from Democracy Is Coming To The USA by Leonard Cohen
The US Needs Better Democracy
If there is one thing that seems apparent (at least to me) from this years presidential election is that America can do better with selecting its presidential candidates. This year with the looming nominations (things could still change) of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it appears to me we are choosing two candidates that have mastered the fine art of using political position to obtain personal wealth.
True, we have had wealthy candidates and presidents in the past (JFK was actually one of the wealthiest), but they always seem to put some sort of national agenda ahead of their own personal gain. So far, this year seems to be different. On one hand you have a man, who brags about his wealth and uses this situation as a qualification for the highest political office in the land. On the other hand, you have a former Senator and Secretary of State, whose paid speeches would violate many ethics rules if she was still in the Senate or State Department.
So considering all that’s gone down so far, I’m hoping that both major parties circumvent what’s gone down in the primary process and go back to the drawing board in coming up with a presidential candidate…………… It’s not too late, really.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.