I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bonus reflections

Two more. After those infinite and unhappy Texas skies, taking pictures of these sunglasses just felt like pure fun.

Saturday reflections

Something a little different -- sunglasses for sale at the flea market.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lonesome star shine on the big country

Two more shots from Highway 199.

I had wanted to put the Roxy Music song Prairie Rose into one of the Texas posts, but unfortunately every version of the song on YouTube uses the extremely not-safe-for-work album cover art, so the quote from the lyrics above is all you're getting.

(If you never owned the album and don't know what I'm talking about, Google "roxy music country life.")

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Can you hear me now?

All these pictures of overhead lines reminded me of this wonderful photo in the Atlantic's World War I series: a German officer proudly demonstrating his mobile telephone.

I would have guessed that field telephones were a much later invention. Of course, the fact that it apparently required a minimum of four men trailing behind you laying out the cable (and presumably winding it all up again later) made it a little impractical for widespread use.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Urban poetry

Not so urban a sight anymore, perhaps -- big cities have mostly buried all the lines underground -- but I like how the crisscross of these wires in Graham are almost abstract against that gloomy sky.

I did finally get the missing duffel bag, by the way.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Back in New York.

I didn't get home until 1 am; my luggage has yet to arrive. There was just too much to do. After the funeral Saturday afternoon, there was paperwork at the funeral home and dinner with Judy's friends. Yesterday morning my cousin Jay and his wife Janie and I spent a few hours at the house looking for her military discharge papers and sorting out the mail so the unpaid bills could be sent to the lawyer.

It was chaotic -- generations of family have lived in that house, and the knickknacks and papers and photos had settled in layers no archaeologist could unravel. There were letters my father wrote home to my grandmother from boot camp, pictures of me as a baby I'd never seen, thousands of old pictures of grandparents and aunts and uncles, mostly unidentified. There was no time to sort through it. I had to leave for the airport, so I grabbed pictures of Judy as a child I thought her friends would like to have, the bills, and some old letters and photos, and I stopped at the Walmart and bought a duffel bag to put them in, along with the folded flag from the funeral.

I left Graham an hour later than planned so I drove as fast as the speed limit allowed, only pulling over to the shoulder a couple of times so I could eat some sliced turkey I'd grabbed at the Walmart and drink some water. (That's when I took these pictures.)

There was a brief unplanned detour in downtown Fort Worth, but otherwise I made good time. I had just reached the point of starting to feel nervous that I'd missed the exit to head north to the airport, when I noticed a few raindrops on the windshield. I had exactly enough time to say, "Drat!" (or words to that effect) before I saw the exit and at the same instant the heavens opened. I could not see a thing. I could not find the windshield wipers. And I was merging into traffic with crazy Texas drivers, who weren't going to let a little thing like a monsoon keep them from exercising their God-given right to drive 90 miles an hour. Oh, I forgot to mention the hailstones.

After twenty or so minutes of seeing just how white my knuckles could get, I turned in the rental car, and after that it seemed that nothing could faze me. My flight cancelled? Sure. Rebooked on another flight leaving twenty minutes later from a different terminal? No problem. A seatmate with the delusion that each of the five vodka and tonics he consumed increased his charm quotient? Whatever. The precious duffel bag missing? They'll find it.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday bird blogging

Surprisingly, there will be bird blogging.

I had some time to kill yesterday morning. I had to pick up photos at Walmart at 11, and I couldn't stand sitting around the bland Best Western hotel room any more, so I went out for a cup of coffee, and drank it sitting on a park bench. The air was thick and damp, with low gray clouds threatening rain or worse, but I stayed until swarms of black ants converged on my feet and started crawling over my shoes.

A few blocks from the park, I saw a store called the Cherry Street Antique Barn, and I stopped. There wasn't much that interested me -- some nice pieces of furniture, walls of cowboy boots, Texas curios, and a lot of junk. I asked about old pictures and the owner only had one -- she said people come in and buy them by the boxes (undoubtedly so they can be sold for exorbitant prices at flea markets in the Northeast.)

But Susan, the owner, also had this bird, a juvenile mockingbird almost ready for release. She does a lot of bird rehab, and she told me stories about trying to care for injured buzzards and I told her about the Wild Bird Fund and birding in Central Park. Of course she knew about Judy -- everyone in a small town like Graham knows about everyone else -- but mostly we talked about birds and cowboy boots and the morning that had seemed to stretch out almost to infinity earlier was over before I knew it and it was time to go to Walmart.

Friday, May 23, 2014


The gazebo in the Graham town square.

I'm back in Texas for the funeral, so there will be limited blogging this weekend. I took this picture last month; it's gray and drizzly in Texas today, and my long drive from DFW took place under black clouds and white skies, like a photographic negative of what a sky should be.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


My cousin Judy Rehders standing on the bank of the Brazos last month.

Judy died on Sunday. She had pancreatic cancer, and though we had hoped that she'd have more time, and talked of a trip to New York that we knew would probably never happen, it was possible to hope until almost the very end. Then she slipped away.

When I was about four years old, she snuck me out of our apartment after dinner and took me to the big playground in Golden Gate Park. We had the slides and swings and sandbox to ourselves, and got to stay out until almost dark. I've never forgotten it. Obviously, she was just the coolest big cousin anywhere.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday bird blogging

A house wren.

Wrens are common, but they like underbrush, so I rarely get a clear shot of one. That cocked tail is just so charming.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday reflections

Commuter buses at rush hour, reflected in a revolving door.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

One of these things is not like the others

National Geographic Traveler is now accepting entries in their annual photo contest. I've thought about entering before, but the sort of things I take pictures of aren't the kind of BIG! IMPORTANT! subjects that scream National Geographic! Plus, I always forget there's a contest until after the deadline has passed.

But I'm going to submit a few photos this year, so I read the rules. This cracked me up:


I always suspected New Jersey was a rogue state; now I know for sure.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Urban poetry

Layers of paint on an old wall.

It looks like a child's drawing of a map, yellow continents and crayon-blue seas. Europe maybe, or perhaps it's one of those fantasy lands so carefully mapped out in the endpapers of paperback novels.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

Sometimes I have to really hunt around to find a picture I want to post on Tuesdays. Not today -- this is NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day from yesterday, and I loved it immediately.

It's a composite of over 100 photographs taken of Mars by Viking orbiters in the 1970's (notice a few chunks missing at the bottom), showing Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in our solar system. It's almost four times longer, and more than four times deeper, than the Grand Canyon, but the numbers don't interest me nearly as much as the beautiful colors and patterns.  It looks both old and delicate, like the painted flowers and fine cracks in a very old china teacup anyone might have sitting on a shelf.

Image credit: Viking Project, USGS, NASA

Monday, May 12, 2014

Welcome to the working week

Another from Alan Taylor's remarkable series of photographs from the First World War at The Atlantic. This photo, from the Library of Congress collection, shows women welders at the Lincoln Motor Car company in Detroit in 1918.

It's worth clicking on the photo to enlarge. And clicking on the link to look at the rest.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Unexpected visitors

Bonus bird blogging.

I don't usually post pictures of this low quality anymore, even of the ever elusive warblers, but this magnolia warbler is a special case. He wasn't in Central Park, he was in my backyard, and the picture is not great because it was taken through a screened window. 

I'm still a little under the weather, and decided against going up to the park this morning. It's Mother's Day, and it's the middle of spring migration, and I do sometimes get cranky when there are thirty people standing around looking at every single bird. 

Apparently word got out, and the warblers came to me. I've never seen anything but the most common birds -- mourning doves, cardinals, starlings, sparrows -- in my trees. Sometimes I've seen a flash of color and thought maybe a warbler had just zoomed past, but I've never seen a warbler actually in these trees before today. And now I've seen two, as an American redstart came by not long after the magnolia flew away. (There was a house finch as well -- not a warbler, and not a migrant, but another bird I've never seen in my yard.)

Maybe they come every spring and I've just never seen them. I know I've written before about how taking up photography made me finally pay attention to the things around me, after a lifetime of walking around with my brain settings defaulted to "daydream." I see, I notice, so much more now.

But it's not just a matter of paying attention -- it's also luck. And timing. And opportunity. Which means I'm going to see more birds if I drag my ass up to Central Park instead of spending spring looking out my window hoping that the birds will come to me.

Sunday bird blogging

A male brown-headed cowbird.

Cowbirds are brood parasites; the females lay their eggs in the nests of other species. Since they got their name because they follow cattle or other herd animals to feed on the insects they stir up, it makes biological sense for them to leave their eggs with babysitters.

It does not work out so well for the caregivers, however. It's not just the presence of another mouth to feed; having loud cowbird babies makes nests more vulnerable to predators. Some species are smart enough to recognize and get rid of the cowbird eggs, but that doesn't always solve the problem. Cowbirds will actually retaliate, sometimes even destroying the nest so the hosts are forced to build a new one. Which the cowbirds then lay more eggs in.

Yeah, it's a jungle out there.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday reflections

It's not just the reflections, it's those great lamps that make this photo. On West 50th Street.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


The dregs of a slight spring cold have ignited into a full-blown sinus infection, so I am home, trying to sleep away the sensation that my face is being pressed, with great enthusiasm, into a concrete wall. 

This was the perfect thing to leaf through when I was awake -- a list at The American Scholar of the ten best sentences. (Via) Of the sentences they picked, I liked the bonus eleventh the best:
Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there.
—Truman Capote, In Cold Blood
The real treasures are in the comments though.
The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.
—John Updike
That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him.
—Herman Melville, Moby Dick
When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples.
—Stephen Crane, The Open Boat
Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.
—Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.
—Samuel Beckett, Murphy
Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other's world entire.
—Cormac McCarthy, The Road
The shorter ones are appealing to me today, but there are many treasures at the link.

Urban poetry

I'm not sure what this is -- some kind of cable stretching over one of the ramps leading to the Lincoln Tunnel. 

I'm sure it's not merely decorative, but it doesn't seem to be supporting anything and I don't have a clue as to the function of those metal circles. But with the Empire State Building (and pigeons perched on a lamppost) in the background, it makes a nice stanza of urban poetry.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Astronomy Tuesday

(Image credit: Alan Friedman (Averted Imagination))

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day today featured one of Alan Friedman's brilliant portraits of our sun. The texture in these photos always astonishes me; I know those patterns are made by roiling, boiling plumes of gas thousands of miles long, but in the photograph they look so small and innocent, almost dainty, like a faded flower pattern on an old dress, or peach fuzz.

Or the orangey hide of a Texas longhorn.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Awkward poses

Bonus bird blogging.

Here's one for the avian version of Awkward Family Photos. This oriole couldn't possibly look less graceful, and as the star of many awkward photos myself I can sympathize.

If I were a bird, I suspect that all of my pictures would look like this.

Sunday bird blogging

This beautiful creature is a Northern Flicker, a woodpecker relative more commonly seen foraging on the ground than way up in the trees like this guy. I love the way he's got his tail fanned out -- showing off for the ladies, maybe?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday reflections

The lights hanging outside that new hotel on West 50th, reflected in the glass and mirrored by other lights inside.

Friday, May 2, 2014

In Flanders Fields

If you can bear it, The Atlantic has a stunning set of photographs from World War I, the first in what will be a series of ten weekly photo essays for the upcoming 100th anniversary of the start of that awful war.

This muddy hellhole is Flanders, in 1918, from the Library of Congress collection. I memorized the poem In Flanders Fields in grammar school, and still know it by heart.
     Take up our quarrel with the foe:
     To you, from failing hands we throw
     the torch...
I could do quite an impressive performance of those lines when I was 11 years old, but I'd like to think we've learned something in the last hundred years and wouldn't fall for that recruiting poster jargon again. I sure would like to think so.

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