Monday, August 30, 2010


During my long car-less period in Manhattan, I forgot what it's like to drive in traffic. I know that sounds silly, since traffic is a daily frustration in Manhattan, but I never took cars there. I bet I rode in a cab twice a year.

Now that I have Florence, I'm reacquainting myself with traffic. The route I take to work usually isn't congested by the time I set out, so most days my commute isn't crazy. But Saturday's drive back from Southampton was a lesson in traffic.

The east end of Long Island during the summer is insane. The roads are narrow, two-laned and designed for country driving, not hordes of shiny Escalades and Jaguars. So even before I left, I was dealing with packed roadways. (Fortunately, Florence is pretty small, and can zip into parking spaces that Escalades couldn't consider.)

On the way back, an accident on the Sunrise Highway brought traffic to a dead stop near the town of Bohemia. I sat amid a sweltering sea of cars for maybe half an hour before I noticed that people were driving through a gap in a fence up ahead to get to an access road beside the highway. The procedure looked pretty dangerous, but I did it anyway. Thus freed from the "parking lot," I found an alternate route with the help of my trusty iPhone. (Unfortunately I had to get around a huge park. I've always been a supporter of parks, but at that particular moment I wanted to pave a road through the middle of it.) Anyway, I was back on the road after an hour or so's delay.

That didn't end the traffic, though. The Belt Parkway through Brooklyn was also heavy with cars. I guess everyone was out because it was such a nice day. Fortunately these cars were moving, and at one point, when I crested a rise near Coney Island, I was struck by how beautiful those shiny rivers of cars could be.

I crossed the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which gave me a spectacular view of Manhattan and New York Harbor. Pretty cool!

It took me about four hours to get home -- not entirely unpleasant, and certainly an adventure.

(Photo: Pam's kids created their own version of traffic, playing follow-the-leader on bicycles with a neighborhood pal.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lush Life

I had a great little mini-vacation in Southampton with my friend Pam and her kids. I drove out on Friday morning, and had a relatively effortless trip -- which surprised me, because I thought I might get caught up in New York rush hour traffic. I left early to avoid it, and apparently did! I enjoyed cruising along in my little car, my music on, the sunlight sparkling through the piece of cut lead crystal that hangs from my rearview mirror. (I call it my "disco ball.")

In Southampton I did a little of everything. Yesterday I picked up some Ina Garten cake mixes for Dave, and spent lots of time playing with Pam's kids and catching up with Pam. I hadn't been to see her there since January 2009, so we were long overdue for a visit. (Especially since she now lives in Boston. Her place in Southampton is a vacation home.) Before that, I think my last visit was July 2007 -- time flies!

I was fascinated by her swimming pool at night -- maybe because I'd had a few glasses of wine! It was fun to experiment with photographing the pool, and Pam in it. I actually really love the top picture.

I also visited my friend Stuart, who lives near Sag Harbor (and who I visited in September 2008). Stuart recently bought a Porsche Carrera, and he took me for a spin. It was a blast. It was also a little insane. Every time he hit the gas, the force of the acceleration pushed me back into the seat and the blood rushed to (or from?) my head. I tried not to look at the speedometer.

(I took Stuart for a spin in Florence, too. I laughed at how well our cars expressed our personalities -- his thumping with a Madonna remix, mine crooning Johnny Mathis.)

I went running this morning, and was surprised to find it pretty effortless. It always surprises me how easily running comes when I'm in a new place -- I think my brain is distracted by new surroundings and not focusing on how much my heart is pounding! I ran on quiet, woodsy, hilly roads with lots of scenery, and the weather was cool and spectacular. I passed within a few feet of several deer.

Then Pam and the kids and I went to the beach -- a quiet little beach on Peconic Bay -- and also to Sag Harbor for brunch. Finally, back in the car and home again -- an ordeal that I will relate tomorrow!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Haven't had much time for the blog world this week! I've been very busy with the new job -- I've had night meetings the last two nights in a row, and I have another tonight. I may not go, though, because I'd have to charge overtime, and no employer likes that.

Tomorrow I'm off to Southampton to visit my friend Pam, who I haven't seen in months. Dave can't go because he's enmeshed in band camp this week, so I'm just going to buzz out there in Florence and then come back Saturday. (I'd considered taking the train, but you've probably heard that the Long Island Railroad has been besieged by mechanical problems this week -- so I think I'll stick to my car.)

Among my interesting articles this week: A possible bedbug infestation in a government office building. Yikes!

(Photo: Feeling monstrous in Manhattan, Aug. 4)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Dave and I bought gas the other day at a garage where this car was parked, waiting for service. I don't know much about cars, but I couldn't resist taking a few pictures because it was so cool. Imperials are Chryslers, aren't they?

Every once in a while I find myself photographing old cars. I don't really like them mechanically, but I appreciate the mid-century design.

This one reminds me of a line in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" -- when five cars full of comedians are racing down a desert highway at the beginning of the movie, in search of Jimmy Durante's buried treasure. Ethel Merman says to Milton Berle: "We're in the Imperial and we're last?!"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Romeo & Juliet

On Friday I spent the afternoon watching the Franco Zeffirelli movie version of "Romeo & Juliet," which I've loved ever since I first saw it on a field trip in the ninth grade. I remember getting on a bus with my classmates and going into Tampa one morning to see the film at an old theater on Hillsborough Avenue. The theater has since been demolished -- it was probably struggling even then, and making money by showing that movie in the morning to scheduled groups of school children.

It's interesting that we were shown that film, because it does have a racy moment -- Romeo and Juliet in bed together, naked, and not entirely covered up. I can't help but think that some parents today would flip out if their kids were shown that scene on a school-sponsored trip. But I asked my friend Barbara, who's a high school English teacher, and she said she still shows it to her classes, so maybe I'm not giving modern parents enough credit.

I was surprised at how much I'd forgotten about the plot. I forgot, for example, that Romeo and Juliet got secretly married. A fairly major event!

Years ago, I had a best friend who was also a romantic interest -- a classic dilemma for many people, I suppose, and certainly many gay guys. One of our common bonds was an enthusiasm for Zeffirelli's "Romeo & Juliet." But over the ten years I was close to this friend, he gradually evolved and his personality dramatically changed. In the waning days of our relationship, I said something positive about the movie and he said, "Well, I think it's a little overwrought." I remember thinking, "Who is this person?" I knew we were coming to the end!

(Photo: A plant growing outside an apartment building in Greenwich Village, last Monday.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day Off

So I've worked two days, and already I have a day off. Such are the benefits of starting mid-week!

I don't know if I mentioned it, but my schedule in this new position is Sunday-Thursday. So I'll have Friday and Saturday free. It stands to complicate my life a little, since my weekends will no longer mesh with anyone else's -- but that's a small price to pay for employment.

Today is just a day for errands -- cleaning the apartment, going to the gym, getting my car "Simonized" (some kind of protective coating that the dealership agreed to provide when I bought it). Dave and I are going to dinner with a friend tonight, and tomorrow we're pretty much going to hang out at home. This is going to be an interesting autumn, because he and I work such disparate hours that we may not see much of each other. Ugh!

(Photo: Graffiti in Greenwich Village, on Monday.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

First Day

So, my first day at the new job was yesterday. I hate first days. They're filled with weird tension and uncertainty. But, having said that, things seemed to go well and I don't anticipate any problems settling into this new gig. It's just a matter of time to get to know my coworkers, my sources and the communities I'm covering. Everyone I've met so far seems nice and collegial.

I took a break at lunch and went to a little antique store near the office for some quick browsing. I bought a little handmade plate, very '70s, to ornament my desk. So I'm settling in!

I'll be glad when the paychecks start arriving.

(Photo: Mural on a construction shed on Eighth Avenue, Chelsea, on Monday.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hunting Birds

Have you ever read an article about something that surprises you utterly -- an activity or event that you never knew existed?

That's how a recent article by Jonathan Franzen in The New Yorker struck me. Franzen wrote about the practice in some Mediterranean countries of hunting migrating songbirds -- for food! Apparently in Cyprus people put sticky twigs in orchards that trap the birds when they land. In Malta and Italy people hunt songbirds, too, as well as raptors like hawks and eagles. Hunters shoot them out of the sky by the thousands, considering them local delicacies.

The practice is in opposition to the European Union, which has policies in place to protect songbirds. But many people in Cyprus and Malta, particularly, feel that bird hunting is part of their local culture and tradition, and react angrily to any suggestion that it be curtailed.

Who knew this was going on?

I must admit, I don't understand the hunting mentality. I've never hunted, no one in my immediate family hunts, and the idea of enjoying shooting other creatures -- or tying my identity to the practice -- makes no sense to me. I can understand enjoying a walk in the woods, even if you're carrying a gun as an excuse to be there -- that's the kind of hunting my grandfather used to do. He stomped around and rarely shot anything at all.

Haven't we reached a point, at least in the industrialized world, where hunting generally isn't necessary? Hunters argue that they're managing wild animal populations -- culling the herd, so to speak -- and though I don't really get it, I can live with licensed hunters killing approved species during regulated seasons. Unregulated hunting -- which is really poaching -- is mercilessly destructive. Our own hunting technology has far surpassed nature in its efficiency and brutality. (And I haven't heard anyone suggest that the "herd" of European songbirds needs culling.)

To bring the destructive elements of nationalism and ethnic pride into the issue -- well, that makes no sense to me either. Is it so hard to think about what's best for the birds?

(Photo: The exterior of the now-defunct Galaxy Diner, in Chelsea.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tough Day

Yesterday was a challenging day. I went into the city to do some photography and see a friend, who unfortunately is in the middle of a break-up with his partner of 16 years. We met for lunch at a Thai restaurant in Chelsea and I heard the story -- at least, the story from my friend's perspective -- and all in all it was a gloomy conversation. I won't get into details, obviously, but it's depressing to think that two people who ostensibly love each other can also be so terrible and hurtful to each other. (Not exactly a newsflash, but also not something I think about very often.)

I did some photography, but the day was overcast and the light wasn't so great. I eventually wandered over to the Angelika Film Center to see "Winter's Bone," a movie about a struggling family in the Ozarks whose patriarch cooks methamphetamine. As you can imagine, not exactly a cheery movie, but a good one.

I came home and found Dave in a state of angst over work. And we're both worried about Ruby, who seems to be getting weaker in her back legs. She has trouble climbing up on the couch and going down the stairs, I think because the fluid in her belly has altered her weight and equilibrium.

And of course, I have a little angst of my own over starting work tomorrow.

Calgon, take me away!

(Photo: A glum fellow sitting on some steps in Soho, yesterday.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Renewed Practice

As you can probably tell from yesterday's post, I'm trying to be a little more conscientious about my Buddhist practice. I feel like I kind of ran off the rails after moving to New Jersey, with the Zendo so far away and my life in such a state of turmoil. Now that I seem to be easing back toward normalcy, I want to renew my sitting and read more dharma teachings.

I really enjoyed Dinty W. Moore's book "The Accidental Buddhist," from which I took yesterday's passage. Moore starts out on a journalistic project to examine American Buddhism, and in the process finds himself swept up in practicing. But throughout, he remains very casual about it all -- I mean, he's serious, but he doesn't seem to feel the need to memorize chants in Japanese or Sanskrit or to wear robes or stuff like that.

One of the chief hurdles I faced in my practice was a feeling that the robes, the chanting, the incense were all their own trappings -- that they became attachments in and of themselves, especially since they weren't really my culture. I understand the uniting purpose of the dharma name, the symbolic transformation it suggests, but it seemed a little silly at the same time. Why couldn't I just be Steve, practicing as Steve? If the essence of Buddhism is simplicity and awareness, weren't we complicating things unnecessarily?

My teacher would say that all those elements are just the traditional container of our practice -- and indeed the ceremony can be beautiful. But Moore suggests we're developing our own brand of Buddhism in America that's no less serious, just more American. That's an appealing idea, and in any case his book has helped motivate me!

(Photo: East Village, last week.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010


"Once we realize that we are empty, that what we call our 'self' is really just a bag of meat supported by calcium sticks, and that all energy is all energy, a continuum of energy, and that there is no independent 'I,' no 'us and them,' no 'if he has it I can't have it, and if I have it, they can't,' kindness and compassion can only follow.

Aware of my lack of independent existence, how can I mindlessly squash a bug? The bug is me. How can I pop off a middle finger at some guy who cuts me off in Atlanta traffic? The guy is me. The finger is me. Heck, the traffic is me. How can I not do whatever is needed to aid the homeless, the hungry? We are all one thing.

But contrary to the shallow 'Hey dude, like there is no me, there is no you, so maybe I can borrow your car and sleep with your girlfriend' sort of interpretation that flourished in the sixties, the Buddhist realization of our lack of independence actually calls for greater responsibility. For ourselves -- first of all. And ultimately, for everyone else, everything else, because we all rise and fall on the same wave."

-- from "The Accidental Buddhist" by Dinty W. Moore

(Photo: Mushrooms in my friend Kellee's front yard, Portage, Mich.)

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Dave and I are at the movies. We're going to see "The Kids Are All Right" while the dogs are at the groomers. (They're having a "spa day.") I just shot this photo on the way into the theater -- cool shadows along the roofline!

Friday, August 13, 2010


I went in yesterday to check out my new office and take the mandatory drug test required for employment. The newsroom is tiny -- a nest of about 10 desks, with a few more private offices for the executives. I don't think I've worked in such a small office since I began reporting in the late 1980s.

Although the whole operation is much smaller than my previous employer, I'm taking this job seriously, believe me. In fact, I'm a little nervous -- it's been ten years since I've been a feet-on-the-street reporter. It'll be an interesting, and perhaps challenging, experience to get back to my roots!

I also got to walk around the larger of the two towns I'll be covering. It seems like a nice place, with a cute downtown lined with antique stores and sandwich shops, and a town square with an imposing old courthouse.

Last night, Dave and I went to see the Drum Corps International quarter-finals, which were held in Indianapolis but simulcast live in selected movie theaters around the country. The various DCI corps competed for a slot in the finals, with judging based on their music, visual showmanship and overall effect. Some of the shows included those we saw live in June. Last night's performances began at 6:30 and went until 11 p.m.! We didn't get to the theater until about 7:30, and even that was a long night of marching band for me.

(Photo: No, this is not the town I'll be covering. It's New York's Lower East Side, last week.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Checking on an Old Friend

Buying my new Honda on Tuesday made me wonder about my old car -- my 1995 Honda, which I sold in 2000 when I moved from Florida to New York City. It was a dark purplish-gray Civic, and I lived in that car. I drove it all over Southwest Florida between Tampa and Fort Myers, and to Miami, Key West, Palm Beach, Lakeland, Orlando, Jacksonville. It was very reliable.

You've seen the commercials for Carfax, right? It's an online service that lets you buy a vehicle ownership report for any car, based on its Vehicle Identification Number. Well, it occurred to me that my brother, who sold my Honda on my behalf, wrote its VIN on the receipt, which I've saved all this time.

So I decided to buy a Carfax report for my old car, just to see what happened to it after I sold it. The results were pretty interesting!

I owned the car from November 1994, when I bought it new with just four miles on the odometer, to July 2000. By that time, I'd racked up 130,030 miles. I hadn't had any accidents. (Well, I did have one parking lot mishap that resulted in a dented fender -- long story -- but that was too minor to be shown on the report.)

I knew I wouldn't need a car in Manhattan, so my brother took it up to Jacksonville, where he lives, and sold it to a Michael Chapman for $3,000. This is where the report gets interesting, and a little misleading.

Carfax shows the car with a single owner from 1994 until 2005, which clearly isn't right since I sold it in 2000. (The report does indicate the title was updated in July 2000, presumably with Chapman's name. Carfax doesn't provide owner names.) Turns out there were two additional title updates between 2000 and 2005, so perhaps those were new owners, too. A new owner was officially noted by the DMV in October 2005, by which time the car had 210,000 miles on it.

In August 2006, the car gained another new owner, this time in north Georgia. It passed an emissions inspection there with 231,220 miles on the odometer.

Then, in September 2006, the car was in an accident. It apparently wasn't a very severe accident -- the report notes that it involved rear impact and "slight damage." The registration was renewed in Decatur, Ga., in August 2007.

And there, the trail ends. Who knows what happened after that? Maybe my beloved Honda was scrapped, or maybe it's still out there, with a registration that hasn't yet expired or is delinquent.

I'm glad to know the car had a lengthy life after I sold it, and that it apparently wasn't involved in any horrendous crashes. The Carfax report was $35, but I consider it money well spent to satisfy my curiosity.

(Photo: Me and my old Honda, crossing the Everglades in August 1995. My friend Kevin, who took this photo, captioned it: "My new car just lets me be free, so free!")

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Car, New Job

Meet Florence, my new baby!

Florence is a 2010 Honda Fit Sport. I bought her yesterday after Dave and I took her for a test spin at our local Honda dealership. I'd seen Fits on the road and I liked their look, and I've long been a devotee of Hondas, so I didn't have too much trouble making a decision.

When I was car shopping, the only other serious contender was the Toyota Prius. The Prius got better gas mileage -- about 50 mpg to the Fit's 30 or so -- but it was considerably more expensive. Plus, it wasn't a Honda.

So here I am, the owner of a new car! I paid cash for her, too, so I've avoided having a car loan, which is always a plus. Florence is mine outright.

Which brings me to my next big news -- I have a job! And I mean a REAL job, a full-time staff reporting position with benefits. Woo hoo! As I hoped, my freelance gig at the local news blog led to a job offer as a reporter with one of the nearby newspapers. We have a verbal agreement and I'm going in to meet with the HR folks tomorrow.

It pays less than I made at my previous employer, but I don't have Manhattan expenses anymore, so I'm not worried about that. And it will be terrific to get back to writing and reporting and covering a beat -- all the things I missed as an editor. I'm very excited.

I'm also hugely relieved. I was more worried about being jobless than I even admitted to myself. Now that this offer has come, I feel like I've been able to exhale for the first time in months. I can plan trips and buy clothes without angsting over the expense. And having benefits is a huge plus that will keep me in much better financial shape.

A car and a job, all in one day! Wow!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

All in One Place

At last, after a somewhat harrowing but ultimately damage-free moving experience, all my belongings are in one place. I'm sitting at my dining room table, which we're using as a desk, and I'm surrounded by all the things I've had to keep in boxes for months until my furniture arrived. It feels so good to see my stuff again!

We picked up our U-Haul yesterday morning here in East Brunswick and drove it into Manhattan, which proved to be an adventure. I remember years ago a friend told me she'd driven a U-Haul into Manhattan, and I thought she was crazy -- I envied her bravery at the same time that I marveled at her nerves of steel. Well, now I can say that I've had the same experience! It really wasn't bad -- traffic in Manhattan is dense and a little crazy, but for the most part it moves slowly. I was tense, but more worried about parking and knocking off my huge side mirrors than running into anyone, or being run into.

We parked in front of my building (thank God for loading zones!) and managed to put everything on the truck in about an hour. I had a couch, a mattress, two bookcases, a dresser, my dining room table, a coffee table and a few odds and ends. We drove it all back to New Jersey, stopping for a lunchtime salad at a Roy Rogers on the Turnpike.

Back in East Brunswick, we had more furniture than we needed. So we planned to donate my mattress, my dining room chairs and our New Jersey couch (replacing it with the one from my apartment). Unfortunately, we couldn't find anyone to take our stuff. Goodwill sent us to Salvation Army, which wouldn't take the mattress, wouldn't allow us to drop off the furniture and wouldn't come to pick it up unless we had at least two large items. I tried another charity that wanted to charge me $100 for pickup.

So we wound up putting it back in the U-Haul and taking it all to the dump, which was a shame -- especially my mattress, which was 16 years old but still clean and in good shape. It just goes to show what a throw-away society we've become. Our charities are so deluged with used stuff they can't even take it all!

Anyway, we turned in the U-Haul around 3 p.m. (overall cost, just $103!) and came home, where I spent the afternoon and evening unpacking and organizing. I am SO happy to be settled in!

(Photo: Chinatown, last Wednesday.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Moving Day

This is another "classic" old photo from my archives. I took this with my Dad's camera in the 1970s, in his yard. Every once in a while we'd take the camera out and wander around, shooting whatever we saw. This particular shot is a pretty good depth-of-field experiment -- for a 12-year-old!

Today is the final leg of my protracted move out of New York City. Dave and I are taking a U-Haul into town this morning to retrieve my furniture, which I'd left in my apartment so it would show better. I'll be happy to have the rest of my stuff in New Jersey. This whole time many of my books and objets have been stored because we didn't have anywhere to put them, and our guest room has been a jumble of boxes and random, loose stuff. Now all that can be organized.

I can't remember whether I mentioned here that I do have a signed contract on the apartment. So within a few months the sale should close, and I'll be through with Manhattan expenses forever! Woo hoo!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


This rather nondescript graffiti is on the building near Ground Zero in New York that is slated to be torn down to make way for an Islamic cultural center.

In case you haven't been following this story, there's been a tremendous amount of controversy over the proposed construction of this center, which will include a mosque. Some people have argued that a mosque doesn't belong near Ground Zero, where so many lost their lives in 2001 to Muslim fanatics.

The proponents of the center, though, say that's exactly why it should go near Ground Zero -- to address Islamic fanaticism with a more moderate, reasoned approach that represents the vast majority of the world's Muslims.

There was a proposal to landmark the existing building in order to block the center, and that recently failed. (I gotta say, having seen the building, there's not a whole lot to recommend landmark status.)

On the wider issue, I side with the supporters of the Islamic center. I was as surprised as anyone when even the Anti-Defamation League, an organization devoted to fighting intolerance, came out in opposition to the center's placement near Ground Zero. (I suspect they were afraid of losing membership and financial backing if they decided otherwise.)

To my way of thinking, tolerance always wins. It may not win in the short term, and there are plenty who will seek the protection and benefits of a tolerant society while simultaneously working against it.

I'm aware that as a gay man, I would be treated pretty badly by many religious Muslims -- killed outright in some Muslim countries.

But I still believe that in the long run, the way to defeat extremism -- of all stripes, Muslim, Christian and otherwise -- is to accept and make room for all people, and model a tolerant society. By living it, we can show it is indeed the best way to live, which takes a lot of the appeal away from any extremist cause.

Muslims were obviously critical players in the events of 9/11, and those events were as much a tragedy and a disaster for moderate Islam as for the rest of us. Why shouldn't the Muslim community be able to address 9/11 and its ramifications at Ground Zero, and in their own way?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Purple Cup Series

Going through more old photos, I came across this fun series from December 1986. I had a light purple mug that I loved at the time, and one day I noticed that it almost precisely matched a groovy old '70s bedsheet that belonged to my family. (This is the kind of thing that excites a design-conscious 20-year-old experimenting with photography.)

I took the mug and sheet to my mom's house, where I had room to work in the front yard. I spread out the sheet in different ways, and played with perspective, light and texture.

This series is actually much larger, but these are the only prints I saved. I think I used an entire roll of film on the cup and sheet. I still have the negatives somewhere. I no longer have the cup or the sheet. (Which is too bad, because I totally dig that groovy sheet.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ruby, Part 3

We got some bad news yesterday about Ruby, one of our boxers. You may remember that for several months now, she's had a swollen belly that appears to be filled with fluid. Definitely not a normal situation!

A recap: When we first took her to the vet, we were told she probably had cancer. But when the vet was unable to pinpoint any tumors by x-ray or ultrasound, or to find cellular evidence of cancer, we decided the swelling was probably a side effect of Ruby's arthritis medication. We decided to stop going to that vet, and just withdraw the medicine. Unfortunately, the swelling didn't subside.

We took her to a different vet a few weeks ago, and that vet suspected a steroid imbalance called Cushing's Disease. That diagnosis turned out to be incorrect, too.

Finally, after all our recent travels, we took her back to the second vet on Wednesday and again yesterday. They ran more tests, including a second ultrasound of her abdomen and, this time, her chest. They found a lime-sized tumor on her heart, perhaps a hemangiosarcoma, which has reduced her heart function and is growing inside the pericardial sac, which surrounds the heart.

The vet said this tumor will kill her, but he's not sure when. He suspects it will rupture and bleed, and she will probably collapse and die quickly. Meanwhile, she is in no pain and is unaware of the problem. She has slowed down a bit, but she still eats and runs and seems to enjoy life. While at Dave's parents' house several nights ago, she ate two huge steak bones!

So we've decided for the time being to just let her be. Hopefully the end will come as the vet suspects, and we'll be spared having to make a decision to end her life.

I'm sorry to hear this diagnosis, but I'm not surprised. When the swelling failed to subside after we withdrew her medicine, I had a feeling something serious was going on. What confounded me was the fact that she didn't behave like she was sick.

So, anyway, who knows how long she has. Weeks? Months? But what better way to go than quickly, unaware of impending death?

(Photo: Vents in a wall in Saugatuck, Mich.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Art History

My old film photographs show that I've long had a tendency to take pictures of light and shadow. It's fun to look back at old shots like these and see that my eye was at work even then.

The photo above I took in the tiny town of Madison, Fla., when my friend Suzanne and I drove there in 1986 or '87. Those chairs were on the front porch of a nursing home. I had a framed copy of this photo on my wall for years.

When I lived in my first Tampa apartment in college, I ate off a metal tray table. Here it is, with my Walk-Man and two stray pieces of corn. (1985)

I eventually moved to a much better apartment near Tampa Bay, where my kitchen floor was covered with these black and white tiles. The evening sun threw shadows of my houseplants across the floor and, in this case, my shoes. (1991)

In high school, I was proud of my colorful collection of polo shirts. (1984)

My grandmother had an assortment of colorful glassware on shelves in her living room window. Here's some of it. My brother now has the red vase and the two blue pieces -- I'm not sure what happened to the clear ones. (1983)

I took this photo of a grain elevator while driving through Alberta, in the prairie town of Claresholm, if I remember right. (1990)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


A long 11-hour drive brought us home again last night, much to our relief. It felt so good to drive up our street and into our parking lot, and to discover that our houseplants had weathered our absence and the apartment was just as we'd left it. After we unloaded the car and ordered some Chinese food, I made the best gin & tonic I've had in a long time. Ah, home!

There's not much to say about the drive itself. We stopped for lunch at another truck stop in Pennsylvania, where the buffet was loaded with beige food -- and red, red Jell-o. Fortunately I like canned sweet potatoes and fried chicken!

The dogs are happy to be home, too. Poor Ernie panted heavily for the last half of the drive, obviously stressed out. The back seat was partly loaded with stuff so he and Ruby didn't have as much space as usual, and I think he thoroughly hated being in the car that long. (Poor Ruby is off to the vet today for another look at her swollen abdomen, so she goes from one trauma to another.)

We had to come back from Michigan a day earlier than we'd originally planned because I need to be in New York today to sign a contract of sale for my apartment. Woo hoo! And then tomorrow I have a job interview. When it rains it pours!

My one regret is that I didn't get to visit my friends Ann and Greg in Pittsburgh, which I'd hoped to do on the return trip. We just ran out of time. They have three daughters who I haven't seen in many years, so I'll have to make another trip one of these days to catch up with them.

(Photo: Painted rocks near Dave's old condo in Portage, Michigan.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Homeward Bound

Dave and I are setting out bright and early this morning for New Jersey. We've had fun on this trip, but as always with vacations, we're looking forward to getting back to our home and our routines.

We drove through Grand Rapids on the way back to Detroit, so I could see Dave's former home turf. He lived there for six years or so, and showed me his old house as well as lots of local landmarks, like the giant Alexander Calder sculpture in the middle of downtown. Then we drove back across the state to stay with his family.

Dave's parents have been great to me and I've enjoyed their hospitality. Dave hoped they'd be more enthusiastic about our recent civil union -- we didn't get even a "congratulations" -- but given their religious background I feel very accepted. They're very good-natured with me and I've shared in family stories and discussions. I feel like we've been congratulated, at least as far as they're able. I was afraid my reception might be far chillier.

We've loaded the car with more of Dave's stored belongings, mostly kitchen stuff and CDs, which we (I) will organize when we get back to New Jersey. We also discarded a lot of his stuff here -- and stuff belonging to his former partner, and that partner's former partner -- which will become fodder for garage sales by his parents. Vintage Ricky Nelson LPs, anyone?

(Photo: Lockers at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.)