Happy Birthday America

A Photographic Tribute To the Good Ole U.S. of A.

Washington D.C. celebrates the Fourth with an impressive fireworks display.

Washington D.C. celebrates the Fourth with an impressive fireworks display.

It’s hotter than hell out here on the banks of the Missouri where the prairie meets the mountains. Thunderheads appear almost every afternoon now, but more often than not they drift on by, dropping their precious moisture elsewhere.

All of these things are sure signs that hot dog and ice cream sales are booming and that a spectacular and awesome fireworks display looms in the near future.

Happy Birthday America. How does it feel to be 239 years old?

More Flags in Wells , Maine

More Flags in Wells , Maine

Ready To Roll

I would like to say that this picture shows how I travelled around the country in recent years, but in reality, this is far from the truth. This partiçular image was made while walking down the street in Portland, Maine back in the days, when I had a studio apartment and an almost, full-time job, which enabled me to keep my friendly place of abode.

ready to roll

Winnipeg

For several years I made a meager living writing content for an American internet company based in California. Since I was able to send in my work via e-mail and receive my pay through Paypal, I was able to travel freely (within my financial needs) as I produced my many short articles and filler pieces.

I knew I was skating on thin ice with this gig, but it was fun, so I continued with it until the inevitable actually happened, the number of writers had far exceeded the number of assignments available.

The end came so quickly that it caught be by complete surprise. I had just turned off my computer and left the Winnipeg Public Library, so I could withdraw my earnings and get a bite to eat. When I returned to the library and turned my computer back on, I found out that all my future assignments had been removed and that I needed to take an evaluation test. This turned out to be a polite way of dismissing me from the company.

I just happened to be in Winnipeg, Canada, when I found out that my services were no longer needed. So the very next day, I began my short journey back to the U.S. and my much longer quest for economic security.

This photo was taken at sunrise on the east side of Winnipeg as I headed back to the U.S.

winnipeg towers

NYC

New York City is a watery place, a geographic reality made visible by this photograph, which was taken from the deck of the Staten Island ferry. The Staten Island ferry has often been called the best free ride in America. I alsways ride it whenever I am in the city. The view of the Hudson River delta and the many islands that dot the bay are priceless, even to a New Yorker……….Wouldn’t this place make a great national park?

The Wall Street Skyline as seen from the deck of the Staten Island Ferry

The Wall Street Skyline as seen from the deck of the Staten Island Ferry

Boston

These pair of lions can be found guarding the stairwell to the second floor in the Boston Public Library. I love the grand old libraries of the Northeastern big cities, and not surprisingly the Boston one is a real doozy.

Having spent endless hours in this and many other similar institutions, leaves me with nothing but good words for the American library. Ben Franklin sure knew what he was doing when he started this system. Not only are they great places for the scholar, but they also tolerate the vagabond and bum, who just wants a warm place and a good magazine to read.

Nice Kitty

Nice Kitty

Portland, Maine

This picture of the Portland harbor with the oil tanker in the background was actually taken in the town of South Portland. This metropolitan area was my home for many years. The ferry rides here aren’t free, but they do take you to some inhabited islands, more reminiscent of Seattle than any other place in the U.S.

Waterfront scene at the Portland Harbor

Waterfront scene at the Portland Harbor

Philadelphia

Philadelphia would be a great place to spend the Fourth. Not only do you have a spectacular fireworks display, but also the Liberty Bell can be found here, plus all that rich history that harkens back to the times when “The City of Brotherly Love” was the nation’s capitol.

Unfortunately, I was here in the spring, so I missed all the fireworks……But I did see Charles Barclay shopping in a local supermarket.

The old and new in Philadelphia

The old and new in Philadelphia

Niagara Falls, NY

No journey around the U.S. would be complete without a pretty picture of Niagara Falls. Actually I had to sneak across the border to Canada to take this picture.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

The Little Pee Dee River

When I visit South Carolina my destination is the Pee Dee region of the state, which is situated in the Northeastern part of the state near the North Carolina state line. This picture was taken on the Little Pee Dee River.

The Little Pee Dee River in South Carolina

The Little Pee Dee River in South Carolina

Des Moines 

I spent several beautiful autumn months in this midwestern capitol city. In fact, this photo was taken from the state capitol building, which sits on a high hill overlooking the city. The stately building has a shiny gold dome and a huge interior foyer, which you can climb by negotiating many series of narrow stairs.

The Des Moines river flows through town and in places is lined with huge, graceful cottonwoods.

The Des Moines Skyline as seen from the state capitol building

The Des Moines Skyline as seen from the state capitol building.

Sioux City, Iowa

Thanks to a few reservations in nearby Nebraska and South Dakota, Sioux City is a bit of Indian Country stuck smack dab in the middle of Iowa’s cornfields. Maybe that’s why this pink house is here…..hopefully not. Anyway, visit Sioux City and you can have Native men ask you for extra cigarettes and spare change. Or you can head across the Missouri River and get a slightly rosier view of Indian life by visiting a powwow or a casino.

I liked Sioux City for its funky street graphics, long lines of freight cars and outdated architecture. It was a great place to have a camera. And of course like almost every declining downtown area, there were those brave, creative souls trying to fix the place up and bring in some new business.

This very pink house was found in Sioux City, Iowa. photo by author

This very pink house was found in Sioux City, Iowa. photo by author

Rapid City, South Dakota

I just spent a day in Rapid City, but I did get this really neat photograph of a grain elevator standing tall in the noon day sun. Then later in the afternoon I took a bus to Billings. I would have stayed longer, but there wasn’t much day labor work available and emergency housing didn’t look very appealing either.

This grain elevator stands next to the train tracks in Rapid City, South Dakota, photo by author

This grain elevator stands next to the train tracks in Rapid City, South Dakota, photo by author

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

On my way to Sioux Falls, I got a ride with a trucker driving an empty hog trailer. He had just dropped his load in Wisconsin and was headed home, when he picked me up. He told me there were lots of construction jobs in Sioux Falls because the man on the TV said so. This was a story I often heard repeated, but when I got to the city, the only work I could find were day labor assignments unloading trucks.

One day a mover showed up outside the labor office, needing help. It was a clandestine offer, but I needed a way out of Sioux Falls, so I rode with the trucker to Rapid City, where we filled one small household with furniture and then parted ways.

The muffler man of Sioux Falls casts a long shadow

The muffler man of Sioux Falls casts a long shadow

Billings, Montana

In Billings you get your first real glimpse of the Rockies. Still, it’s a high plains kind of town, situated about 50 miles north of the Little Bighorn battleground. Off to the northeast is the North Dakota oil patch, which helps drive the local economy. Stir all this together and still you can get a little taste of the Old West here.

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Western skies have inspired poets and writers for many years.

The wild west can still be found in various bits and pieces

The wild west can still be found in various bits and pieces

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is named after its earlier counterpart in New Mexico. Las Vegas (NM) started out as a stop on the Old Santa Fe Trail, but grew substantially when gold and silver were discovered nearby. In its heyday, Las Vegas (NM) had the reputation of being one of the wildest town in the West, but today it is a quiet Hispanic settlement on the eastern flank of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. Perhaps, a 100 years from now, Las Vegas (NV) will be a quiet Hispanic city and some other western place will earn the title of “Sin City”.

This pink flamingo was found painted onto a metal garage door. photo by author

This pink flamingo was found painted onto a metal garage door. photo by author

High Noon in Las Vegas

Albuquerque, NM

This city used to be a very nice place, but today it is sometimes referred to as “Alber-crack-ee”. Still, the University of New Mexico and Sandia National Lab are located here, drawing a lot of professional people to the area.

These pictures were taken along Old Route 66, which is locally known as Central Ave.

Along old Route 66 (Central Ave. in Albuquerque) there still exist a few signs and graphics from the noted highway.

Along old Route 66 (Central Ave. in Albuquerque) there still exist a few signs and graphics from the noted highway.

Also on old route 66 is this modern-day tribute to the old Mother Road.

Also on route 66 is this modern-day tribute to the old Mother Road.

Taos, NM

Taos is an interesting mountain town that has grown a lot in the past years. The traffic through town can be horrendous, especially during ski season, but the town is still worth a visit.

To escape all this madness, just drive west to the Taos Gorge bridge, where you can gaze across stunning landscape, like you see here.

The rim of the  spectacular Rio Grande Gorge had be easily accessed from the bridge near Taos.

The rim of the spectacular Rio Grande Gorge had be easily accessed from the bridge near Taos.

Espanola, NM

Located just north of Santa Fe amidst several Indian pueblos, is Espanola, one of the Hispanic strongholds within New Mexico. On a drive through town the place looks a little rough and tumble, due to the antiquated storefronts in the downtown area. A few are closed down, but many still support active businesses.

These places stand in stark contrast to the big chains found out by Walmart and Lowe’s. For the creative photographer the old storefronts are a visual gold mine, for they harken back to an era, when local businesses dominated small towns like this. Here, I photographed a farm supply business that looks more pioneer than Spanish, but yet this place is open and ready for business.

This farm supply building seems very much out of place in Espanola, NM

This farm supply building seems very much out of place in Espanola, NM

Santa Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico is the oldest and highest state capitol in the U.S. It is also where the Santa Fe trail ended and the Camino Real (Royal Road) into Old Mexico began. Later on, the California Trail became a reality and so the small crossroads grew.

Today, it is a cultural hub for artists, new age entrepreneurs, Ed Abbey fans and well-to-do desert rats. Though this milieu of higher minds is on the decline, their presence is very noticeable. And, if you spend any time here, you are bound to cross paths with the thriving local Hispanic and Southwestern Indian cultures that have lived in the region for many centuries and more.

A tamale stand in Santa Fe, NM

A tamale stand in Santa Fe, NM

Cheap Motels

For me, cheap motels have been a godsend. They offer a nice alternative from camping out or staying at a rescue mission. Having the space to yourself is wonderful, although the down side is that they are still rather expensive are usually require a full time job to pay for the luxury. This particular picture came from a place I stayed at in Billings, for a few weeks.

my feet

Duluth

Duluth is the birthplace of Bob Dylan, though he wasn’t known by that name when he was born here back in the forties. To honor the singing bard, the city has renamed a downtown street, which is now known as Bob Dylan Way.

The first time I saw the Bob Dylan Way, I was pretty well down and out…..so much so that I spent the first night camped out on a park bench, watching the oil freighters come cruising through Duluth’s vertical draw bridge at the wee hours of the morning.

Then I borrowed some money from a distant relative, so I could spend a night in a motel. Finally, I left town and hitchhiked to the Twin Cities. I guess I was living the Bob Dylan Way.

Bob Dylan Way is an important downtown street in Duluth, named after the noted songwriter

Bob Dylan Way is an important downtown street in Duluth, named after the noted songwriter

This drawbridge in Duluth, MN goes up and down like an elevator.

This drawbridge in Duluth, MN goes up and down like an elevator.

The Twin Cities

I did the hostel thing in Minneapolis, at least until I ran out of money and had to head south using a 100 dollar bicycle as my means of transportation. Despite all the high rises downtown near the river, Minneapolis and St. Paul, too, have a lot of wonderful green spaces and natural lakes, where you can go swimming.

the old and the new

The old and the new in downtown Minneapolis.

 Ranchos de Taos, NM

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

The San Francisco Mission Church at Ranchos de Taos has been photographed so many times that is sometimes referred to as the most photographed church in America. One more view, slightly altered, can’t hurt.

Fare Thee Well

No Matter What Happens keep on smiling, photo by author

No Matter What Happens…. keep on smiling, photo by author

Using Kickstarter

Originally posted on Offbeat and Quirky by Henri Bauhaus:

Spacewalk on Gemini flight, from NASA Spacewalk on Gemini flight, from NASA….For some taking the plunge into self publishing, the first step may be a bit  like spacewalking

Taking The Plunge

It’s a constantly changing and strange world for those who have not yet broken into traditional publishing and are now considering a try at doing it themselves. Roughly speaking, authors have been self-publishing e-books for over 10 years now with the bulk of online activity coming within the last five. For the most part, Amazon has been the main place to post your e-book, but other venues such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Sony have been around almost as long. Following is a quick survey of some things that you might encounter if you decide to self-publish.

Content

Not only do you have to have content that is of a high quality, but also your written material must be in demand by those…

View original 544 more words

Using Kickstarter

Spacewalk on Gemini flight, from NASA

Spacewalk on Gemini flight, from NASA….For some taking the plunge into self publishing, the first step may be a bit  like spacewalking

Taking The Plunge

It’s a constantly changing and strange world for those who have not yet broken into traditional publishing and are now considering a try at doing it themselves. Roughly speaking, authors have been self-publishing e-books for over 10 years now with the bulk of online activity coming within the last five. For the most part, Amazon has been the main place to post your e-book, but other venues such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Sony have been around almost as long. Following is a quick survey of some things that you might encounter if you decide to self-publish.

Content

Not only do you have to have content that is of a high quality, but also your written material must be in demand by those who are willing to purchase and read an e-book. This might sound like a no-brainer to many writers, but keep in mind that there is a lot of well-written, highly-conceived material that receives little attention by readers. In other words, to draw the interest of readers you have to hit the right chord that will make that person purchase your e-book. This is just as true for the short story priced at 99 cents, as it is for the full-sized novel that runs in the ten dollar range.

The Writer Glut

As time goes on, literary sales to owners of electronic reading devices may become more difficult as the numbers of authors attempting to self-publish increases and the number of e-book  readers levels off. This is just a matter of  numerical reality and common sense. Nowadays, when I put I put up a new title on Smashwords, it is off the charts (relegated to page 5 or greater) in a few hours. Back when Smashwords was just starting out, a newly published e-book would stay visible (in the first several pages of listings) for a few days.

Reversing The Trend

However, all is not lost for the newbie writer, for there are several ways to beat the odds and gain a loyal following. Let’s assume for a minute that you have already found a small niche with a couple of written pieces that readers respond to in a positive way, which hopefully includes an occasional purchase or two. From here the next step will be to bring more people into your readership base.

The best way to do this is to self-publish more work, while at the same time, letting everybody know about your newest release. Currently, blogging and participating in other forms of social media, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc., are the best methods to get the word out……. And hopefully along the way, something that you wrote goes viral and you become the latest internet sensation…….BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT……for slow and steady seems to be the rule of the day.

Going The Kickstarter Route

So far I have been working on the assumption that you are doing everything, like editing, proofreading, cover design and formatting, on your own. If you aren’t, good thinking because bringing talented personnel to help out with these tasks can be a big boost to the way your final product appears to the prospective buyer. It can also be a big drain on your bank account.

This is where funding sites like Kickstarter can be an essential aid to the newbie self-publisher, because by the time your first publication is ready to go live, you will be more of a publisher than a writer. However, the plus side to all of this, is that going through a public crowd sourcing site, like Kickstarter will force you to plan ahead and seek good graphic designers, formatters, proofreaders and whoever may be required to get your little literary effort looking ship-shape. And then again another big advantage, is that once your project goes live, your potential readership will grow from the ranks of those who choose to support your project. And that my friends is a win-win situation.

contrary to popular belief, self-publishing is seldom an easy ride,

Contrary to popular belief, self-publishing is seldom an easy ride.

 

 

Keeping Up With the Times

The Silent Fisherman by N.C. Wyeth. N.C. Wyeth was a painter, whose exquisite artwork was done primarily for illustrations in books and magazines.

The Silent Fisherman by N.C. Wyeth. N.C. Wyeth was a painter, whose exquisite artwork was done primarily for illustrations in books and magazines.

The Weird World of the Internet

Things seem to change and evolve at a faster rate than they did back in the good ole days. For example, I never imagined that I would live to see the word ‘google’ become a common verb. I remember learning about the numerical concept behind a google in math class. It was quite mind- boggling, but so is the way we commonly use this scientific term to define an internet search technique. Who knows what the future may bring?

Looking Back

I’m also old enough to have been in grade school when JFK was shot and killed. The whole spectacle, from assassination to burial, became a drawn-out media event unlike anything that had been seen before on TV. ( I was actually watching the tube when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot) Furthermore, the event galvanizing the news media into realizing how much interest can be generated by an extraordinary event like the assassination of an American president and consequently how much time people will invest in following a major news story.

Books In the Electronic Age

Things have changed a lot since the sixties and one of the biggest differences has been the arrival of digital communication. This change also includes something new, called the electronic book, more commonly known as the ebook. Fortunately, today, we still have book stores and book vendors who still actual books made from cellulose paper products. These items have attractive covers, brief promotional blurbs from famous people, some info about the author and a good story. Overall, this piece of merchandise is basically unchanged except the cover artist may have created a cover design containing state of the art digital design.

You Still Can Judge A Book By Its Cover

Surprisingly, e-books still have a lot in common with their paper cousin, the tree book. The cover is meant to catch your eye and draw you in. It is also heavily influenced by digital art, especially since the image must be converted to digital form, so it can be viewed online and eventually be downloaded to your computer or electronic reading device. Not only will the cover be influenced by the new digital design techniques, but writing styles in the electronic age are evolving as well. It still takes a good story to capture a reader, but more and more, the shorter literary forms (such as novellas, flash fiction and short-shorts) are ding a better job at gaining the reader’s attention.

And One More Thing

With the advent of the new media, authors are discovering that the first paragraph and even the first sentence are so important in capturing then reader’s attention. Though a lengthy, wordy and highly descriptive beginning may be still be an important literary achievement, it still might lose the average reader and thus be a detriment to higher sales.

Today's digital imagery not only changes the way we visualize a picture and an idea, but it also changing our reading habits.

Today’s digital imagery not only changes the way we visualize a picture and an idea, but it also changing our reading habits.

(Unfortunately) There Will Always Be A Need For Memorial Day

A replica of the Vietnam Wall as seen in Old Orchard Beach, Maine on Memorial Day

A replica of the Vietnam Wall as seen in Old Orchard Beach, Maine on Memorial Day

A Vietnam Memorial and a Photograph

When American Indians from the West first encountered American photographers and their bulky cameras, the natives often referred to the picture-making device (and photographer) as a shadow catcher. And as a matter of fact, cameras can capture a person as well as their shadow. Furthermore, shadows can be portrayed in all sorts of ways from sinister or ghastly to benign or even humorous. Just a quick look through the annals of fine art photographers will reveal quite a few images of people with all types of dark forms following the main subject around.

When I made the above picture, I was concentrating on the actual names on the wall and the small American flags displayed in front of the wall. The appearance of the shadows and the reflection of the people inside the wall gave this picture a supernatural atmosphere that was totally unplanned. However, over time, I have grown to like both the shadows and the reflection, as I now see these dark shapes as being more transcendental than any thing else.

Not The Real Thing

If you look closely at the people standing next to the Vietnam Wall, you might notice that they make the wall seem small. This is not an illusion, because this is actually a half-scale replica wall that is set up at various places around the country, so people, who do not have the time or money to travel to the nation’s capitol, can see a very accurate replica. This picture happens to have been taken in Old Orchard Beach, Maine almost ten years ago. This situation also underscores the sad fact that our need to remember the war dead can barely keep up with our ability to put soldiers in armed conflicts.

 

A Brief History

Memorial Day occurs tomorrow on Monday. OK it’s not the real Memorial Day. That occurs on May 30th…this coming Saturday. But the New and Improved of Memorial Day does come around this Monday….And as always, it is a good time to remember those who have sacrificed their life in armed conflict. And don’t forget remembrance of the war dead should not be limited to national holidays.

The custom of placing flowers on the graves of soldiers probably exists for as long as there has been organized warfare. However, our Memorial Day seems closely tied to our very own Civil War (or War Between the States as it is sometimes called), for during this bloody conflict advances in military weapons and techniques outpaced improvements in medical treatment. The result was over 600,000 dead and for both sides the task of remembering the dead was monumental. For the rest of the 19th century each side had its own Memorial Day. Then came the 20th century with more wars and war dead and so the custom merged as one and became a national holiday.

Today

Today we have the exact opposite situation, as we faced during the Civil War. Medical treatment has taken giant strides forward, while our ability to maim and kill seems to have taken a big step backward, especially with the rise of car bombings and other terrorist  techniques in the Middle East…….at least that’s the way I see it in this current year (2015).

The American still flies and can be found in many locations, both indoors and outdoors, photo by author

The American flag still flies and can be found in many locations, both indoors and outdoors, photo by author from Minneapolis, MN

 

Why Creative Writing Is Like Playing In An Empty Baseball Stadium!

During and following the recent Baltimore riots, Camden Yard, home of the Orioles, hosted several major league games, where no fans were allowed to attend

During and following the recent Baltimore riots, Camden Yard, home of the Orioles, hosted several major league games, where no fans were allowed to attend

The Event

The recent death of Freddie Gray of Baltimore sparked a series of events that evolved into something more than just an expression of civil disobedience concerning police brutality. The end result was more like a series of protests, where some of the events turned into riots, requiring a police and national guard presence. I know that the whole situation sounds bad, but I do recall as a high school student in the very same city, we received an unscheduled school holiday, when Martin Luther King was assassinated and parts of the city were embroiled in major rioting and looting. And in those days the issues were probably more elevated and intense than recent events, yet despite the seemingly uncontrolled venting of rage, change did come to the city. Even with the recent events in Baltimore, there does seem to be a pathway available to address some of the public issues.

A Bizarre Picture

However, one of the most striking (and surreal) images of the recent riots was the pictures of the Orioles baseball games, where no fans were allowed to attend because of the possibility of disruptive outbursts directly related to what was going on in the streets of Baltimore. When I first saw the pictures of the empty stadium on the news, my thoughts did not go to the street protests, but to the baseball players, who were continuing their professional game, even though no one was present in the sports arena. And it was here that I saw a situation that I could relate to…….more than any picture that emerged from the Baltimore conflict.

scene of players emerging from cornfield in the Field of Dreams movie

scene of players emerging from cornfield in the Field of Dreams movie

Later On

Currently, the games have resumed at Camden Yards and legal charges have been brought against six city police officers in regards to the death of the one person who was in police custody. I have no idea how relations between the city police and the city minorities will evolve, but I do believe that the baseball season in this city will return to normal, if it hasn’t already.

The Analogy or Why Writing Can Be Like Playing In An Empty Stadium

For those writers in the audience, especially those that are just starting out, they may often find themselves in a situation, where the only people aware of their creative activities are those, who are also in the game. This is quite normal for anybody, trying to pursue a writing career or for someone participating in any of the other arts. Perhaps, the most important point here, is that this should not affect how one plays the game. For I’m sure that on those cool days of late April and early May, when not a soul was ateending the game in person, the participants were still playing just as hard and using their athletic skills to the best of their ability. In other words the presence of an audience doesn’t matter, all that much.

Writing Really Is a Field of Dreams

Further contemplation upon this subject leads to the appreciation of one of my favorite baseball movies of all times, Field of Dreams. Not only does this film feature a wild-eyed dreamer, who wants an audience for his game, but also there is this savvy older writer, who understands the game all too well. Maybe one of the most memorial images in the movie is when Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are watching a major league contest, while discussing the issues of the day. In other words, they know how to be part of the audience, though the their goals might be much bigger. And here is what I am trying to say, and that is as a writer (or artist) you cannot be too concerned with your audience……just concentrate on your skills as a player. That’s all you can do….the rest is up to fate.

Yankee Stadium on a busy day

Yankee Stadium on a busy day