Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wordless Redux

Open for Business

I decided to post this one because JL's comment about Hopper's painting made me think that the picture ought to have diners. There were no diners when I was there but there was one person working (in yellow). Unfortunately the focus is not good.
Thanks for all the comments guys. It does my little heart good.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Winter Weather

Photo Sharks--Winter Sports--does driving to work count?

Commuting to Oak Park

Sometimes you just gotta love it here. We had a hard thaw today and yesterday. There are only small piles of snow left and the mud from the construction workers traipsing through my back yard is quite remarkable. I can't wait to try to reseed the area. So it should come at no surprise after 24 years in Chicago that this will change. Here is a summary of the day's forecast:
Today's High: 50 degrees F. (By the way the record high is listed as 51 degrees in 1968--so this is a very warm day for us).
Tonight's Low: 5 degrees F. I'm not joking. 45 degrees in one day.
We also can expect: wind, thunder showers, snow/blowing snow, light snow showers/wind.
Here is what I can expect while commuting home tonight. If I'm lucky my last few patients will cancel. The -1 temperature is the wind chill factor. Brrrrr!
10pm Snow / Blowing Snow
18°F -1°F (Wind chill) 80% (chance precip) Wind From WNW 34 mph
Hope my car doesn't break down.

The Clock--Tuesday Challenge

$5 To Start

This isn't a great photo. It would be hard to take a great photo from one's car while waiting to make a left turn. Even so, I kind of like the action that is going on in the picture.
I've probably have mentioned before but I'm collecting clock pictures. Clocks on buildings are a form of architectural art that truly appeals to me. I keep looking for new building clocks around the Chicago area and can't wait to get on the road again elsewhere to see what I can see. Until then I'll keep posting local and recycled stuff.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Photo Friday--The Machine

Will Johnson and Brookins Help Save Your House

Everyone is trying to turn out the Chicago vote. On the South Side of Chicago this seems to mean that campaign posters are plastered to every abandoned building. In some neighborhoods this means they are on every vacant home and lot. Of course, one wonders what the turn out in these neighborhoods is.
Does anyone see the irony here? Which do you do first? Vote or save your home from foreclosure?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

You know you've spent too much time remodeling when. . .

Remodeling Time

Your son asks you to sew up a seam in his winter coat and you wonder if you should blow in some insulation before you do.
True story.

Relax, Max

Lazy day

I was watching my cat sleep today and I was envious. Not of her ability to sleep for 16 hours a day, since I actually resent how much of my day is occupied by required sleeping but of her ability to relax so deeply. Not that she is always relaxed. At the moment she is doing furious battle, saving the world from a rubber band. But I envy those moments of spineless repose, where her only worry is whether dinner will arrive on time.

Ferocious Slayer of Rubber Bands

I’ve been hypnotized during a course on hypnosis and trust me, it is a very relaxed feeling but I doubt I looked that calm. I don’t think I’ve looked that relaxed when asleep since I was an infant and still believed that all was safe in my world. Cats have all the luck.
When my kids were infants, we read to them from a number of board books. Writing a good baby book is quite an art. It might appear easy to the uninformed. After all such a book is rarely more than 20-30 words in length. But that is the point. It has to be readable, not once but a hundred times, aloud. The pictures have to be bold and eye catching, but even more, the words have to have a certain seductive rhythm and tone, like great poetry, only catchier and more accessible. One classic of the genre, "Goodnight Moon", seems dull and lifeless until read aloud. Then the tone and rhythm catch the ear and lull the senses into a state of, see I had a point here, relaxation.
We had our favorite stories, like most families. There were the train books, the dinosaur stories, the bedtime stories. Some were funny, some sweet. Some just outright ridiculous. The queen of silliness has to be Sandra Boynton. Sandra started in the greeting card business I believe. But her board books captured my family’s attention. Our favorite was “But Not the Hippopatamus.” Quoth I:
A hog and a frog
Cavort in the bog.
But not the hippopotamus.
A cat and two rats
Are trying on hats.
But not the hippopotamus.

Doesn’t this remind you of middle school? The best reading of all was when a French family member read it with an exaggerated French accent. We nearly died laughing. I can’t reproduce it well in print but imagine “But not ze ippopotamoose,” and you get the idea.

But Not the Hippopotamus

Another favorite which I have to quote from memory since the book must be in a box somewhere is “Max’s Bedtime” by Rosemary Wells. Max loses his red rubber elephant right before bedtime. His older sister Ruby tries to comfort him with all his other stuffed animals. “ ‘Relax, Max,’ said Ruby. But Max could not relax.” The pictures are great and the story has a happy ending. Max finds his red rubber elephant and goes to sleep. If my child didn’t do as well, it wasn’t Rosemary’s fault.
I still say “Relax, Max” to my kids although I’m not sure they remember the source of the quote. I don’t know if they listen anymore but they did back then.
So we should all learn to relax from cats, and Ruby. After all, life is too short not to waste more of it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

As I See It

View through my car window

One purpose of photography and writing is to share the world as one sees it. So here you have a look through my car window. The currency exchange and the people waiting for a bus are a typical street corner look. I wish I could photograph the atmosphere more directly but people would object. And they have the right to. I wouldn't want people taking random pictures of me as I go about my daily business. Which puts photography at odds with a person's right to privacy. Did the old time photographers worry about this too?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Chinatown Lanterns

BTT wants me to name a favorite book that hasn't been widely heard of or read. I got stuck because I feel like my favorites will be familiar to most people, at least by name. So I booked on over to Gautami's response and read the comments. Her train of thought and recommendation of Amy Tan, one of my favorites--as an aside I was disappointed in her latest novel, Saving Fish from Drowning, but liked very much her non-fiction book on writing, The Opposite of Fate--led me to remember another Chinese American author I like very much, by the name of Gus Lee. Like Ms. Tan, the author writes of the experience of being Chinese American and how being between two cultures affects people. His novels, China Boy and its sequel Honor and Duty were a fascinating view of growing up Chinese in the U.S. and gave me insight into a culture that fascinates me. It also provided me with a partial frame of reference when working with some Chinese-American patients a number of years ago. I haven't read these two books in many years so I cannot be sure if recall rings true across the years but was pleased to see that Mr. Lee has written a couple of other novels and works of non-fiction.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Moody Monday--Complicated

Food Box

Stehekin, Washington


Rejected Stone

Driving through Englewood is a bit mind bending. If you stick to the main streets it looks like the rest of Chicago. Old buildings with funky stores in them, fast food restaurants, hair salons and auto repair shops are everywhere.
When I first started taking photos in the inner city, the number of store front churches also caught my eye. Denominations such as M.B., A.M.E. and Apostolic meant nothing to me. In a way it is ironic to me because at one point I attended a store front synagogue that didn't look all that much different.
In these parts of Chicago, all it seems you need to run a church is a can or two of paint, a storefront on a main street and a preacher or minister. I've wondered how many people attend services at some of these churches and how the bills get paid. I photograph as many of these churches as I can on my outings. Some are funky, some loud, some a bit sad. I probably have well over a hundred pictures. I'm looking forward to seeing how these places change over time as the neighborhoods they are located in are nothing if not transitory.
Leave the main street and things become a bit grimmer. There are the usual mix of brick, frame and greystone homes. Many are clearly remnants of a richer era. On some streets half the homes are boarded over. Young men hang out on the street tinkering with cars. One day I saw cash changing hands. I hoped it was someone paying someone back for cigarettes but I feared otherwise. The same day I slowed to take a picture of a vacant house with broken windows and saw someone looking out at me. I doubt it was the homeowner doing a little rehabbing. Yesterday in the place of a neighborhood block sign, I saw a t-shirt with the words RIP. I didn't slow to see whose name was there. It might have been a child's. On the major corners are liquor stores with older men holding brown bags hanging around outside. Sometimes you see kids and women but mostly men and teenage boys.

Who Will Buy

I don't feel safe here but I try to keep my eyes open and I keep getting drawn back. I'm not sure why. I've seen greater poverty in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. But this is in my own back yard, only a few miles from my home. There is character, culture and despair here. Am I here to spy and pry or am I some sort of amateur historian or journalist? I'm not sure but if you scan the pages of Flickr you will meet a few others who take pictures in the same places I do. I hope my interest runs deeper than mere tourism. I feel that there is a story here that needs to be told.
I wonder, why are we sending Chicagoans to rebuild New Orleans when we have devastation in our own backyard? Is it because a hurricane is more romantic way to lose a home? Do we somehow blame the folks who live in Englewood for their poverty, drugs, and violence? These homes, just as historic and charming as many in the deep south, will fall to rot or be torn down because they become crack houses. And what will become of the people who live here? Perhaps as in Bronzeville, Kenwood and Woodlawn, neighborhoods that seem to be on the upswing, the poor will be pushed out by gentrification and old homes will be replaced by modern townhouses made of concrete blocks. Someone told me recently that the suburbs are becoming the new ghettos of Chicago. I'm not much of a sociologist, but will the cycle of ghettoization and white flight ever end?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nobody Home


Well, in spite of near zero temperatures, I convinced myself to go out for a photo drive. In some parts of the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago there seem to be more board-ups than lived in houses. The cold means fewer people hanging out on the streets which decreases my risk of getting mugged or shot. I'm pretty careful too.
For more shots (no pun intended) of this outing check out my Flickr site at


Wind surfing

I actually learned to wind surf many years ago but this guy was out of my league. It was amazingly windy that day. Taken at Lake Chelan, Washington in August 2007.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Down and Out

Down and Out

Well, I had a couple of moments to take a few pictures on my way home from a meeting yesterday. Nothing like the south side for a bit of atmosphere.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pecked to Death by Ducks


I tried to look up the origin of this expression but could only find reference to the book by this name by author Tim Cahill. Maybe he coined the expression in which case he has my admiration. I wish I could turn a phrase that evocatively. I can simply close my eyes and imagine some hapless soul besieged by ducks.
Pecked to death by ducks comes to mind as a metaphor for how I am feeling these days. It seems as if turning 46 has left me experiencing a foretaste of the woes of getting older. Nothing that will kill me but so far nothing that will make me stronger either. (Source of this expression: "What does not kill me makes me stronger." "Twilight of the Idols" (1899) by Friedrich Nietzsche). Little aches and pains that leave me, vaguely, feeling eroded.
Part of it is just winter weariness. This weekend it is predicted to get down to 0 degrees F. In Celsius, that would be "just too damn cold." The heat wave of last week is long gone. I don't know about you all but I am longing for a glimpse of the sun. But this too will pass. For me, living in Chicago, March is sort of the "hump month" when I start to feel in my heart that winter is almost gone. Of course, there will be the April Fool's Day snow storm to make us think that maybe we ought to hibernate for another month, but March is still the tipping point.
Here is a brief reminder of the exuberance of spring.

Don't talk with your mouth full.

Eye Candy

Clouds' Illusions

Another photo from Washington state.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Song Sparrow (I think)

Song Sparrow

Another cute little birdie. Long day today so no writing for me (other than prescriptions and notes in charts).

Monday, January 14, 2008



Seen in Washington State.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Date

Me in 1983
Photo taken at the time of the story.

This prompt compels me to tell my favorite dating story. It is one that makes members of my family cringe but I enjoy the story because I see it as less a story of a big mistake, than as a story of adversity overcome.
My senior year in college, I was lonely, in the romantic sense. The year before had seen the end of my first serious relationship and I finally over the heartbreak. I spent the first six months of my senior year living and studying in Paris. It was a wonderful time but it was a time when I was often on my own. I had been treated badly by the last two men I had dared to hope might want a relationship with me, one at the beginning of my stay in France and the other right after my return.
Then Louis (not his real name) showed up at the airport to pick me up on my return from France. I was expecting someone else but Louis was drafted at the last minute. I didn’t know Louis extremely well. He was a French graduate student that took his meals at my undergraduate dormitory. I was single and, as I said, lonely and Louis was clearly hitting on me. Unfortunately he also had an out of town girlfriend. Louis explained that they had an open relationship and I wasn’t expecting much since I was heading off to medical school in 3 months, so I convinced myself over the course of the next couple of weeks that I could handle the far away girlfriend and allowed myself to get involved.
There was pain associated with knowing there was a girlfriend in the wings but that wasn’t why Louis turned out to be a poor risk in the boyfriend department. See, it turned out that Louis was one of those individuals who is a born adrenaline junkie. At first that just made him fun to be around. He taught me to drive his stick shift car. He took my flying since he was an amateur pilot. He was a fantastic swimmer and taught me how to push myself in the pool and as a consequence I managed to lose the extra pounds that my lousy Parisian diet had put on me.
As an aside, maybe French women don’t get fat, but American women in France can and do. In winter (at least in the 80’s), fresh fruit and vegetables weren’t easy to come by on a budget. I didn’t have a kitchen and I didn’t have much money. That meant I ate a lot of croissants, baguettes, yaourt (French for yogurt) and camembert. I had no access to a gym, and I hated running (besides only crazy Americans ran in France at the time). Even though I walked everywhere, sometimes for miles a day, I gained around 10 pounds.
My real story begins when Louis and I went cross country skiing. I was a novice at the sport. I had been on skis a few times but was still a rank beginner. It was Memorial Day weekend (the end of May) and we had to get to a pretty high altitude to find enough snow to ski in.
It was a gorgeous day. We were at around 10,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. There were no groomed ski trails. We just put on skis and took off. The day was warm and very bright. Things went pretty well until my friend decided he wanted to ski across a frozen lake. I am as susceptible to peer pressure as the next person (or I’d never have been dating this fellow) but I pointed out that it was almost June and that I could see cracks in the ice on the lake and did not think this was such a good idea.
Louis accused me of being a wimp and took off across the lake. I went the long way around intending to meet him at the other side. However, somewhere along the way, I lost sight of him.
Of course, by this time, I had steam coming out of my ears. I thought that Louis had intentionally left me behind and decided to head back to the car and wait for him there. Instead of following our trail back, I took a short cut.
I found myself on a very large downhill slope that exceeded my skiing prowess substantially. Cross country skis are not intended for serious slopes and I was in over my head. I fell a lot but the day was warm and I was still doing all right. At times the terrain got a bit rough. There were places I had to walk sideways where it was too steep to ski and a couple of times I lost my footing, slid downhill and had to use my hands and skis in lieu of an ice axe. There were a few scary moments when I seemed to be sliding toward a tree. This late in the spring the snow around the trees had melted leaving a sort of deep pit in the snow around the trunksk. It occurred to me that falling in one of these holes could be painful and that it would not be a good idea to break an ankle. My feet got wet when I had to cross a stream and missed a step. This added to the overall discomfort.
I continued to hang tough even when I realized that I was lost. I had no food, no matches, in fact, nothing but my clothes and my skis. I have good wilderness skills and didn’t every truly worry about dying out there but I did fear that I would get hurt and have to be rescued with all the subsequent embarrassment associated with that. My worst moment was when I thought I had to be finally nearing the road and came out of the woods on the side of a large canyon and saw the road far away on the other side. I have to admit that I cried a bit then.
All in all, I was out on the snow for around 6 hours before I regained the road. I had never lost my sense of direction and I kept on moving which is what got me out of there. At last I was at the road and found the car. The bad news is that my friend wasn’t there and I didn’t have keys to the car. I was tired, hungry and very angry and decided to hitchhike back to San Francisco. I think I thought Louis was out having a good time at my expense and didn’t have the sense to wait around for him to return. I didn’t have any money or identification but I wasn’t thinking all that clearly.
The first person I asked for a ride was going the wrong way. Before I had the nerve to approach a second person, Louis showed up. Of course, we had a major fight with recriminations being exchanged on both sides. It turned out Louis hadn’t abandoned me by the lake. He had merely ducked behind a rock to take a leak. He was nearly as tired and frayed as I was after spending hours looking for me. We settled the fight long enough to agree we were too tired to return to the city directly. We checked into a small motel nearby and ate something.
It was at this point that the final complication of the day began. On the way home from our dinner, I commented to Louis on what a foggy night it was. He looked at me strangely and said that it was perfectly clear. Over the next few hours I progressively began to go snow blind.
I had heard of the phenomenon. Anyone who read Jack London stories as a kid had heard of it. If London mentioned that it was painful, I hadn’t noticed. It turns out that having both one’s corneas seriously burned is painful and frightening in the way childbirth is painful and frightening. I think I was probably delirious since at some point during the ordeal I decided that my pain was less severe while my contact lenses were still in place so I tried to put them back in while blind, in immense pain and with tears streaming down my face. Needless to say I wasn’t able to manage it.
The next day I tied a shirt over my face and barely endured the drive back home and straight to the student health center at school. By then the pain had begun to abate and there was nothing that needed to be done for my eyes except some drops for the pain. When I was finally able to see clearly enough to tell, I realized that my eyes had sunburn lines from where my lids covered them. I also had time to realize that if I had succeeded in hitch-hiking into town as was my first plan, I would have probably landed in San Francisco with no money or ID, blind and delirious. Lucky for me the first ride didn’t work out.
I have had no ill effects from the burn but if I ever get a melanoma of my eyes (it happens) I will know the most probable cause. I have also learned to wear sun glasses while skiing. Louis and I parted ways when I left for Medical School and I have not heard from him for years.
I learned something that day. I learned that while I may not have the foolhardy courage that Louis had, I do have the kind of courage that kept me going when cold, wet, tired and scared that day. So I still tell the story, even if it makes my family shake their heads in dismay.

Medical advice from a quack

Get a Grip

Saturday, January 12, 2008

How Now Brown Cow?

How now brown cow

Seen in Athens.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Photo Friday--Mountain

Taggart Lake

Taggart Lake and the Grand Tetons

If it weren't probably under 6 feet of snow, I wouldn't mind being there right now. Makes me miss the summer.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Are You Saved?

Are You Saved

This is one photo from an ongoing project of mine which is to document the small storefront churches of the south side of Chicago.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Cyclist in Snow

I think this could become one of my favorite photos.


The Big Squeeze
Navy Pier, Chicago, Illinois

Monday, January 07, 2008

Tuesday Challenge--If it ain't broke. . .

If it ain't broke

But what do you do if it is already broken beyond repair? Demolish?
The final days of the Stateway Gardens, a Chicago public housing project.

Cats of Science

Taste Test

Guess which food is tastier?

My cats graciously participated in a science fair experiment of a 5th grader in my son's class. Since it had to do with free food they couldn't object. Unlike university science they didn't have to sign elaborate forms or go through an IRB (institutional review board) before volunteering. The question was did cats prefer the same old food they always eat or something novel. Well you can judge for yourself but my scientist alter ego sees some problems with this experiment.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday Scribblings--New

Good Wishes

Beware, whiny post alert.

One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
Andre Gide
French critic, essayist, & novelist (1869 - 1951)

What is it with the New Year and newness? How many of you are truly energized by the challenge of turning over a new leaf on the 1st of January? Or are you, like me, just waiting for winter to end and the more inspiring newness of spring to arrive.
Today, the theme of newness is hard to find inspirational. I’ve already given up on several “Best of 2007” photo memes. Somehow my best of last year, although probably pretty good, feels jaded and stale. And as for resolutions for 2008, well, we all know that they won’t be achieved; not by me and, statistically speaking, not by you either.
I could write Thursday Thirteen-like lists of the thirteen new things I did last year, for example:
1. Wrote a novel.
2. Attended a photo swap.
3. Drove 1600 miles solo across the northwestern U.S.
4. Took a class on Altered Books
5. Danced.
6. Danced in the Nutcracker, on a stage, before a couple of hundred people, family and friends included.
7. Didn’t succumb to stage fright while doing #6.
8. Cut off over 10 inches of hair (well, I did that once before back when I was 17)
9. Became an aunt.
10. Posted poetry on the internet (well, actually the first time was December 14, 2006)
11. Publicly read something I wrote that wasn’t a class assignment.
12. Started consulting to a public high school.
13. Bought a tripod and a macro lens for my camera.

I could also write thirteen good resolutions for the New Year. The list would sound a bit like this:
1. Set up a regular exercise routine.
2. Start following up with my health care needs. This could have around 6 subheadings.
3. Learn to snowboard.
4. Revise my novel and submit for publication.
5. Corollary to #4—go to a writing conference.
6. Spend more quality time with kids and spouse.
7. Keep up with the blog and photo blog.
8. Cook dinner more often.
9. Help my younger son more with homework.
10. Attend better to both kids’ exercise and health care needs.
11. Take another art class.
12. Keep up with dance and do the Nutcracker again next year.
13. Make new friends and spend more time with existing friends.

The problem is that the cynic in me says, why bother with resolutions? What is the evidence I will be better at keeping resolutions this year than any other? The answer is that most likely my follow through will be no better or worse than in previous years.
Many years ago a supervisor criticized me for not seeing things through to the end. At the time, I was very hurt, and in a way I still am. Part of me wanted to tell him how hard it was for me to get to where I am and how easy it would have been for me to quit somewhere along the way. But that was too private. The quitting my supervisor was alluding to was my quitting an abusive work situation. I still think that act of quitting was a good choice. But it scared me into thinking of all the unfinished projects in my life. The things I couldn’t finish due to fear, disorganization, being overcommitted or forgetful, or just plain not believing enough in myself. Somehow this supervisor made my decision to relinquish a lifelong bad habit of trying to be perfect seem tantamount to being a quitter.
Well, I’ve gotten better at being imperfect. I’ve learned to take time out for fun and rest. I’ve learned to indulge in hobbies. But here I am in 2008 feeling a bit old and worn out and grasping for inspiration. I know this is just a temporary setback and I know why it is happening. The other day a patient asked me how I was doing and I had to struggle to say the appropriate platitude. Telling the truth would have been unprofessional. What I feel I am sorely lacking right now is a friend to buy me a cup of coffee and listen to me vent. But some things you don’t say out loud, even to friends.
The solution? To keep on moving forward, one day at a time. As 2008 progresses and its newness wanes, I’ll regain my freshness. After all, my supervisor notwithstanding, I’m not a quitter. I’m just tired at times. The good news? I completed my Sunday Scribblings, even if it is a bit on the whiny side.
Happy New Year to you and yours. May the next year see the world moving toward peace, the environment moving toward greater stability and the politicians becoming a bit kinder, gentler and wiser.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Thursday Challenge--Shopping


Some of the products at a local Mexican grocery store. It's a great place to shop. Probably the best avocados in town and lots of other good stuff.

New Beginning--Lensday

New Beginning

It was either this, a trail head or an infant. Why is this word hard to portray in a picture?