Sunday, August 30, 2015

Denis and his human-powered mobile floral shop...

So this is Denis and his mobile flower shop. I've seen him pedaling around town recently and today was behind him when I asked if I could take his photo and hear his story. He's a recent Buffalo transplant by way of NYC and does floral arranging full-time; this is a summer gig. That's a Worksman trike he's riding which he ordered through Rick Cycle Shop. He says business has been good. I only talked to him for a couple minutes as we were both in the street and on our way, but if you'd like to read his full story he was recently profiled at Buffalo Rising. And here's a link to his Facebook page. Peace, Denis. Thanks for letting me take your photo, and welcome to the City of Good Neighbors!

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Things that can be carried on a bike (#673), and a few thoughts and photos from a rather long ride...

On the bike...a camera, and extra lens, a tripod, a change of clothes, three bottles of water, a jean jacket, and a few things to eat.

So a couple things. The first is that I had a great ride today. The weather was idyllic. And it was the first longish ride I took with the somewhat new Boda Boda. The round trip was a little over 30 miles/ 48 kilometers. I really enjoyed it but at the same time I have come to full acceptance that none of the bikes I ride are made for distance, at least not for this middle-aged body. The Boda Boda is the lighter of my bikes and it still weighs in at about 35lbs/15kg with nothing on it. Another thing about this ride that--in retrospect--seems almost comical, was getting over the Peace Bridge (I rode from Buffalo to Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada). I only cross the bridge a couple times a year by bike and each time the security measures seem to change. The photo below (two below) shows what I am talking about. This is new, at least since last year. In order to leave America by bike one has to traverse this revolving jail. And if they manage to make it through--which I did barely--on the Canadian side bicyclists now have to wait in auto traffic and go through a toll booth for immigration inspection. Anyhow, that being said (or I should say...having that off my chest), it really was a great ride. I rode the Friendship Trail, which is pictured below and is pure joy to ride. Also below is an image of Old Fort Erie, which dates back to 1763 (before the US or Canada existed). And also, which I like to do when I cross the bridge by foot or bike, is stop at the international boundary line, with one foot in each country (pictured below). The image directly below is of my beautiful hometown, Buffalo, NY, as seen from Canada. So would I make the ride again on the Boda? Yes, without question (I already have plans on doing it again in autumn). Even with the difficult security measures? Yup. But maybe I'll see if I can circumvent the revolving jail somehow (I was actually stuck for a minute or so (breath, Joe, breath). And hey, if security gets any tighter maybe I'll see "the Donald" collecting tolls at my next trip over.

Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fifty years ago today....

The above image is of Jonathan Myrick Daniels (and unknown girl). I had just recently learned of this brave man's story and was moved to post about it, and it happened exactly 50 years ago today. He was an Episcopal seminarian and on his second march in southern Alabama for Civil Rights. He and other protesters were picketing a week prior and arrested. They were held for a week in a hot, crowded, and primitive jail. When they were released they were provided no transportation back to Selma so they had to walk. The southern Alabama temperature hovered near triple digits and they went to a local store to purchase something refreshing to drink. They were met by a man with a shotgun and gun on his belt and were not allowed to enter because some of the protesters were black. The shooter (I shan't glorify him by mentioning his name) raised the shotgun at Ruby Sales, who was 17 at the time. Jonathan Myrick pushed Ms. Sales out of the way and took the full blast from the gun himself. He died on the spot. The shooter went on to shoot another protester in the back but thankfully he survived, as did Ruby Sales. She went on to study at the same seminary as Myrick, and started a foundation in his name.  Stories of courage such as this are what move my soul. And inspire me. And renews my faith in humanity. This...this is what should be in the news about Christians in action. I can only imagine what good this man could have continued to do if not for his life being cut so tragically short. Rest in peace, brave Jonathan.

To read more about Jonathan Myrick Daniels, click here and here.
To visit the website of the foundation that was founded by Ruby Sales, click here.

Urban Simplicity.
Jonathan Myrick Daniels
Jonathan Myrick Daniels

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A photo and a few words...

Between Storms 

This is how I was awakened predawn.
It was a thunderstorm.
Lightening lit up the room like a strobe.
Boom boom, in rapid succession.
But slowly it subsided.
So did the rain.
I rode my bike to work that morning.
The handlebar lamp barely piercing the darkness.
Clouds rumbled in the distance.
In the far flung edges of my world.
Out over the Great Lakes.
The angels are bowling, I thought to myself.
As I pedaled.
That's what my mother would tell me when I was a child.
Flashes of light lit my way.
Followed by rolling thunder.
There was absolutely no breeze.
The air hung heavy.
Everything dripped.
The sky was alive.
After locking up my bike,
I stood there.
Looking at the sky.
Taking it in.
The sound of thunder.
Getting closer.
The flashes of light.
More frequent.
And then the rain came.
I was between storms.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A few more.

Here's a few more photos of my ongoing "Waterfront Series." These were taken the evening before last. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

A quiet man on a really cool home-built trike...

So I wish I could tell you this nice man's name on his home-built trike, but even though he obliged in allowing me to photograph him he didn't tell me his name. But I'm jumping ahead. It was two evenings ago and I had just gotten out of work. I was unlocking my bike when I saw him quietly pedal past me. I was on my way to a second job and he was heading ahead of me down the same side-street as I. He had stopped; he was collecting bottles and cans. I stopped and was admiring his bike while he went between two houses in search of his bounty. The trike, I could see, was obviously home-built. But what was really impressive was that it wasn't originally a trike, it was an old mountain bike fitted with a wide axle and a shopping cart basket welded onto it; it also pulled a homemade trailer. When he emerged from between the houses he looked startled to see me there on my bike. I introduced myself and told him I was just admiring his bike. He then motioned to his ears and mouth in such a way that told me he could neither hear or speak. I gave him my card and made a motion like a camera and pointed at him, asking if I could take his photo. He immediately hopped up on the bike and struck the pose you see above. After a few more hand gestures on both our parts, he conveyed to me that he indeed build the bike himself. Really really cool, such ingenuity. After a few more gestures we shook hands and parted. If you my silent friend are reading this I just want to say thank you. Thank you for meeting me, and also for allowing me to take your photograph.

Urban Simplicity.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A dream I dreamt...

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

~Mark 8:29

So a few things. One is the image above. It is one of Rembrandt’s Faces of Jesus. This is one of eight in a series, I've read. I've also read that the artist only kept two of his own paintings in his bedroom, and this is one of them. He depicted Jesus wearing workman's clothing of the day. Beautiful. Moving. But what does this have to do with a dream that I dreamt, I'll talk about that in a minute.

I also find it interesting that in this day if a person mentions that they are “spiritual” it can be considered cool, or if they say they are a Buddhist it doesn’t raise many eyebrows. But if they say they are a Christian they are often associated with the right wing (and I couldn't be the farthest thing from it). But this doesn't actually surprise me given the so many actions that people sometimes do. But to me Christianity is so deep and it's breadth so rich; to me it goes far deeper than the children's Sunday School stories that are still often taught to adults. To me Christianity is a movement of the heart, a way to's a mystical religion. And while I really am fascinated by most of the major religions, Christianity is the one I was raised in and the one I am most comfortable with. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to see the Dalai Lama speak and one of the things he said (and I'm paraphrasing) was to stay with the religion of your birth, that they all speak the same truth. He went on to say that if you don't see it simply look deeper and you will find it.

With this said I have—as an adult—often struggled with who Jesus actually was/is. I won't expound too much on this at this point—because I could go on for many boring pages—but I will just add that the original Christianity was all inclusive, not exclusive. It was, and still is, about changing ones heart and mind—looking inward then reaching outward—to connect with God and your fellow human, which are one in the same. On a bit of a side note, one of the original definitions of the sometimes scary word "repent" was to “turn around” or more loosely, to have a change of heart and look at life differently, more compassionately. But a compassionate mystic is difficult to control, thus the reason for the invention of hell, damnation, and needed salvation (which is all an invention of the early church in my opinion). Oh geeze, sorry, off on a crazy tangent. Maybe my current week-long summer respiratory/head cold (which is on it's last leg) and the fact that I'm sitting in a cafe having a beer has lead me to this point. Anyhow, I digress. I'll finish this brief section with this...I call myself a Christian in that I attempt to follow the teachings of Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth, the best that I can (of which I usually fail miserably each day but tomorrow is a new day for improvement). I don't believe in hell, damnation, or any of that scary's all metaphor and it's all Good (yes, the “g” in good is consciously capitalized). But, before I finally get to my dream that I dreamt, I have to offer this disclaimer that I usually do when I write about my beliefs...if you are a literalist or someone who takes the Sunday School stories as truth, that's fine, but if you are feeling the need to save my soul or send me hate mail please don't as I am just fine. Thank you. Now here's my dream (finally).

Like everyone, I suppose, I've had intense realer-than-real dreams a few times in my life—to the point that they seem prophetic (one which I had some years ago was, I'm convinced, a vision of sorts, but is too personal to share here or anywhere; it was just for me). And why do I write about this? I'm not sure; it just needs to come out. Anyhow, here it is.

I “awaken” into the dream standing on the edge of a small crowd of people. We are outside, maybe in a garden or low-growing orchard; there' a stone wall to the right. And sort of in front of the crowd is a man carrying a sign; it's a portrait, maybe a painting. I didn't initially recognize the portrait the man was carrying but the look in his eyes (on the portrait, not the man carrying it) was compassion. So much love and compassion. I ached, that's the only way I can describe it. Though that is not accurate enough. The man that was carrying this portrait was saying something but I couldn't hear him. And at one point he turns his back to the crowd and looks at me. Our eye's lock and he's still talking but I still can't hear him, or maybe I just don't understand. We seem to recognize each other but I'm not sure from where. Then he turns to face the crowd again. And now, with his back to me, I hear him (which I thought was odd). And he's saying..."This is Yeshua. No matter what your beliefs they are not right or not wrong. Know what's in your heart. Yeshua's life is his message." And then it occurred to me that the image he was carrying was that of Jesus (Yeshua, of course, is his name in Aramaic).

And then the man that was speaking and carrying the image of Jesus, who still had his back to me, simply said, “Know the truth.” and with that he turned around and faced me again. And this time when I looked at him I could see that the person holding the sign and speaking was in fact me. And with that I awoke with a start, gasping—slightly—for air, from the summer upper respiratory cold, but also from the dream I just dreamt. 

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

On the waterfront (bis)...

Okay. So sorry about the multiple pictures of Buffalo's waterfront. I have posted from this same vantage point on numerous times prior. But I just find it so fascinating. Every time I go there for a couple beers (there's a beautiful outdoor bar) and to take photos I see something different even if looking at the same scene as before. I shot these a couple evenings ago. I really like them all but the most dramatic, I think, is the one pictured above. I saw this when I first arrived...this crazy turbulent low-lying cloud just sort of rolling across the lake and above us. And rolling is a good description because I later found that it is actually called a "roll cloud" (or Arcus cloud). Shortly thereafter there was lightening and rain; this cloud was a sort of precursor. Anyhow, and I apologize in advance, but there will likely be more waterfront photos before the summer is finished...

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

One pic and two quotes...

So a couple things. One is that this photo and the quotes below have nothing to do with each other except that I find them truly inspiring (so in a way I suppose they do have something in common). Anyhow, the pic above was taken yesterday just after it rained...I was on a walk and looked up and there it was. The only camera I had with me at the time was my cellphone. And here's the photo.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
~Mark Twain

Urban Simplicity.

Things that can be carried on a bike (#672)...

Nearly $100 in groceries and sundries...

Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Really simple to make, but it's as delicious as it looks...

Yup, even in the midst of mini heat wave I still made pizza for dinner...the kitchen was hot but the outcome was definitely worth it. This pizza is made with a 100% whole wheat crust, and is topped with pesto, tomato sauce, four cheese, onion, and broccoli cooked in olive oil and garlic.

Here's what it looked like just before it went in the oven...

Follow this link for my really simple but delicious whole wheat dough. And follow this link for step-by-step instructions and photos of this pizza being made at a previous time (minus the pesto). Click here for broccoli (and nearly any other vegetable) cooked with garlic and olive oil. And finally, if you are interested in a little history and lore regarding this delectable pie, follow this link.

Urban Simplicity.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Explosion of Colour...

As I had mentioned in a previous post, I was in Toronto this past weekend. Over the past few decades (eek...I can actually say it's been decades) I have been to this vibrant and inspiring city hundreds of times. And over recent years I have been hearing about Graffiti Alley but have not been there, so on this weekend I dragged my sisters with me (that's a rare selfie with my sisters below). The alley--which should more correctly be called "alleys" as there are many off-shoots--runs parallel to Queen Street West (here's a map). And upon entering the alley all I can say is that it is a veritable explosion of colour [sic] and talent. Some entire buildings were covered and it became overwhelming at times...a sort of Sistine Chapel of street art. I have many many photos of our walk down the alley but narrowed it down to a little over a dozen to post here. Anyhow, if you are planning a trip to Toronto I highly recommend a walk down this free and outdoor gallery of street art.

Urban Simplicity.

David and his two dogs...

If you've been to this blog more than once then you know that I sporadically post about the homeless. For my entire life I have had a weakness for they got there or what led them to their current situation. No little kid thinks to themselves they want to grow up to be homeless and no mother hopes their little baby to grow up and live on the street. But I'm jumping ahead as I often do (or actually jumping behind). Anyhow, I was in the beautiful and vibrant city of Toronto this past weekend with my three sisters, and like any big metropolis there are a large number of people living on the street. Often I will stop to talk and on this weekend I did with only two of the people I saw. David is one of them. I walked passed him on Queen Street West and he caught my eye because he was sitting between his two friendly dogs, but mostly because of his sign (one can be homeless and still have a sense of humor, and despite his predicament I could see right away that he was a rather jovial guy). After dropping a couple dollars in hi pail I asked if I could take his photo, to which he readily agreed. After introductions, I asked if his sign was true...if that's really why he was begging for money. He laughed a little and told me that while he does smoke weed he was really trying to get money to eat, but he's found that--even though it pisses some people off--a sign like that makes people see him. After shaking hands and petting his dogs I wished him luck and walked on my way on a beautiful if not balmy summer evening. Peace David, I hope you got some food (and weed).

Urban Simplicity.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A few photos, a couple (nonsensical) thoughts, and an inspiring conversation

I have a long story (regarding the bottom photo) which I'll make shorter, and I originally posted this--or at least a portion of it--on Facebook, so if you've read this already I apologize for the redundancy. This is a fire alarm call box on the corner of Allen and Elmwood in Buffalo (it's also visible in the top photo on the right-hand corner). Relics from a bygone time, I's images of others and they are even available on ebay as collectables). At one time there were many of these around the city, I remember them from my youth. Now there are only a half-dozen (I know this because I saw a city-worker inspecting it one day and he told me so...and yes, this still works). Anyhow, I was talking with a couple youngish co-workers the other day regarding an incident that happened on this corner and they used this as a point of reference but were unsure of what to call it...they didn't know what it was ("It's not really a fire hydrant but it has something to do the the fire department," one said). I mentioned to them that it was a fire alarm...that in the event of an emergency one would break the glass and pull the lever and help would arrive. And then after a somewhat long and uncomfortable silence and perplexed looks I also mentioned that there were not always cell phones available. 

Anyhow, that story aside, I was out taking photos in my neighborhood a couple evenings ago as it was such a nice summer night. And after taking the above photo I began to walk down the street when I was stopped by the couple in the above photo; they asked me for spare change. After giving them what was in my pocket I asked if I could take their photo. "You're not with the mafia or police, are you," the woman questioned? I'm still not sure what she meant by this, but after assuring her I was not with either organization they both readily agreed. The woman rummaged in her bag for some lipstick and then quickly fixed her hair before throwing her arm around her friend. They wanted to know why I was taking pictures. I told them I just enjoy it and that I enjoy meeting people. After introducing myself and shaking hands all around, I learned the woman's name was Rosemarie but goes by Rhianna. Her friend simply told me, "They call me D.O.D." At any rate, we chatted for a few minutes and they actually thanked me for taking their photo. This sort of surprised me but I thanked them in return for allowing it. By stopping to talk to people, I find, that the invisible barrier is broken...instead of two street people and a guy with money in his pocket, it became just three people. Simple as that. But why am I sharing this? Honestly, I am not sure, but I felt I needed to.

Urban Simplicity.