The Blue Distance


Out on the road.

between travels. I’ve traveled since I was a little boy. Maybe five or six years old. We took the Santa Fe El Capitain to Chicago and from there the Broadway Limited to New York City. We did that almost every other summer until I was 15 years old. Trains started changing. The Broadway Limited was a New York Central System train. Sometime in the middle 1960s they merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Both were losing money. Apparently, the owners thought that they could lose money together.

That lasted until 1970 when the federal government stepped in and created Amtrak. They never make money, but they weren’t created for that. In fact, since the end of World War II, passenger trains lost money. There just wasn’t a way to earn the money that freight trains do.

Enough about trains.

That’s not where this piece was going. It’s about me. Me. Me. Me.

I started traveling again after 1972. I took mostly road trips. I also commuted from San Jose to Long Beach, California. I went to college in San Jose.

My first real job in the long arc of my career was in southwestern Virginia. Once we got there, we didn’t travel much except to photograph sporting events and to visit friends who lived in Washington D.C. That was before I worked there.

Eventually. I worked at couple more newspapers. By then I was an editor. We never traveled. I join the staff of one of two picture agencies. I never traveled for the first one. I always traveled for the second one. That wore on me. Fly back to The United States from Hong Kong, overnight in Dallas where I supposedly lived and fly to New York the next day.

I kept doing that kind of work until the 2000s, when I began my second career. That one entails constant traveling especially in the summer. I set my alarm and wrote on a piece of paper, “You are in xyzzy city.”

Blammo. Then traveling stopped. Totally.

The summer of the great pandemic.

For the first month or so, being at home felt good. It was different. We got to be home. Even those of us in our households who didn’t travel liked us being home. Now, a little over six months in, our stirs are going crazy. I feel like I’m in a Jimmy Buffett song. “I just shot six holes in my freezer. I think I’ve got cabin fever. Somebody sound the alarm.”

Many of us have completed long postponed home projects. Obviously, if they were undone for so long, they didn’t need to be done. What the hell am I going to do with the five level bird house? There aren’t five levels of birds around here.

For some of us we know that we won’t really start traveling until spring of 2022. That’s right 2022. Not 2021. Not by the end of this year. 2022. I have no idea what trouble I will have gotten into by then.

The picture. We moved to New Mexico in late 2005 after Hurricane Katrina “wiped out region clean like the Bible said.” If memory serves we arrived in mid-November. We stayed until mid-2011. We took a lot of road trips. We flew for business. We flew for pleasure.

Even after we returned to New Orleans, the travel never slowed down.

Until March.

Even though I complain a lot about my ailments (That’s what old people do), I’m built to travel. I can drive 12 hours a day. I recover quickly from jet lag to major time zone crossings. I enjoy all sorts of food. I get along with all sorts of people.

But, here we all sit.

So.

I made this picture on a New Mexican road trip. I can’t remember where it was made. I suppose I could look at my daybook from the last year we were there. What caught my eye was the church. There are churches everywhere just like New Orleans. But, mostly the light got my attention.

Remember, I said that there is a magical quality to New Mexican light? I didn’t do anything to the light and sky of this photograph. That’s what I saw. That’s what you see.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Wear your masks. Enjoy all the American Indian fry bread.