Archive for June, 2013

You can’t help but love the small town culture. This week my choice was Carrollton TX. A town square lined with antique shops,  restaurants and anchored by a flag draped gazebo… really charming. An old style boardwalk allowed us to promenade under a shady awning to gawk and window shop while in the plaza a local auto club had brought out their best projects for the public to vote on. Yes, summer is in full swing… the temperatures are triple digits…but small town Texas is keeping us cool.

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There are those times in your travels, whether you’re on an ex-pat rampage or a long walk about,  when you’ll experience a psychological ‘hypnic jerk’. You know….when you wake up in a strange place and not know where you are. Sometimes when you have been away for a long time you’ll experience a feeling of longing for the familiar…commonly called home sickness. It happens to everyone from what I have observed in regular increments……3 months…six months…one year…two years. Theres something about our minds that requires us to seek out our spawning ground. I had that feeling this week…. I have to remind myself that its OK to have a little fun….that the rat race is far behind….. that life in one place can be made just as comfortable as another.  So, when dreams of the past bleed over into your waking hours…and you think you should be somewhere else…think about why you left……enjoy yourself…..life is short.

I am not a religious person. I have no fear of dying and have no expectations of an afterlife.  And as such I seek no guidance along the path I have chosen for myself. I am satisfied in my belief that we were all born out of chaos . As such I advise myself and anyone foolish enough to listen to this fool to live every moment of life as a precious and miraculous anomaly. I read a book a long time ago titled ‘Zen Flesh Zen Bones’. I remember nothing about the contents. But I do appreciate the concept of purity and Zen as an art form is well suited to my lifestyle.

There is no controlling dogma in my Zen world, I am a free spirit. My interpretation of ‘flesh and bones’ as a term is what  quantifies the  inside and the outside of my existence…..both the corporeal and the spiritual world I inhabit. And yes, one can enjoy a spiritual quality without the strict dogma of religious practice. Your spirit guide is within you, it is your natural wonder, an element of your instinct to survive and perpetuate the species.

It is my absolute belief that love is at the center of the universe.  Love evolved for obvious reasons. A forensic analysis and sociopolitical rationale is not necessary to enjoy what nature has given us freely. We should live in a state of wonder, but lets not take it for granted either . If there is a single uplifting miracle that everyone should experience it is the art of love. I count myself among the most fortunate of  men to have the love of a beautiful woman.  I don’t know what I did to deserve such a bounty, but her love is a blessing I cherish every day .

My love and I have been together for twenty five years and I wouldn’t exchange this for anything…. not for power, fame or gold.  Living every day in full appreciation of life  is not hard work. It’s not a matter of accepting one thing over another. Zen is an intellectual state of   demystifying the mysteries  we are born into.  How could anything be simpler than committing yourself to love the one you’re with?

 

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When I first started traveling there were very few compact technical camera’s. At my worst  I carried two Nikon solid body SLR’s….one for color slides and one for black and white….and a heavy tripod.  There were no computer programs to adjust for skill….OMG…no Photoshop!! Long trips were all about storing your fifty or more rolls of film for months at a time in the bottom of your backpack until you got home to develop the cache in your own darkroom. The purists would never send a film out… it had to be done by hand. There was no gimmick software … no digital, no instant gratification, no HDR…only colored filters, raw technique and chemicals..some of which I still have floating around in my bloodstream because I’d often forget to wear rubber gloves when immersing the exposed paper and swishing it around with bare hands while the alchemy happened. Travel photography back in the day was all about the art….an appreciation of composition, light and a good knowledge of depth of field exposure. Great photo’s were only made after days of stalking a location and waiting for ‘the magic hour’.

These days I have no fanciful dreams of being another Ansel Adams… I carry an Apple I Phone 4…sometimes a 5…depending on which I pick up on the way out the door. I record what I see based on composition and whatever  fleeting moment of whimsy comes my way. I have no loyalty to any one subject…..instead I enjoy the human experience in all its manifestations. Yesterday I drove to the historic railway town of Plano Texas……I had fun ….I let the images come to me. Far less work than the old days when it took months of hard slogging through some third world dive to find what I was looking for….taking the shot…and having to wait weeks or months to know if I’d captured the image. Today my images are less than perfect,  spontaneous….. more zen…….I am the lazy traveler.

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It’s summertime in the southern US and typical pastimes are blossoming in parking lots and empty spaces. Along with the traveling Mexican circuses and farmers markets there are flea markets, garage sales , lemonade stands and community BBQ contests. All theses thing signal summer time is in full swing. Memorial day was an expression of how deeply ingrained the military history of this country has effected the small streets and cul de sacs of small towns and city’s alike. The streets and front yards have been lined with flags for weeks. Nothing says America like Old Glory.

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Another standard feature is the fix er up car culture. It seems that in Texas everyone has been building an old car in their garage over the winter and the summer season is the time to get it out and let it shine for socializing and bragging rights . In Texas there are maybe a dozen or more car shows on TV…like Velocity, Car Chasers, Fast and Loud, Live Auctions, Wheeler Dealer, Girls Garage etc. The automobile culture is alive and well here in the Lone Star State.

 

When you come to a destination as diverse as the USA, try to get off of the tired shopping treadmill and the gaudy tributes that are so popular with the tourist industry. It’s the people that make the country so special. Take some time to get off the beaten track and see what makes America tick.

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