Frame

The skylight at the Mandalay hotel and casino consists of a web of frames
The skylight at the Mandalay hotel and casino consists of a web of frames

Frame

Actually this picture has one big frame along with many smaller boxes and subdivisions that make up a grid. in other frames are everywhere.

Frame

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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

Happy Mardi Gras

800px-Lingelbach_Karneval_in_Rom_001c
Karneval in Rom
painting by Johannes Lingelbach (1622–1674)

Meaning of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras literally means Fat Tuesday, though many Latin countries know the popular holiday as Carnival. No matter how you look at it, Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. It is usually looked on as a time of celebration and revelry that occurs just before the Lenten season commences.

KosmicFrenchmenPurpleFaceMardiGras2009
Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans: Krewe of Kosmic Debris revelers on Frenchmen Street 2009, from Wikipedia, photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans

Mardi Gras Remembered

During the 80’s I resided in New Orleans and enjoyed every Carnival season, while I was there. Mardi Gras Day in the French Quarter was definitely a lot of fun, but celebrations occurred all over the metropolitan area. Except for the downtown madness, most of the celebration consisted of families coming out to view the parades. In fact, some of the best parades, such as Bacchus occurred at night on the weekends preceding the popular holiday. And of course the best way to view the festivities was with a group of friends, where you could form your own Krewe similar to the one pictured above.

Tulum-Seaside-2010
The Tulum archaeological site (Mayan) in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, from Wikipedia, photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Ash Wednesday In Old Mexico

The religious holiday of Ash Wednesday follows Mardi Gras. In many places, it is time of sober reflection and attending church services. The first carnival season that I ever experienced was on a  Caribbean island located along the Yucatan coast of Mexico. I have put my rather bizarre experiences into a novella, titled Ash Wednesday In Old Mexico. Just click on the title and you will be redirected to the Amazon page, where it will be offered free for tomorrow, which is also Ash Wednesday.

The Virtual Reality of Rick’s Cafe

Rick's Cafe in Casablanca, Morocco
Today Rick’s Cafe is an upscale restaurant in the Ancienne Medina of Casablanca, Morocco, photo from Wikipedia

Everybody Comes To Rick’s

The storyline for the 1942 movie, Casablanca, began as an unpublished play, entitled, Everybody Comes To Rick’s. The play was written by Murray Burnet and Joan Alison in the summer of 194o, but after failing to find a Broadway producer, the playwrights sold the rights to Hollywood for $20,000. The play was based on real life travels that Murray Burnet made with his wife, Frances,  to Vienna, Austria during Nazi occupation in 1938 and also to the south of France at the same time. Neither of the two authors ever visited Morocco. Instead, the plot revolved around a bar in France that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. The popular drinking establishment was frequented by a strange mixture of French citizens, Nazis and war refugees. Entertainment was provided by a black jazz pianist.

Title frame to the movie Casablanca
Title frame to the movie Casablanca

Casablanca, The Movie

After extensive rewriting and revision by a team of screenwriters, Casablanca became a movie that was released to a wartime audience in 1942 by Warner Brothers. Although not the most popular WWII film release, Casablanca did go on to win Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Since WWII, Casablanca has become a classic and is often rated as one of the best motion pictures ever made in the United States.

Rick's Cafe in Casablanca
A still shot of Rick’s Cafe in the movie, Casablanca

Rick’s Cafe Opens In Casablanca, Morocco

It was not until the 21st century that there was ever a restaurant or bar in Casablanca called Rick’s Cafe. Those memorable shots of the popular club seen in the film were created on the backlots of Hollywood during the war, which might explain why such an intriguing set was created. The scenes of the crowds at the bar and the music of Sam at the piano have stayed in film lovers’ minds ever since the cinematic masterpiece was first released.

A Book Called Rick’s Cafe

Actually the full title of the book  reads as Rick’s Cafe: Bringing the Film Legend To Life In Casablanca. The author is a petite woman, originally from Portland, Oregon who pulled the whole enterprise off and now that Rick’s Cafe has become a must-see for those touring the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, the manuscript only gives added insight into the amazing task of making the recreation of this nightclub-restaurant – a reality. Overall, it is amazing story of getting a business started in an Islamic nation, where the King and the royal family still have a lot of clout. Fortunately for the author and story, Moroccan royalty have proved to be a moderate oasis in a region of the world that can be quite irrational and dangerous at times.

About the Author

In the opening years of the 21st century, Kathy Kriger was a U.S. citizen employed by the U.S. Foreign Service in Casablanca, who decided to open a restaurant. Now that the restaurant has been going on for several years and making a profit, Ms. Kriger has decided to put her story down in words, accompanied by a few pictures. Released just this month (November 2012) the book tells a story of how one individual conceived of the idea, raised the money, found a place and then made the interior space conform to the images seen in the movie. It is a heart-lifting story well worth the time spent reading………and perhaps a visit if you are ever in the neighborhood of the ancienne Medina of Casablanca.

Casablanca Today
A 21st century view of Casblanca, Morocco; from Wikipedia

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Myrtle Beach Traffic

 

The city of Myrtle Beach viewed from the state park pier
The city of Myrtle Beach viewed from the state park pier

I was in Myrtle Beach the other day. I had volunteered to go to help a friend of the family pick up a new car. The journey was OK, but the traffic was not, even though March would still be considered the off-season. No matter how you look at it, this coastal resort is not the same place I remember as a child. Today, the sleepy little, seaside oasis has turned into a major metropolitan area, for now, the bustling urban area is occupied the year round. No better proof can be found than by taking a automobile trip through the center of town during the cooler winter months.

After completing the car deal, our little party skirted the city proper and headed south for Murrels Inlet, a much smaller seaside town located just south of Myrtle Beach. This place has also changed, but still offers a small reprieve from busiest parts of the Grand Strand. A late lunch at a restaurant called Flo’s, proved to be a perfect place to sit back and enjoy the end of the car-buying process. Flo’s is a New Orleans styled restaurant that sits on a small tidal basin, hence the name. The food was good and our waterside table, even provided a quick glimpse of a bald eagle landing in the top of a loblolly pine.

After lunch we visited the Myrtle Beach State Park, another green oasis, which is actually located inside the city limits. Admission to the fishing pier is included with the park fee. The pier is well worth a visit, as is the wind-sculptured live oak forest that grows profusely just past the sand dunes. This unique type of forest once was more abundant in the vicinity, but presently is limited to only a few locales.

This popular SC state park even provides campsites and cabins, but on this overcast drizzly weekend the oceanside site was almost deserted. The day ended with a drive home amidst moderate weekend traffic.

 

Barrier sand dunes at Myrtle Beach State Park
Barrier sand dunes at Myrtle Beach State Park

 

Oglethorpe’s Savannah

Telfair Museum In Savannah, Georgia
Telfair Museum In Savannah, Georgia

This past Saturday I had the privilege of visiting the charming Southern city of Savannah, Georgia. The occasion was the 4th Annual Savannah Book Festival, which was held at Telfair Square in the old historic district. Here in the historic district of the city, organizers had arranged literary speakers to give talks not only at the above pictured Telfair Museum, but also at the Trinity Methodist Church, Jepson Museum and a tent that was set up on the public square. Also on the square were a couple of book tents, where visitors could purchase both fiction and non-fiction titles.

Besides from the gathering of readers and writers, there was also the walk through the old city from my streetside  parking spot to the festival site. This stroll was most informative, for it took me right through one of the largest historical districts in the country. Savannah has a most interesting history for it was built in the early years of  the 18th century to give British debtors, a second chance in life.

To understand Savannah, it is necessary to take a look at the city’s founder, James Oglethorpe, a British citizen, who was born in 1696. James Oglethorpe served in Queen’s Anne War, returned home and was incarcerated in a British prison for killing a man in a brawl. After five months of confinement, Oglethorpe was released from jail and immediately elected to Parliament. His prison experience became paramount it the man’s successful attempt to recommend changes for the system. Of utmost concern was the British custom of imprisoning those who went bankrupt.

Savannah, which was begun as a British settlement in 1733, was created to give those imprisoned for debt a second chance in life. From this unusual beginning arose a prosperous city, which has survived the tests of time, and remains an important place of commerce today.

Savannah Today
Savannah Today

Quebec Road Signs

 

Waterfront Warning In Gaspe Region Of Quebec
Waterfront Warning In Gaspe Region Of Quebec

This summer I had the privilege of making a solo bicycle journey from Boston, Massachusetts to Ottawa, Canada. However, I should mention that I did not take a direct route, as this picture from the Gaspe region demonstrates. As far as cycling goes, I have not encountered a more scenic route than the coastal highway 132 that runs from Sainte-Anne-des-Monts east towards Madeleine. Not only is the road very scenic, but also the route is flat, a definite plus for cyclists. The only drawback is a rare storm or rogue wave that might wash moving vehicles into the ditch. Here is a close-up of the sign.

Warning Sign In The Gaspe
Warning Sign In The Gaspe

I while I’m at it, here are some other similar signs that I encountered on my trip. The next one was found just south of Quebec city and was intended as a warning against a bump in the road, not low-flying balloons.

 

Ambiguous sign near Quebec City
Ambiguous sign near Quebec City

And finally last but not least, here is a tractor warning sign that was observed in the Petite Nation of Quebec, a small rural region, located just north and east of Ottawa.

 

Tractor Warning Sign In Le Petite Nation of Quebec
Tractor Warning Sign In Le Petite Nation of Quebec