One night, long ago.

M

y thoughts brought me to a couple of places. As events start to close down I’ve been thinking about anniversaries.

This picture of a flambeaux during Mardi Gras is a great example of that.

It’s just a picture, right?

Maybe.

To me it means a lot. I was suffering during Mardi Gras 2020. I was at the peak of my back pain which was transmitting even more pain to my right knee. I walked up Jefferson Street to my usual pre-parade stop, CC’s.

The flambeaux were lining up. I stuck my camera through the line and made this picture.

I gave up. Thee pain was too much. I limped back to my car with a couple of stops along the way.

This picture is important. It was my last serious photograph before the pandemic forced the lockdown.

For sure, I’ve been making little pictures on dog walks and my own walks. But, I haven’t made a serious picture since February, 2020.

My doctor thought I was depressed. Well, gee…

I

have a theory. When something goes south, just about everything else goes to hell.

I knew it a long time ago. I know it now.

This week is four days old.

We lost Jazzfest. We lost the red dress run. We lost Action Jackson. We lost Rosy Guste.

All of that happened during our fourth CoVid-19 surge. The national infections are now just about 130,000 infections a day. Our hospitals are jammed. The two big hospitals in Baton Rouge are filled. They literally cannot take more patients.

Louisiana and the rest of the country are headed south. All manner of smaller bad things are starting to happen. What’s next?

Y

ou just never know. That’s what Action Jackson said to me when we first met.

He was right. Maybe more than he knew.

When you photograph second lines every Sunday to get to know many people.

Photographers cluster together and chat. We get to know each other. We are happy to see each other.

One photographer was Roy Guste. I knew him as a photographer. Once, when his car was broken down I gave him a ride.

There was more to him.

He studied cooking at Cordon Bleu. He was the proprietor of one of our famous old restaurants as his dad was before him. He wrote ten books about our food, traditions and cooking.

He was very well known to the food culture of New Orleans.

I never knew. I wonder how many of the photographers on the line knew.

Roy Guste died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.

RIP.


John Lennon once called times like these clean up times. And, so they shall be. But, first I want to thank every one of you who reached out to me about the passing of Sophie Rose. It means more to me than I can say. I appreciate each and every one of you.

I will miss her more than you can know. Even just writing these few words brings that sting to my eyes.

As someone very dear to me said, “You can have until the start of the week to languish, then it’s time to pull on your pants and get to work.” The last time I heard that was after Hurricane Katrina struck and the late great chef, Leah Chase said the same thing about rebuilding the city.

They are both right.

So, was Lennon.

I don’t know what that means for Storyteller. I don’t even know what it means for my photography. I do know that it will be very hard looking for the “little pictures’ I used to make with Sophie Rose. I also know that second line and Black Masking Indian photography is a thing of the past. My illnesses won’t let me work in the middle of large disorganized crowds. That probably means Mardi Gras photography is done as well.

Worse.

Music hurts me now. I’ve always found solace in music. Now even the screaming guitar of Jimi Hendrix brings tears to my eyes. I don’t know why.

So.

I carry on. I’ll make needed and necessary changes to this blog. To my work. To my life. And, how I look at things.

And, one day.


Way inside.

Memorial Day. If you’ve been around for a while you know what I think. There is no “Happy” to Memorial Day. There are only thoughts of those who never made it home. Those who paid the ultimate price. For freedom. For your hot dog. For your hamburg.

Generally, I feel guilty.

Instead of a flag or cemetery picture I thought that I would post a picture of pure light, pure color. A picture once made in New Mexico.

It’s the food stands at one of the International Balloon Fiestas. In Albuquerque. New Mexico.

That’s not what this post is about. It’s about going deep inside. Finally. Ironically, on a day the we mourn our war dead. My war dead. Your’s too.

It started as a dream. A dream that won’t let go. A dream that’s come back to me four times on two different nights and mornings.

The dream that began in New York. I was returning from a trip with a bunch of other people. The vehicle was so filled up with stuff that I had to stand outside and hang on to he back end.

That was just as well. When we got into the city traffic was so backed up that I just jumped off and walked faster than the cars were going. I needed a way out. I came to a hole and I jumped into it.

No comes the wired part.

I started walking down, down, down. I walked past piles of junk. I walked past abandoned vehicles. I walked until I came to the bottom where everything was just a brownish-gray mud.

I made my way to the surface slowly. Very slowly. There were broken down and used up military vehicles. Some people were working on them. They ignored me. I watched them. The tanks and cannons weren’t blown up. They were used up. They no longer ran because they couldn’t be repaired.

I eventually came to the surface. I was covered in mud. I was gray. I was brown. I went to a locker and changed into newly washed clothes. They were old fashioned dungarees. I had to pass through a sort of check out where I was sent onto the street… in Los Angeles.

I started walking. I knew where I wanted to go. Home. Home was in Long Beach. I started walking in that direction. I passed through all sorts of neighborhoods, all of them run down and broken. The people looked mean but ignored me as I walked.

Eventually, I came to a river…

I awoke.

Making this picture was easy. Maybe, too easy.

Slow the shutter speed down. Set the aperture for F 5.6. Stand tall so that everything doesn’t move. Hit the button.

Done.

Keep things clean in post production and everything is golden.

What I can’t figure out is how my dream lead me to this picture. Or, was it the other way around?

I think the grays and browns lead me here. No matter. There is more of the dream to come. Maybe you’ll find out. I’m still not sure that I did.

Maybe it’s just my reaction to so much drab color. After all, this picture is the antithesis of that. It’s all color.

And, it’s simple. As simple as gray and brown, but the other way around.

There is one thing I sort of understand about my dream. The worn out tanks and cannons come from reality.

The Nazi Germans built a couple of huge tanks. The Tiger and the King Tiger. Allied armament couldn’t penetrate them yet they were defeated.

There were three reasons.

The US armed forces sent five smaller M4 Shermans to attack them. Four were blown up. The fifth got through and was close enough to destroy them.

The Tigers were gas guzzlers. Something like eight gallons to the mile is what it took to move them.

Worse. After about 10 miles they needed an overhaul. They broke down in the field of combat and needed to be repaired.

They were used up.


Looking into the sky.

Humility.

Sit. Listen. Forgive.

Where there is pain, there is also joy.

You have to learn it. You have to think about it. You have to work at it. I’m still in the first phase. Learning.

As I write, I’m listening to Shawn Colvin speaking about her dad in a podcast. She’s speaking about forgiveness and compassion. She’s bringing tears to my eyes. I’ll talk about them later, when I’m ready.

Shawn and I go way back. We don’t know each other. When my mom passed, it was in Reno, Nevada. I had to make a number of trips to take care of all that family business including housing my dad, who had a number of small strokes. He couldn’t care for himself. We placed him in a home. It was residential. Five patients. 11 caregivers. I joked that I wanted to live there.

It was intense.

My cousin and his girlfriend wanted to go to a concert. They thought it would be good for me to accompany them. Since the headliner was Jackson Browne backed by Shawn Colvin I was a little excited to go.

Shawn played her set. Jackson sat in. When he played his set, Shawn joined him. There was a pause, the audience went quiet. You know the guy who yells something out during that quiet time? That was me. You could hear me clear as a bell. I yelled out, “Fountain of Sorrow,” a song from his second album. Jackson looked around, and said, “Okay, we’ll play that.” He knew that somebody out in the audience needed to hear it. Shawn’s voice made the song fly.

That’s how I know Shawn Colvin. That was 24 years ago. After 24 years on the road playing in every possible place, I doubt she even remembers the show. But, I do.

There are a few things I need to work out. I promise I won’t bore you. Too much.

The Picture

I had a helluva a shooting day, yesterday. My eyes were wide open. I could see everything. Wherever I went there were pictures shining in front of me. Today? Not so much. That’s how it goes.

I really like the picture. I saw very clearly what I wanted it to be. But, there is a flaw in it. The center just above the tree, is very strangely exposed. It’s way too bright for the picture. I believe there must have been something behind the tree that was reflecting light back into it

I wanted to hide it. I tried everything. Nothing worked. Some of my early attempts look weird. I started tinkering with faux bokeh. That worked. It even added a little color.

Stay safe. Stay mighty. Enjoy the heat and humidity.


Something in the air.

It’s in the air. Tonight. Today.

I’m not the only one.

Yesterday, I wrote about murky dreams. Dreams of the past. Dreams of people long forgotten. Of a time in the dim recesses of my mind.

Between online conversations and some in real life, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one. People of a certain age are going through this strange little time too. Before, we get all spooky and weird, it probably means nothing.

On the other hand.

What if?

What if we are marshalling our past resources for something to come? I’m not one who believes in all seeing third eyes, or understands why the hell WordPress doesn’t like marshalling in this usage, but something is brewing.

Since the usage of marshalling in this case, means ordering things in preparation for battle, what battle am I, are we, getting ready for?  As much as I dislike the current United States President — and, all that he stands for — and want him imprisoned, it’s not something as mundane as that. I think it’s bigger. I don’t know what it is. But, it’s coming.

As I used to say in the bad old helicopter days, “I got a bad feeling about this.” The last time I thought and felt that, a storm called Hurricane Katrina just about wiped New Orleans off the face of the earth. It’s a powerful feeling.

We’ll see.

The picture. My apologies. I went a little too far in post production. I should have reworked this picture. But, today is very, very busy. So, I moved it from my phone to OnOne and tried to make a few little repairs there. The mistakes were too imbedded for that.

Anyway.

I saw these blossoms and did the only thing that I could do. I photographed them. Then, I messed with them. I made the picture a little spooky. Then, as I wrote, I went too far. I tend to do that. I should have taken things a step or two backward. I’ll get back to it. I’ll fix it. I promise. I might even show you the revised picture.

One more thing about this bad feeling. (See how haunted I am by it?) There’s an old infantry saying, “If you can see the enemy, the enemy can see you.” The reverse is also true. I can’t see the enemy. But, I know…


A pleasant surprise.

I’ve been thinking.

You know how dangerous that can be. These are pretty good thoughts about a man who has served my country for his entire adult life. He served in the military. In the House of Representatives. And, in the Senate.

Now, he is dying of brain cancer. A particularly virulent strain that also killed Ted Kennedy.

Senator John McCain is making peace in his last days by writing a book that he might not be alive to see published. He is making peace by visiting with his old friends and telling them what they mean to him. Because he is sick, they have to come to him. They journey hundreds of miles to do this. Despite the political implications of these visits, most of them come because as former Vice President Joe Biden said, “I just want to see my friend.”

Please make no mistake. I don’t agree with many of the things Senator McCain did or said. He is too quick to “put boots on the ground” rather than to settle something diplomatically. He was often an air cowboy as a pilot. Yet, when the USS Forrestal was on fire he landed his aircraft and rushed to the fire to help save the crew. He comported himself with great dignity after his capture and prison time as POW. He came home to serve his country.

Most importantly, I never for a minute believed that he advocated anything — even those things with which I disagreed — without my country’s best interests in mind.

I respect him.

Now, as his time approaches, he is taking care of unfinished business. He is planning his funeral. He’s asked two former presidents to speak. They are from both sides of the political spectrum. Former President George W. Bush and former President Barrack Obama. They said yes. He does not want the current president to attend. It would be easy to criticize him for that. It’s not revenge. The current president stands for nothing the senator believes in. I’m not sure he stands for anything.

Where did all this bring me to?

I’m somebody of thinks through complicated thoughts and distills them into something simple. Understandable. After all, complicated pictures are hard to view.

We don’t have to agreed with each other. But, we owe it to ourselves and to the people around us to listen and to compromise. We owe it to ourselves to speak out whether it be in words, our art, or just in our actions.

You know, like how hard is it to let another car pass in front of you when they need to be in another lane?

Yeah, like that.

The Rose?

Oh, I saw it yesterday. It was too pretty to pass up. To pretty to pass up in my search for junk. You know what I say. The work is the prayer. Call it a prayer for the senator.