries went dead and I forgot to charge my backups. Big oops. I had just enough juice to get off one shot.

I got lucky with it twice. The first was that it came out reasonably well and the second was that while it's a view I've taken many times, the angle is discernibly different than the previous captures. Good omens all around.

Perfect timing, too.

Thank you to those of you who sent me words of encouragement since my last couple of post. Maybe it goes without saying, but knowing y'all are out there makes this project that much more worthwhile. I mean I could write it in a vacuum and really, that's how it started but what would be the fun in that. A writer writes to be read (a few notable exceptions on the Salinger, J.D. team) and there is no greater incentive to push onward that knowing there is a faithful audience out there somewhere hanging on your every word, more or less.

Like I've said in recent posts, I knew this would happen. After all, we talk every day here and you can't help but get to know each other a little bit. Not only are rough roads inevitable but so are hits to my generally cheery disposition. Nature of the beast as they say.

You guys seems to understand this more than I did and I appreciate those of you who said it to me plain. Yes, it's about pushing forward, weathering the bad days, navigating the pot holes but it's also about the simplicity of just doing. Shoot first, ask questions later. Or as I like to remind myself, write, don't think.

More good stuff has arrived by way of the final blooming of spring. Wide open landscape as far as the eye can see with nary a cloud to spoil a sky that is - as Bruce once said -- "unbearably blue." And then some. This kind of weather is like a drug to my, salvage for my soul. I can't experience it without taking its full measure and without it taking mine. Spring is my time of year, when the Mets are always in contention and for me anything is possible.

And it's going to be some hell of a spring, too. Two more weeks on my current project and then it's a self-imposed deadline to finish the new novel rewrite by the end of May. I've never felt so physically connected to finishing a project. Getting to the end of this book is like a redemption, like the act of writing The End will somehow free me of a disease inside me. I must finish, I must finish now.

As soon as I'm done writing my current script, I'm diving head first off the high board and into the deepest part of the pool. Sink or swim and hold my breath the whole way. It's gonna be a bitch and a half but it oughta be a blast too. I'm looking forward to the challenge and to beating back some old demons of mine and maybe finding out a little more about myself in the process. Be something more to share with you.

I shot this with my K100D and edited it Photoshop with a very light application of the Topaz labs filters that I'm trying out for 30 days.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 112

Taken: April 22, 2010, 6:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I'm not feeling this project these days. Not sure if it's fatigue or boredom or a just a fear that nothing I shoot is any good. But whatever it is, it's wearing on me some lately.

I know this because I've found myself scrambling the last few days just to get an image in before the deadline. Even when I do finding something to shoot, I'm taking fewer shots and finding one to use is getting harder and harder. Maybe I'm just getting more picky.

I knew I might have days like this -- I was aware the idea of taking a new photo every day would get tougher and tougher as the weeks went by. I knew that my head would be full of ideas on day one but that like any other creative endeavor, there would be a moment when my mind would go blank and I'd think: well, what do I do now?

I don't want to say it's a burden, but I admit on some days, the pressure gets to me. Partly it's because I realize that I'm not just doing this for myself now. Maybe I don't have a helluva lot of readers but those few that I do have are now part of my journey. And I don't want to lose y'all by not keeping the photos coming. I'm already guilty about not writing as much these last couple of weeks.

Fortunately for you, I'm one of those people who hates to break promises, especially to myself. And the hard way seems to be the only road with which I'm familiar. I'll just have to weather these blahs and forge onward.

Doing this project is the first time since my days as a reporter when I have to produce something pretty much every day, rain or shine, idea or no. The first part of my adult working life was spent writing for newspapers, a job I fell into easily and confidently.

There was a moment in my career when you could say with certainty that I was born to be a reporter. I was good at it, noted for being dogged, determined and I'm pleased to say, fair. Even my so-called enemies respected me.

I can recall in detail, the few times I scooped my competition -- details like where I was and what the weather was like, the time of day, the smells. Like the time I beat the Washington Post to a big-time college football story. I was working in D.C., on my way back from covering the old Big East/ACC Tournament at the Meadowlands (which dates my ass for sure).  It was just starting to snow as I hit the Garden State Parkway in my Ford rental, one of those pseudo- sports cars that would slide all over the damn highway all the way home.

I was racing the weather but it was midnight and the papers were hitting the streets in the District and I just had to find out if the Post had the story in its early edition. So I pulled over at a rest stop and called the copy desk. When the copy chief told me it wasn't there, I literally did a dance right there in the snow. I'm sure it wasn't pretty to look at but oh, what a feeling.

I swear that moment seems so innocent by today's standards.

I ain't breaking any news when I say journalism is a shadow of itself. Instant gratification was the first blow but the characterization of solid reporter as being someone "left" or "liberal" was the death blow. Now we got places like Fox News (and to a certain extent MSNBC) that masquerade as real journalism but is in fact nothing more than pointed commentary. But when lies and half truths and propaganda are sold as fact, the slippery slope turns 90 degrees downward, straight on into hell.

I soured on journalism long before I finally left. I hated the idea that the bottom line was becoming more important than doing good reporting and I realized that as long as newspapers had to make money to survive, it was going to be harder and harder to do it right.

What's worse, I don't think I have that fire inside anymore. I no longer dream of being one of the "boys on the bus"nor do I still count bylines or try to figure out who's getting more stories on A1, who's above the fold and who isn't.

I do miss the being part of something, being a fly on the wall of small town politics. There was a moment during my time in one community where I knew everybody's business, where not much went on without me knowing or getting filled in shortly thereafter.

And yet I kind of like being anonymous too. I like the not knowing.  Sometimes I think I'm becoming complacent. But that's why I have to keep this project alive. I have to stay in this game. No turning back neither. So I guess I'll see y'all tomorrow.

The motel in this shot is situated right at the entrance to Healdsburg, I don't know how old that sign is but I love that it feels like it's from another time. I caught this image just before sunset -- the light was fantastic. Wish I could have caught it better. But if the image feels a little dark, it is. I wanted the lights of the signs to stand out more.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 111

Taken: April 21, 2010, 10:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

This is likely to be one of the rare shots of my husband, Ignacio. He doesn't like his picture taken and he really doesn't want to be a subject  -- in photos or conversation -- of this blog.  I certainly don't blame him for wanting to maintain his relative anonymity here and I've tried to respect his wishes.

I asked him for permission to take and use this image -- it's of my husband with our youngest pug dog, the one whose name translates to "little devil."  The truth is he's a little sweetheart most of the time. He just loves to be the center of attention, loves to snuggle and cuddle and do all those things that my other pug (aka the Old Man) doesn't really have the patience for.

But even in this shot, you can see the devil in his eyes. Trust me, it's in there.

365 Photo Project - Day 110

Taken: April 20, 2010, 3:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

New shot of my favorite bridge. I've always wanted to take this shot -- I mean I think about it every time I cross the bridge and see the girders through my windshield. That's exactly how I shot this, using the trusty K100D. I edited it a little bit in Photoshop.

I'm still exhausted as hell from my writing binge so I'm going to keep this short. I feel like I'm in the dog days of this project. But I'm trying to push on through.

Monday, April 19, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 109

Taken: April 19, 2010, approx. 6 p.m.
Location: Santa Rosa, Ca

And now for something different.

I attended a pre-opening of Santi Restaurant, which just moved from sleepy Geyserville to Santa Rosa, just a bit south on the 101 as the crow flies.  Santi will always have a special place in my foodie heart. It was one of the first regular dinner stops for my husband and I when we first moved up here. Made some friends, ate some great Italian food and made many good memories there.

A combination of events have made our visits to Santi rarer these days. For one, we moved to a different part of town, a couple places opened closer to us and well, we're not eating out as much anymore.

It will be nice to have a reliable place in Santa Rosa now, a town that's still finding its culinary identity. With Santi now in the mix, they'll do just fine.

I shot this with my K100D using the external flash. Edited lightly in Photoshop.

365 Photo Project - Day 108

Taken: April 18, 2010, 11:56 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

I'm calling this old school. And it's right under the wire too. I snapped this just before midnight. I first used a cameras like this when I started taking pictures as a kid.  My dad had one and he let me use it, believe it or not. I'm pretty sure I eventually broke it though.  I want another one of these -- I'm dying to try my hand again at the larger format cameras now that I'm taking pictures every day.  Maybe I'll find a working one before the end of this project.

These are part of a bunch of old cameras my husband and I have collected over the years. Between  us, we have quite a few and he puts them out around the house like art.  I love the look of these cameras. Like I said, old school baby, old school.

Like me. Well not old school, just old and exhausted.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 107

Taken: April 17, 2010, noon
Location: Healdsburg, Ca.

Missed a day because I'm writing nonstop. Was hoping to be done this weekend but alas, not quite. But progress has been made and I'm more than halfway home. It feels good to force myself into a writing schedule. My goal now is to keep on trucking. I'm beginning to think this is my year.  Time will tell but as tired as I am right now, I'm feeling like it's the good type of fatigue. The kind that means something real is getting done.

I shot precious little this weekend. I even considered subbing in an old shot for the next day's photo (which is today's photo as I write this). But in the end, I got in a shot just before midnight -- a little homage shot actually (you'll see it soon enough). I guess I'm really committed to seeing this thing through, to taking at least one shot a day. Or maybe I should be committed. Whatever.

I'll be writing more as the week progresses. I promise.

I can't get through the day without my coffee. I'm addicted. I like good coffee, too. No French roast for this girl. I'm all about the water temperature and my silver Bodum bullet-shaped french press. Just the right amount of steeping. Yeah, I'm way into my coffee. Our best local coffee place is The Flying Goat, or The Goat as we locals refer to it. I love the kids over there -- I know some of them even read my blog (hey Jacob) -- and even though I make my coffee myself every day, I love stopping by, grabbing a table and gabbing with whoever walks in. And I'm sort of addicted to their Chai Lattes. But you know, we don't even have to go there.

I mainlined so much coffee this weekend that when I slipped into bed Sunday morning at 5:30 a.m. after being up since 10:30 am Saturday, I couldn't fall asleep. Hell,  I couldn't sit still. I'm getting too old for this shit I tell you.

I shot these mugs at the Goat on Saturday when I went by to have my Thermos filled up for my all-nighter. Used my K100D, the internal flash and edited it in Photoshop.

Friday, April 16, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 106

Taken: April 16, 2010, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Still writing.  And thinking.  For most writers, writing is one of those pursuits you do alone, where you spend hours and hours sitting in front of a computer or typewriter or notepad, often in a darkened room with no sound to speak of save for the voices in your own head. It should be no surprise then to learn that writers tend to be an odd bunch. Blame it on all that time we spend talking to those voices of ours, mining our imaginations for words and phrases, secrets and lies, love, tragedy, horrors, comedy --- a veritable cornucopia for our shrinks.

So when I tell you I've been thinking, you know I've been really thinking. My thought of the day - you're never alone. Ever.

Even when we are physically by ourselves, even when we experience the worst life throws at it, the agony, the pain, the bullshit -- even when we feel we are the only unhappy person in the world, we're not. Misery may not love company but it sure has company. Your story, no matter how wretched, how unlucky, how sad, is one of many just as a sad, even sadder. You could walk outside right now wherever you are, throw a rock and hit some guy with a sadder story then yours.

That doesn't make us lucky. It makes us part of something bigger than ourselves.

Seriously, cause that rock could just as easily brain someone a lot like you, who has walked your tough road, been down your highway of hell and lived to tell the tale. And if you're lucky, he'll even pass on whatever wisdom he learned from it, maybe ease your trip a little. Writers know this because when we tell stories, we look for universal truths in them, the shared experience of being human. That's why you can read a book or watch a movie and think "I know exactly how that feels."

I know some people can't see it, but most of us know deep down that we're joined at the hip with the rest of the human race. Being alone, I'm thinking, is just a state of mind. The truth is we're surrounded all the time, everywhere, even when you're sitting by yourself in front of a computer talking to your voices.

This image is of the old Healdsburg railroad tracks which have been out of use for years. They run behind my office building along Hudson Street and most afternoons I like to walk along them, by the boarded up depot and on into center of town. This was edited a bit in photoshop.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 105

Taken: April 15, 2010,  5:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

This image is one of my experiments. It's very typical of my modus operandi. And by that I mean it's just like me not to be able to sit still for five seconds and just do nothing. Yeah, I know. Me, the person who likes to contemplate my navel before roadside vistas of natural beauty. That me, you ask?  Well, yeah. It's true. Now you know why I need the contemplation.

My mom called it shpilkes (hell, she still does). Shpilkes (pronounced shpill-kiss) is Yiddish (or Yinglish according to some folks) for nervous energy, an inability to sit still. I'm still afflicted by it. Why I'm always fiddling with my iPhone, why I check websites obsessively sometimes,  why I often do two, three things at once.

Back to today's image. When I first moved up to Healdsburg, I started going to this automatic car wash in town. It's one of those places where you put your credit card in, drive up, let the thing do its work to your ride and off you go. Fast and easy, right? Well, yeah if you're not talking about me and my shpilkes. I just can't even sit still for that. So this one time I'm sitting in my car waiting for the damn wash to get itself over with, when I picked up my digital camera and started shooting the patterns of soap and water on my windshield. Voila: water art. 

That's what this image is - me, sitting at the car wash today bored out of my mind. Like I said a few posts ago, it doesn't take much to amuse me. 

I shot it with my K100D and edited it in photoshop. Added plus: my car is all nice and clean now.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 104

Taken: April 14, 2010, Noon
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Maybe some people get tired of seeing landscapes like this every day but I don't. This is actually on my road -- I drive by it every single day. And every day, rain or shine, there's something amazing about it. We've been getting lots of post rain clouds lately that have been taking residence in the crisp blueness of the sky like so many cotton balls. Today, there was a line of them drifting quickly across the lower horizon.

I love the way scenes like these pass by my window as I drive -- like little movies in my mind. I've always been inspired by the natural world. When I was a kid, I found it on Cape Cod during our summers there. The sun and sand, wind and sea -- and yeah, those big-ass storms that would roll in off the Atlantic and bring heavy rains and winds that rattled the walls of our summer house. I would lie awake late at night, peering over the covers as the big rain drops slapped loudly against the window. The trees thrashed and moaned, like monsters trying to get inside.

Lying there, I would make up stories and people them with characters of my imagination but I almost never wrote them down. I tried to remember them in the morning they were never as interesting as when I came up with them during the storms. Guess I needed the drama.

When I'm getting close to finishing a new project, I drive around a lot, listening to my iPod and taking in the world around me. I know it sounds corny, but I try to just be in the moment. Let my senses experience the sounds, the smells, the view. Stop for a second, breathe in, breath out and just sort of let my mind reboot. The act of driving itself has always helped me work through thinking problems but there's nothing like stopping the car, getting out and standing at the edge of a vineyard or a field or a line of tall oaks and gaze out at that forever and a day view in front of you. Nothing to do but bow to loveliness of nature and make sure to keep your voices down, inside and out.

I shot this with my K100D, edited it slightly in Photoshop.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 103

Taken: April 13, 2010, 4 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

We had a lovely day today. Crisp, partly cloudy and bright. Rays of yellow sunshine shimmered through the tops of the oak trees, casting a glow on the green landscape, made even greener by all the recent rains.  So I dutifully went outside and snapped away. Lots of clouds and stunning sunlit images. Lots of pretty this and that and even a nice capture of the view down from our little hill here.

Did I use any of them? Nope.

I saw this hastily shot image as I was perusing today's stash and I decided I had to use it. It amuses me.  And, you know what? That paw up there belongs to my pug Louie who is without a doubt the best four-legged companion I've ever had. (Beats a good bit of my two-legged ones too.)  So if he wants to step into the act, as it were, who am I to get in his way?

I'm going to get back to work now. Big progress is being made in small increments. Ah, the writing life.

Shot this with my K100D and edited in Photoshop.

Monday, April 12, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 102

Taken: April 12, 2010, 3 p.m.
Healdsburg, Ca

I can't keep apologizing every day for these short posts so please bear with me for the next week -- I imagine a day or two where I just have time to put up my photo and a brief description. I imagine that will happen tomorrow.

Today, I just want to say another word about my friend, David Mills, who was laid to rest this morning in College Park, Maryland. I so wanted to be there but circumstances conspired against me and I couldn't make the trip. It's going to be a long ass time before I'm going to be able to think of David and not be unbearably sad. I don't think he would want that - I think he'd want me to remember the good stuff. I'm going to try. Soon.

For now, I guess I just want to wish him a safe journey wherever he's going. I wish his family and friends the comfort of remembering his undeniable spirit, his talent, his boundless enthusiasm for the work and his infectious curiosity about the world.

Rest in peace, David. You will be terribly missed.

I'd like to think it's no coincidence the sun came out today, casting a burst of light on the world. The clouds stayed around like little fluffs of cotton floating in a sea of blue. I walked over to my favorite bridge and stood in the center of the road and snapped away. It was cool and crisp and when you breathed in, the air was filled with the floral promise of spring.

I'm looking forward for sure, but it's with a big dose of melancholy. Tomorrow will come and I will be here and life will go on. But it will never be the same.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 101

Taken: April 11, 2010, 1 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca.

Still writing. In fact, I'm doing an all-day/all-nighter and I'm stopping here just to update my blog. 'Cause you know, that's how I roll. This is another shot of the railroad bridge that's parallel to the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge I also like to shoot. It was pouring rain today. Again. The best kind of weather for staying inside and working. This image appealed to me -- a light at the end of the tunnel. My finish line. Maybe it's wishful thinking but you guys know by now that I'm a bit of a day dreamer. So, I'm going with it.

So here's to long nights and lights at the end of them. Until tomorrow, then.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 100

Taken: April 10, 2010, approx 4:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Day 100. Wow. I thought I'd make it this far -- I mean I had no doubt I'd see this project through to the bitter end, but I didn't think it would be this hard. And to think: only 265 days to go (gulp). In honor of my milestone, I thought it was time for another self-portrait. Even after doing a few of these, I haven't gotten over how much I hate photos of myself. Thus my penchant for taking pieces of myself for these photos (I'm easily amused).

I'm still writing. Will be through the weekend. The drama of the last couple of weeks has really thrown me off and I'm playing catch up. Our string of perfect spring days got interrupted today by a dreary, cool and listless day. Just the kind that makes staying inside in front of your computer a lot easier. Sunshine stay away for a couple more days, okay? I got work to do.

I wish I had time to make more of getting to triple figures but work calls. I'm sure I'll have more to say when I finish this damned script and have time to think about my life again. Mmm, maybe this deadline writing is a good thing?

I do want to thank my readers for sharing the journey so far and for your comments and support. I never set out to write this for anybody but myself, never thought I'd have many readers at all and it's true my following is small, but knowing somebody is out there waiting for each post, makes it easier to stick with the project. I hope you'll continue to tag along and let me know what you think.

I shot this with my K100D and edited it in Photoshop. Just, you know, to make myself look a lot cooler than I actually look.

Friday, April 9, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 99

Taken: April 9, 2010, 1 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Gonna be another quickie today.  I'm so deep into my script right now that I find my mind is empty of anything but what I'm writing about. That's the thing about writing. Sometimes I find I'm so focused in the world of my creation, that I can't even hold a decent conversation. And to know me is to know that I talk. A lot. So when I'm at a loss for words, it's pretty unusual.

I have discovered in the last week that I love having an office outside the house. I've had a little one-room office in my little town for about year and although it's a mess and not very well organized, I get a lot done here. I love taking a break in the middle of the day and walking (or driving) the short distance to the main part of town. I'll get my coffee at my favorite coffee place and drop in on my friends at various establishments. I love making the little circuit, seeing the same people, gabbing about stuff -- the familiarity of it used to be shocking (I've lived in big cities most of my adult life) but I've come to really rely on it.

I happen to be writing a script that takes place in a small town so living in one has been a pretty good education. Even though the town I'm writing about will have to be more insular, more risque and volatile (it's TV after all), the lessons are the same -- both good and bad. I mean in a small town you find that knowing everybody and them knowing you (or at least know of you) is a great thing on some days and an awful thing on others. The trick is to figure out if it's a good day or a bad day. Believe me, it's not always that cut and dry.

I shot this with my K100D and I was going to tell y'all how I got this image but somehow I think it will rob it of its magic. I'll just say it was barely edited in Photoshop, just a click or two.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 98

Taken: April 8, 2010, noon
Location: Healdsburg, CA

This is going to be a very quick drive-by post. I'm working late tonight writing, trying to find the rhythm of a script that's due in a ridiculously short amount of time.  And right now, said script is kicking me five ways to Sunday and then some. (Otherwise I wouldn't be here right now). But fair warning: for the next few days, deadlines will take precedence over blog lines.

I must say just one small thing about the day. It was breathtakingly perfect.  Warm and comfy, with skies so clear and blue they made me want to cry. The true grace of it was the crisp early-spring breeze that tempered the heat, that made it possible to stand outside your favorite coffee shop and lean against a parked car and talk to a friend you just happened to run into as the sun was taking its final bows for the day.

Days like today I just want to live in eternal springtime.

The shot here is out in that cool-ass backyard our ours. It's similar to an image I used back on Day 18 -- taken through a canopy of the oaks that surround the house. Interesting to see how the view has changed from January to today.  And also how differently I'm looking at the same landscape. One thing I hope is that I'll learn and grow as a photographer over this project and going back to the same places over and over will tell that tale.

This was taken with the trusty K100D, which has been a little cranky lately -- starting to worry it won't make it through the year with me  (anybody have friends at Pentax?) -- but there's no turning back now. Not with day 100 quickly approaching. Anyway, I gotta hunker down for another hour or two. Catch y'all on the flip side.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 97

Taken: April 7, 2010, 10 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Instead of boring you with my morbid musings today, I thought I'd try something a little different. As many of you know, I'm a published novelist although I have not had a book out in more than a decade. The reasons for this are varied, mildly complicated and more than a little depressing. It's not that I haven't been writing -- I write all the time, almost every day, pages and pages -- it's just that I haven't finished a novel worth publishing. That's about to change.

In the next few weeks, I'll be putting the final touches on a new book. It's called "Blood Matters." It's not a Zen Moses book (she is my detective character) but a wholly new character, and it's a lot more serious and (I hope) deeper and richer. I'm not knocking my Zen books -- I love 'em -- but I was ready for something new and I'm not always the kind of writer that gets to The End the easy way.

I'm as proud of this new work as anything I've ever done. Some of you have read excerpts that I've posted here and on Facebook. I don't think I've ever posted these particular pages so it'll be something new for everybody I hope.

Without further introduction, then, here's an excerpt from "Blood Matters," the novel. Please note that this excerpt and everything else I write on this blog is protected by copyright. That means if you wanna use it anywhere and for any reason you need my permission. Period. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the read and please excuse any typos -- the line-edit is still a few weeks away.

Downtown Los Angeles used to be a wasteland on nights and weekends. During the day, the streets teem with investment bankers, secretaries and lawyers who navigate the sidewalks against the push of the homeless, tourists and the bike messengers who play chicken with cell-phone chatting drivers looking for the oasis of a parking spot.
But like cockroaches when the lights go on, at closing time they scatter to points in all directions – intent on sitting in the infuriatingly slow-crawling traffic jams in order to get as far away from the skyscrapers as possible.
Slowly, residential buildings are rising up along side those glistening corporate towers and more and more people are moving into loft-style apartments hoping that the Staples Center and the stunning Disney Hall concert building will lure city dwellers into the actual heart of the city.
They’re still waiting. A few short blocks from some of the newest lofts lie a series of streets even a tough guy would avoid in the daylight. On this side of downtown, cheap motels stand side-by-side to empty needle-strewn lots and half-boarded up liquor stores, warehouses next to more warehouses, where people sleep in every doorway and there isn’t anybody around to tell them to take it somewhere else.
Perc had parked his car across from the Beacon Hotel, kept the engine on and the air turned up high. He was listening to a Public Radio Show called “Fresh Air.”
The host was a woman named Terry Gross. Perc had a thing for her. Well, he had a thing for her voice. It soothed him. It made him feel connected to the world. Half the time he didn’t pay attention to what she said, it was just the way she said it that he liked.
Today she was talking to some washed up rock singer who was starring in his own reality show, an arrogant prick with a deep voice who used big words to make himself sound intelligent. Perc was sure it was a cover and he was dumb as shit. People didn’t realize how much you could tell about them just by listening to them talk. Perc had always been able to break people down in the interrogation room. His secret was to listen. The longer you listened, the more you learned and the easier it was to find an opening.
This rocker was talking like he was smarter than everybody but Perc knew better. He was proud of Terry when she called him on it. It made his fucking day.
Perc couldn’t stand it any longer. He was either going to cross the street and go upstairs to see if his father was still breathing or he was gonna put the damn car in gear and drive somewhere and get hammered.
Frank’s words from last night echoed in his head. There was truth in them, as usual. Frank had an annoying way of getting to the center of things. Even when he pissed Perc off, he had to admit when he had a point. And he was right about Perc seeing his old man. It was now or never. And never, Perc considered, was a fucking long ass time.
He cut the car’s engine and opened the door to the oppressive whoosh of hot air. It was Sunday. The street was quiet, save for a couple of derelicts sharing a brown-bagged bottle on a bus bench, an ad for cognac painted behind them. They eyed Perc as he jaywalked across the street.
He stopped in front of the Beacon, looking up at the side of the building. The brick fa├žade, painted hundreds of times, had faded to a warm brown color and a fine, reddish powder lined the street at the bottom edge of the building, as if it was disintegrating right there in front of him.
One of the derelicts spit on the ground, showing a mouth of missing teeth.
“Who you gonna hassle up in there, po-po,” he said. “Even God takes himself a day off.”
“I’m not a cop,” Perc said.
“If’n you say so,” the man said and took a swig from his bottle, laughing at him. “If’n you say so.”
Perc shook his head. A good cop knows a troublemaker from a mile away. Guess it figures it works the other way around too. He waved at the two drunks and went inside the Beacon.
The elevator was working but he couldn’t get it to stop on the seventh floor. He had to pass it twice before he gave up, getting out one floor below and walking up.
The stairwell was dark but empty except for a litter of used needles and condoms and crushed cans of malt liquor. Guess the local junkies had somewhere else to be on Sunday. The hallway heavy with stale air and reminded him of his bad dream, the one he’d been having over and over again for years. The shrink he saw at the department said with work he’d be able to make sense of what it meant. The shrink said a lot of things, most of which Perc thought was common sense or common bullshit. Half the time he changed his mind over what was what.
The walls were cheap plaster white or brown that had gone gray and the carpet on the floor was blotched with stains of unknown origin. The dominant smells were a gag-inducing mixture of piss, sweat and sex.
He found 709 at the end of the hallway, next to a window that was propped open with a Budweiser bottle. It was quieter than he expected but through the thin walls he could pick up sounds inside, a t.v. squawking some bible thumper’s sermon, a couple arguing and other noises he figured were best kept a mystery.
His father left the L.A.P.D. a few years before Perc signed up, which suited him just fine. He wore the uniform his entire career and spent the last decade as a desk sergeant in Rampart. He was old school, which isn’t a compliment from Perc’s point of view.
He was a hard ass and a drunk who, even years after Daryl Gates had slinked away as one of the bad guys, believed problems were solved in windowless backrooms with a billy-club and an open fist. Perc had heard ugly rumors about Sergeant Leo Baldwin, even that he’d sent a few lowlifes to an early grave, but he suspected a lot of it was just talk. His father was one of those men who traded in violence, but only up to a point and that point being to show he was tougher than the next guy. Most of the time, a guy like that only had to prove himself once. After that, you lived on your rep as long as you could.
Perc knew Leo’s secret better than anyone – pick on the weakest person in the room and do it in a way that makes the other guys think twice about what you might do to them.
Perc understood this about his father from a very young age and when he was eleven put his theory into practice. The balance of power shifted that day between father and son and it was the last time Leo had laid a hand on his son in violence.
Still, rumors aside, as far as he’d ever heard, his father had only fired his weapon in the line of duty one or two times, and that was years ago when he was just another green behind the ears beat cop.
What life he had led in the years since his retirement were mostly a mystery to Perc, although occasionally on those rare times he would drive up the coast to visit his mom long after she’d finally left Leo, she would mention him as if they had spoken recently. She never gave him specifics but then he never asked for any either.

He was standing in front of Room 709, staring at the peeling brown paint and the old-fashioned key lock like it was a oracle that would reveal the secret of life to him. It was maybe five minutes before he finally tapped on the door. Nobody answered. He knocked louder.
Then he tried the door. It was locked. He felt a presence behind him and turned to see a waif-thin transvestite who seemed to appear out of nowhere.
“He’s in repose,” the voice said.
She was puffing delicately on a Virginia Slims with lips that were painted the color of blood. He put his hand against the wall to steady himself against the rising tide in his stomach.
The transvestite held the cigarette between her lips and in two easy steps was beside him, one hand on his shoulder, the other on his arm.
“You okay, honey?”
Perc didn’t move even though he didn’t want her to touch him. He kept his eyes closed until the moment passed. When he opened them, and got his bearings, he took a step back. He noticed with embarrassment how she gracefully gave him space without acknowledging his obvious slight.
Instead, with the cigarette between two fingers, she smoothed the folds of her bright green house dress, which she’d buttoned all the way to her neck. She wore a red and yellow flowered scarf in her hair. Her skin was a light coffee color, smooth and even like a child’s but age lines scored her mouth and eyes.
A favorite teacher once told him that he didn’t have to look for humanity because it would find you when you least expected it. It was something he tried to hold on to but his years on this earth had beaten him to a pulp and he long ago stopped expecting it at all.
Yet, here was this woman or man or whatever proving his teacher’s theory without effort or ulterior motives. Still, all Perc could think was that he didn’t deserve it. That’s how fucked up he was.
“You here to see the Sergeant?” Her voice had the sing-song cadence of the deep South and she played it for all it was worth. She said sergeant like it had three syllables.
Perc hadn’t heard his father called that in years.
“If he’s sleeping, I could come back later.”
“Na-uh, honey,” she said, producing a set of keys. “He don’t get many visitors. From the looks of you, I think you’s the one he’s been waiting for.”
“I am?”
“You the prodigal son, ain’t ya?” She said prodigal prod-di-gi-cal and it sounded like a whole different word.
She jangled the keys for him to see. “I’m kind of his nursemaid, I guess.”
Perc was amused and surprised by this. He watched her unlock the door and push it open. She held it for him, the stringy muscles on her arms popping out with definition. She saw him appraising them.
“Ran track at Santa Monica College back in the day,” she said and winked at him. “Me and Carl Lewis were tight, but not like you mean.”
She giggled, putting her hand to her breast. “Sorry, honey. I tend to go babble. Go on inside. I won’t bother y’all.”
Perc hesitated.
“He caint bite you no more,” she said, allowing herself a generous smile as if she knew all his secrets. “Go on now.”
He stepped inside the room. She closed the door behind him.
He thought he smelled death in his apartment but he realized standing there in that dark, seedy one-window room that he had no idea what the smell of death was until this very moment.
He crossed the room in two steps, passing the shadow of a human strewn out on the bed, and ducked into the door-less bathroom so he could vomit in the sink. He had to hold himself up for several minutes before he was able to step back into the room again.
He stood over the figure of his father feeling far more pity than anything else, but also seeing his future in the dark, soulless eyes of the person he hated more than anyone else in the whole world.
He was thinner than he’d ever seen him but other than that he wasn’t the small, shrunken old man Perc imagined when Frank told him he was dying. The only indication of whatever was killing him was the constant hum of the breathing apparatus shoved into his nose, and the bag of shit and piss on the bed next to him.
His father was lying on his back, his eyes closed, his mouth open slightly. His chest heaving an irregular beat, so slight, Perc was sure it would stop at any moment.
“Well what the fuck,” Perc said out loud.
His father’s eyes opened suddenly, opening wider in recognition of Perc. His lips moved but Perc couldn’t make out the words. He stepped closer. On the side table was a beat up copy of the bible, a pack of Marlboros and the lighter his father had carried around with him as long as he’d ever known him. It was silver-plated and engraved with the image of St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Policeman. And, Perc remembered, lost causes.
“Perc,” his father said. “Well, fuck me.”
“I just wanted to see you one last time, make sure it was true what Frank said.”
“I’m a dead man,” he said. “Lung cancer. What’s really fucked up is I still want a smoke.”
Perc was surprised at how strong his father’s voice sounded though it was accented by the scratchiness from a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. Without warning, he launched into a coughing fit that was so violent Perc wasn’t sure he’d survive it. It stopped as suddenly as it had began and for a moment Perc thought he was dead.
Then he opened his eyes again, motioning for Perc to come closer.
“Good-bye, Leo,” he said but his father started to lift himself off the bed. His once-powerful arms had gone soft, too weak to support his frail frame. Perc wanted to dismiss the pity he felt but he couldn’t do it.
His father accidentally dislodged the breathing tube from his nose and he started to gag immediately, the color drained from his face and in his lips started to turn blue. Perc watched him for what seemed like forever, not sure he had the strength or the inclination to help him. But in the end, Perc had no choice. He guessed he wasn’t his father’s son after all.
He went over to the bed and put the tube back in. It was a good minute before his father got his breath back.
“You wanted to let me die,” he said. “I could see it in your eyes.”
Perc just stared at him. “You got something to say, say it.”
“You’re a fucking pussy,” his father said. “You always were.”
“I kicked your ass pretty good,” Perc said. “Maybe you forgot that.”
His father coughed again. “Yeah, yeah, I’m a shitheel. Newsfuckingflash. I don’t deny I was a lousy father.”
“You don’t deserve the title,” Perc couldn’t stand to hear any apologies. He wasn’t ready for it. “I don’t need to hear your excuses.”
“Nobody’s perfect, sonny boy, least of all you. I mean a cop who’s scared of the sight of blood. Jesus,” he coughed again and screwed his face up in pain.
“I ain’t apologizing for shit. My maker will take care of that,” his father said. “I’m just trying to square things before I bite the big one.”
“Well, I’m not going to give you the satisfaction,” Perc said. “I don’t owe you a thing.”
He started to rise when his father grabbed his arm. His hand was cold like a corpse but his grip was solid.
“You have a brother,” he said.
Perc looked back at him.
“Got your attention you little fuck,” he smiled. “Truthfully, he’s only your half brother.”
“It’s no secret you fucked around,” Perc said. “Guess having a kid would follow.”
“Yeah, well this was different. This kid was special. He was going to make me a better man. Fucking crazy talk, right? I mean coming from me, but it’s the God’s honest truth.”
“Good for you,” Perc said. He felt like he’d been kicked in the head.
“Well, shit I didn’t mean it that way. Christ. You take everything so damn personal,” he said. “I wasn’t ready for you, that’s all. Ain’t nothing more complicated than that.
“You turned out all right for the most part, didn’t ya? Maybe you were better off the way things worked out.”
“Wow. Why didn’t I think of that?”
The old man tried to reach for his smokes. Perc absently grabbed the pack and started to pull one out. Why the fuck not?
“Just the lighter,” he said. “I just want the lighter.”
Perc picked it up. He had coveted it for as long as he could remember, his earliest memories of his father pulling it out of his shirt pocket. The silver was tarnished and the engraving faded, but it was still beautiful and it reflected sunlight like a jewel. Perc rubbed his thumb along the face of St. Jude. He had never believed in things like religion and the saints but he had always attributed a magic to his father’s lighter that he couldn’t explain. The fancy of little boys, he supposed.
He held the lighter up but his father waved at him with his free hand.
“I want you to have it,” he said, and he coughed again, this time for a long time. The door opened behind him and the transvestite popped her head.
“Y’all right in here?”
His father waved at her, trying to get his breath back. “We’re fine, Sugar,” he said through coughs.
She clicked her teeth and shook her head before closing the door again. After she left, the room seemed to close in around Perc. He wanted to open the window.
He held the lighter in his hand, turning it around and feeling it’s heft. What was he supposed to feel now?
“So how come you’re not giving this to your special son?”
“It ain’t like it’s free,” he said. “I need a favor.”
“Here we go.”
“Ah, Jesus,” he said. “It’s not like I put you out in the street. Get over it.”
Perc started to get up again, but his father’s grip was surprisingly sturdy.
“This kid. Your little half brother disappeared in 1986.”
“Probably to get away from his father.”
“It wasn’t like that, dammit,” more coughing. “He was fucking abducted. Nobody ever found out what happened to him. Been looking for him ever since.”
“Why are you telling me this now?”
“Cause I’m dead,” he said. “Cause I promised myself I’d find him. Cause you’re the only person left who got any reason to want to know what happened.”
“You want me to take up a 20-year-old missing persons case to ease your conscience? Half the force thinks you’re some kind of hero. Why don’t you ask one of your old pals.”
“It ain’t about me anymore. You ever do find out what happened, be too late for me. I’ll be pushing up daisies,” he said. “I can’t die without passing the torch so to speak. And you, like or not, are my flesh and blood. I got nobody else to do any passing to. Don’t do it for me. Do it for the kid. He don’t have an end to his story. Everybody deserves that.”
Perc shook his head and placed the lighter on his father’s chest.
“He’s probably dead, Leo,” he said.
His father launched into another coughing fit, this one impossibly worse than the last. Perc pried his father’s hand off his arm. Then he saw it – a trickle of blood drip out of the corner of his mouth.
Perc started to feel the same old sensation wash over him – the flush, the nausea, the dizziness. He closed his eyes, trying to gain control. When he opened them again, his father was quiet again. When he spoke, his voice was barely a whisper. The spittle of blood sat on his chin like a bad omen.
“I know he’s out there,” he said. “He’s alive.”
Another coughing fit. Perc turned away, afraid of the blood, afraid he’d pass out. His father gripped his arm again, so tight he was sure he’d break the skin.
“You have to find him,” he said “Promise you’ll look for him.”
Perc was shaking, not sure if it was the blood or the familiar rage building up inside him, but he could barely speak. He wanted to get up. He wanted to run away from this man, this room, this place, this fucking city. He wanted to run away and never come back.
His father coughed again, this time hacking up a gob of blood onto the sheets, barely missing Perc. He felt sick again. He turned his head away, trying to keep the bile from climbing out of his stomach.
But the ugly moment passed unexpectedly and instead, he felt his father’s grip on his forearm. Somehow it steadied his nerves.
“Promise me,” his father said, his voice almost inaudible.
Perc felt something strange inside, a feeling of pity of longing, of loss. He couldn’t explain it, couldn’t make sense of it at that moment and maybe he never would, but whatever it was, made him do a thing he thought impossible.
“Sure. I promise,” he said.
His father tried to speak again but his breathing was coming in shorter and shorter gasps and Perc could hear the telltale gurgle of his lungs filling up with fluid. He watched his father take his last uneven breaths in that seedy hotel room with the oppressive L.A. sun burning a hole in a spot on the mangy carpet.
Even after his eyes rolled back in his head, Perc could feel his father’s cold grip on his arm, like he was still fighting off his demons even after he had left this world for good.