Note to Self:

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Week Without Color...


I think it’s because it was an emotional story, and emotions come through much stronger in black and white. Color is distracting in a way, it pleases the eye but it doesn’t necessarily reach the heart.”
~Kim Hunter

Last week I was invited to take part in black-and-white photo "challenge" on Facebook. The rules were simple...a black-and-white photo every day with no people in them. I usually carry a camera with me so this was not much of a challenge. Some of these photos were shot either to or from my way to work, others while I was on my bike on a day off. It's interesting, I think, in that last week was not a great week for me. Nothing major, just one of those weeks where I was feeling down. In a sense I was seeing life through a colorless lens, so I really think it came through in these photos. In some ways, I believe, photography--like any art form--can be a type of therapy, I know it is for me. Anyhow, the photos are not in a chronological order, they are arranged simply the way the computer uploaded them. Click any for a larger view.







Thursday, September 7, 2017

This is Mark.


"We're all just walking each other home."
~ Ram Dass

This is Mark. I saw him drawing in the street this evening as I was walking out to my favorite tavern. And when I say in the street I mean it quite literally as he was in the middle of the street. As I love free art I stopped to chat with him. He was drawing a mermaid, he told me. When I asked if I could take his photo he laid next to his drawing. He also told me he loved all sorts of artistic expression and that he wanted to help make Allentown (in Buffalo, NY) artistic again. As we were talking I couldn't help but notice the hospital band he was wearing on his wrist, as if he were just released. I asked him about it and he told me but I won't air his personal issues here. Then it occurred to me that I had met him before and had actually posted about him on this blog (read his story here). We had a nice chat. He told me he was homeless but never asked me for money, though when I offered some he readily accepted. I have to say it was really nice to chat with Mark this evening. We parted and I went and had a couple beers. When I came out his mermaid was complete but Mark was down the street being interrogated by police officers (his drawing below is actually illuminated by the headlights of a police car). I don't know what the police were questioning him about, nor do I know his real story, but what I do know is that chatting with him tonight brightened my evening. I hope he finds his way. Read the previous post about him here.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Frijoles Mexicanas.


A burrito is a delicious food item that breaks down all social barriers and leads to temporary spiritual enlightenment.” 
~Lisi Harrison 

I'm not sure when it happened but somewhere along the way it did. I did not grow up eating beans, legumes, or pulses but have really grown fond of them. All kinds of them. Their flavors mingle with whatever they are cooked in and the result is nothing short of delicious in my humble opinion. Beans themselves are also a super food, two of the many healthful attributes of them in your diet are that they can keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check. And when combined with rice they create a complete protein. When it comes to finances, the cost of beans and the amount of food they prepare for their cost cannot be beat. Thus said, while I post a lot of meatless recipes on this blog I am not  vegetarian (I eat meat on my job), though I haven't purchased meat for home consumption in some time. Anyhow, I'm getting off topic. This is a really simple recipe which can be altered to suit your personal tastes. I ate these (two days in a row) over brown rice and topped with avocado, diced tomato and raw onion. Not only was it a complete protein it was a complete meal, and a filling and delicious one at that. Some of the remainder of the beans will be frozen in increments, and another portion will be turned into refried beans. The simple recipes are below.


Frijoles Mexicanas

Makes about 8 cups

1 pound dried pinto beans
¼ cup olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 jalapeño peppers, minced
2 chipotle in adobo (with sauce), minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons salt

Place the beans in a large bowl and pour cold water over them, covering the beans by at least two inches. Cover the bowl and allow the beans to soak overnight. The next day drain the beans and discard the water.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot, then add the onion, bell pepper, and jalapeño peppers. Cook the onion and pepper for a few minutes, until they just begin to brown, then add the chipotle with the sauce, the garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Stir while cooking for a couple minutes. Add the diced tomatoes then bring them to a boil. Cook the tomatoes for a few minutes to concentrate some of their juices and flavors. Add the soaked and drained beans to the pot, along with the broth and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. Simmer the beans for about two hours, or until very tender. Stir the pot often and skim as needed.


Refried Beans

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Carefully add a quantity of prepared Frijoles Mexicanas to the skillet. Bring to a simmer. Toss and stir the beans until the liquid evaporates and the beans begin to fry in the oil. Remove the beans form the heat and allow them to cool for a couple minutes for safety. Then transfer them to a food processor and process until smooth


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Patience in Black and White.


"The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter."
~  Paulo Coelho

This photo is an example of patience, or more specifically one that showed me patience...which is something I am often sort of supply. But I'm jumping ahead.

Yesterday someone invited me to take part in the week-long black-and-white photo challenge on Facebook, meaning you post a photo a day in b&w. I gladly accepted. Today was day two and I thought I'd stop by Kleinhans Music Hall (pictured) on my way to church this morning and snap a photo. When I arrived at the said location it was somewhat breezy which caused ripples in the reflecting pool and not offering the reflection I had hoped for. I was running late for worship and feeling impatient so I left without taking a photo. To make a long story short, when I left church feeling rejuvenated I thought I'd stop by the music hall again. When I did the wind had subsided enough to snap the above photo. The thing that was missing when I was there the first time was a bit of patience to see what was right in front of me. Click the photo for a larger view.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A New Day...


6am in the rain.
The sound of raindrops on my umbrella.
The sound of tires on wet pavement.
House lights come on.
Street light go out.
The city begins to wake.

I like how the air smells,
How the light looks.
So I snap a photo.
Then hop a bus to work.

Another day begins.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Freedom Wall....is one of inspiration


On my way home from work this afternoon I took the long way home to ride past this free-art project and see the progress. It is titled the Freedom Wall and is sponsored by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. This, to me, in these uncertain times and with all the "wall building talk," it is so inspiring to see a wall such as this with a positive purpose. Here:s an excerpt from their website:

"This space provides the ideal surface for a mural that will respond to the significance of the location as the entrance into the Historic Corridor and that celebrates our nation’s civil rights legacy. The Freedom Wall project (working title) will utilize the design of the wall, divided into sections, to depict portraits of 28 notable civil rights leaders in American history, past and present. The scale of the wall creates a unique opportunity to present a historical narrative that recognizes well-known national activists alongside equally important but less-widely-known local leaders."

I was glad to see there were a few people working on the wall when I rode up to it, and they were all too eager to talk to me about it and tell me about some of what was going on. Directly below is one of the artists, Edreys Wajed, he's working on a portrait of William Wells Brown who spent some time in Buffalo at one point. The photo below is a nice young women who is not one of the artists but described herself as a helper, she helps the artists fill things in, she told me. She also gave me a great deal of information about the project. And in the photo directly below that is a rap artist who was being filmed performing in front of Dr. King. My bike made a cameo appearance in the very bottom photo :)

In all, there are 28 portraits being painted by four artists and the wall stretches around the corner for two city blocks. The project is slated to be completed in the next couple weeks and there will be an opening with a street party. This, to me, is really inspiring and worth pedaling a few blocks out of my way to pass it on my way to work. 

To learn more about the project, the artists, and the list of people being portrayed, visit their web site here. For directions to the Freedom Wall, click here.





Urban Simplicity.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A walk in my neighborhood...


All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Yesterday evening was so nice, and I was feeling somewhat stunned from some meds I was on but still needed to get out of the house, so I went for a walk. I have always loved to walk in cities. I may walk a bit slower than I once did, and it may take me longer to get to a destination, but still I love to walk. Walking in cities is always inspiring to me, and I am lucky enough to live in a historic neighborhood where the architecture itself is inspiring. Anyhow, I simply meandered the streets like a tourist in my own town and snapped a few photos. Here's a few of the things I saw. Click any for a slightly larger image.










Sunday, August 27, 2017

And then this happened...

(Photo taken in 2014)

The beginning is always today. 
~ Mary Shelly 

It was a beautiful morning, and the day still is. On my ride to church I was thinking how beautiful it was. I was scheduled as an usher so arrived a bit early, and I also hadn’t been to worship in a couple weeks so I was looking forward to it. Anyhow, I was locking my bike in my usual fashion...set the opened u-lock on the rear basket while I thread the long cable through both wheels. Then as I grabbed the u-lock to secure it all together there was a sharp pain in the palm of my hand, it caused me to shake it and exclaim. I hadn’t seen anything and didn’t even know what happened. Then I saw a bee—wasp, I think—crawling on the ground and then fly away. It was then that that I realized, with the telltale redness and stinging, that I had just been stung. But still, I stood there for a minute or so in disbelief. The next emotion was one of panic and fear, at least a little. You see, two years ago after being stung by a wasp I discovered in a very scary way that I am allergic to wasps and bees. At that time I had, after two trips to the ER in 20 hours—as the nurse read from her data base today—“an extreme anaphylactic reaction.” I am supposed to carry an EpiPen with me at all times, and at first I did, but I have become lax. Today, as I looked at my hand I knew that I did not have one with me. 

So I calmly went into church and asked another congregant if they would cover my usher duties for the day, and I hopped on my bike to ride the mile or so to the nearest hospital. On the way I was monitoring the reaction my body was having, other than a slight chill everything seemed okay. Unconsciously I began to say a silent prayer that I have said many times prior...Loving God, creator of all things, remove my fear and replace it with your love.  

When I approached the receptionist and told her I would like to see a physician she asked me why, and when I explained that I have been stung by a bee and was allergic they took me almost immediately. After connecting me to all sorts of wires, taking my vitals, giving me medications, and asking me tons of questions, they left me to rest for more than an hour, likely to see if there would be any reactions. Thankfully there have been only minor ones at this point (but they can take up to 36 hours to arise I am told). One reaction was the aforementioned chills, but this was very minor compared to those I had two years ago where I shook so violently it was difficult to stand. The nurse told me she would turn on the TV if I wanted but I told her no thank you.


As I lay there I couldn’t help but think how fragile we are...these bags of skin and bones which house our spirit. I often forget this, that something as simple as an inch-long insect could take me out. And as I was thinking this I thought that I should pray. I tried, but no words would come. But what did come was this sense that I didn’t need to pray, at least not at this time, because the Divine Presence was with me right there as it always was with me as with everyone equally. I stopped shivering and it was as if the sound was turned down. That’s the only way I can explain it. Even though I could still hear the nurses in the hall and the sound of beeps of electronics connected to me and others, everything as quiet and still. It lasted only a few seconds (I think) but it was enough to calm me. Reassure me. My blood pressure dropped. 

Now as I sit comfortably at home, drowsy from Benadryl, I think of the following words that I wrote in my journal a few weeks ago...One of the most incredible things about living is that we can begin again. Not just each day but each moment. I don’t feel this every day, of course, but I do now. So on this day at this very moment I choose to begin again, because it is a choice...a mind-shift. And tomorrow I will likely need to begin again, again.

Earlier when I tried to pray but couldn’t I believe I was in some ways. In the peace and calm that I felt, even if it was just for a few seconds, I knew everything would be okay no matter the outcome. So in some way I believe I was consciously or unconsciously giving thanks. And that may be enough. 

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.  
~ Meister Eckhart 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Stalking Bellocq.


 “We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”
— Ralph Hattersley

So I just returned from New Orleans. Well, two days ago. But in many ways the city is still with me. The uniqueness of the place has not fully sweat from my pores. This was my fourth or fifth time to New Orleans. The first time I was there was the late 80's when I lived and worked there for a very brief time. But I haven't been back in almost twenty years. I've also never been there during August. I was expecting the heat and humidity but nothing could have prepared me for it. As one local commented on the heat, "Yes, it pretty much sucks the oxygen out of the air." I had gone there for a bit of relaxation, and to take photos and drink beer. I accomplished all three.

Whenever  I find myself in an old historic city I can feel the ghosts of those before me (metaphorically, not literally). And  sometimes I'll create my own sort of walking tours. In Greenwich Village, for example, I did a bit of research and walked around to places where Khalil Gibran lived, worked, and drank. In San Fransisco I hunted the old beat hangouts of Kerouac. And thus on this trip I stalked E.J. Bellocq.

Bellocq worked as a commercial photographer in New Orleans about 90 years ago, mostly in the French quarter where he spent his entire life. But he also had a secret side to his life in photography. He kept secret that besides his day job as commercial photographer he also photographed the prostitutes of Storyville, which at the time was a legalized red light district.

This at first may seem a bit pervy...a guy photographing prostitutes and not telling anyone about it. But it is the contrary. Yes of course some of the models are shown unclothed, but many were partially or fully clothed. He showed them in the places the lived and worked. In short, he showed their humanity. And it is beautiful. Keep in mind that while prostitution was legal having these photos at the time was not, they would have been considered pornographic and could have resulted in jail time at the very least, and even worse in many ways, personal and public disgrace. Click here to see a good representation of his work. 

It's interesting to note that his photos were never developed in his lifetime. Plates of his photos were discovered in an old slave's quarters on St. Peter Street behind the Preservation of Jazz. Many of the plates were water damaged and some even had the faces of some of the models intentionally scratched away. There is a great article written at Exquisite Corpse that goes into this in more depth, to read that story, click here.  

The morning after my arrival to New Orleans I headed out to St. Louis Cemetery #3 as this is where I had read that is remains were buried. I thought I'd pay him homage, but to no avail. On this day the temperature peaked in the mid 90's and at the cemetery there was no shade. It hurt to walk around. I often visit famed cemeteries in historic places and was surprised to find that not only was there no office to offer information there was no information to be had anywhere. There were a few tours going on and I interrupted them to ask information but no one could offer any. Seeing a worker's van down one of the long rows I approached it to find a man sleeping in the air conditioning. After startling him awake he did offer me general advice but nothing concrete. I approached another worker, this one spoke broken or at least heavy accented English. I am usually pretty good at picking up an accent upon hearing it but could not place this sweating and jovial man's language. It wasn't until he spoke into his walkie talkie that I realized he was speaking a form of French...Cajun French. But alas, still no info.

The cemetery is vast and as aforementioned has no shade so I began walking back towards the road to seek the shade of a tree. But not wanting to give up I googled additional info as I walked. Sweat was literally dripping from me and onto the screen of my iPhone. I emailed a person who had posted a picture of Bellocq's grave and surprisingly she emailed me back right away. Unfortunately she could not remember the exact location but only general area. I did go back and look again but to no avail (though I did find the family tomb of Chef Paul Prudomme). At any rate, with the risk of severe sunburn or heat collapse I left the cemetery but  know that I had likely walked right past his grave as they all look so similar.

Over the course of the next few evenings I did what I came here to do...walk around and take photos. The temperature would dip to about 80F in the evening so it was still rather stifling. As I  walked I'd make a point of stopping at addresses that were once home to Bellocq's studios...Rue Conti, Ursulines, Burgundy. And I'd try to  imaging what it must have been like to haul that heavy photography equipment of his day through this heavy heat.

As I walked I also thought about all the places I have been where I myself have walked at night with my camera on one shoulder, tripod on another, and a belly full of beer. In many this was a sort of deja vue as I had walked these same streets thirty years prior with a camera and tripod. In those days it was with my old 35mm camera, whose prints of that time are mostly lost or packed away in some box in an attic or closet in which I cannot find. When I was here during that time I was so young and had no idea of all that lay before me. I have done so much since then...have changed so much but at the same time am still very much the same. And it occurred to me as I walked that I was not only stalking the ghost of Bellocq but also that of my younger self.

To read a very nice article written about Bellocq for the Smithsonian, click here.


Urban Simplicity.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Things that can be carried on a bike (#724)...


"There is no machine known that is more efficient than a human on a bicycle."
~Bill Nye

To read Bill Nye's short essay, Why I Bike, and from where this quote was culled, click here.

To see more in the Things That can be Carried on a Bike series, click here.

On the bike: $47 in groceries.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Bourbon Street at 6am


the air is thick
even at this early hour
humidity engulfs
smells from the night before
and the night before and the night before
ooze from the buildings and street
beer, sweat, bleach
slap you in the face
tingle your nostrils
stragglers from last night
drunk revelers
stumble
city workers spray the street clean
for tonight's show
i’ve walked this street
many times
years ago
at dawn
on my way to work
accompanied by prostitutes
then as now
bourbon street
at 6am
you are different
but very much the same

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Chickpea Burgers with Basil, Asiago, and Jalapeno


So a couple days ago I wanted falafel and put some chickpeas in a bowl to soak, then I forgot they were in the fridge. And because I forgot about them I never went to the store for cilantro and parsley. Discovering the soaked peas today I wanted falafel again, but still no cilantro or parsley. So I went out to my garden and picked a bunch or basil and some peppers, I also found some shredded asiago in the fridge. So I used these ingredients instead of the traditional ones. I also made them into full sized burgers instead of nugget sized. Anyhow, this recipe is the result. Really delicious. Healthy. Simple to prepare.


Chickpea Patties with Basil, Asiago, and Jalapeno

Makes about 2 dozen small patties or 8 full-sized burgers

1 cup dried chickpeas
3 cups water
½ small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapeno, seeded
1 bunch fresh basil, washed
½ cup asiago cheese, grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
vegetable oil for pan-frying

Combine the chickpeas and water together in a bowl overnight and leave them at room-temperature to reconstitute. The next day drain the chickpeas, reserve ¼ cup of the water. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the soaked chickpeas, ¼ cup of reserved water, onion, garlic, jalapeno, basil, asiago, salt, turmeric, and baking powder. Process until a mealy consistency then transfer to a bowl. Mix in the flour, cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. Shape into patties, preheat about a half-inch of oil in a skillet, and pan-fry (in batches) on both sides until golden and cooked through.

Seven Photos of One Building, and a Few Words.


Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.
~Oscar Wilde

A couple things. One is that the event two nights ago was incredible. If you are reading this from somewhere other than Western NY the event I speak of is the illumination of the former Richardson Complex, now known as Hotel Henry. I have posted about these structures before but not in a while. The hotel and the original complex take their names from the architect, HH Richardson. Constructed in the 1800s, for many years it was part of the Buffalo Psychiatric center, which still resides next door. Then it sat vacant and crumbling for many years, decades. It was close to demolition at one point. But as you can see it has been resurrected and in a glorious way. Thus, as a grand opening of sorts, two nights ago the buildings were illuminated and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra played. The light-show was choreographed with the music. As stunning as these photos are they do not do it justice to actually being there..at points the buildings looked to be throbbing and even melting. Incredible. On a slightly different, but at the same time similar note, if you'd like to see images of our grain elevators illuminated, which are now a permanent nightly display, click here. The City of Light.






Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Hero Named Chuck.


 “Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause.
~Abraham Lincoln


So a couple things. One is that while it may look like I am laughing I am only doing so at the situation, not at the story or what happened as this photo took place. I was surprised, I suppose. And also, that's Chuck in the background running to get his daughter for the photo. In my opinion he is a hero. But I'm jumping ahead as I'm apt to do. Let me begin again.

It was raining today so I took the subway and then the bus to work rather than bike. I was waiting for the subway when a man approached me, it was 6:15am. Keep in mind that the Buffalo subway system can be pretty desolate at that hour (see below photo). I was sitting down and he was sort of imposing, probably 6 feet tall, and he stood a bit too close as he spoke. It made me nervous at first, but then my nerves eased as I stood to face him and he spoke some more. His name was Chuck, he told me, and at first I didn't think he was going to ask me for money. I could tell there was something a bit "off" as he spoke, so I thought maybe he was just making chitchat...asking me if I was from Buffalo, what I did for work, talked of the rain outside, that type of thing. Then I asked him his story, shortly after is when he asked me for money for coffee, a newspaper, and maybe a soda for his daughter, Karen, who he said was waiting upstairs.

Chuck told me he's a war veteran, having served two tours in Afghanistan and one tour in Iraq. He also told me what he did. I never asked for details, he just told me. I can't remember the military jargon he used for his title but basically he traveled with the medical crew and was usually the first on the seen when a soldier or soldiers were down. He would administer shots to the fallen soldiers to ease their pain. "I can't even begin to tell you the pain I saw," Chuck told me. Sometimes, he also added, that that was all they could do was "give 'em a needle to ease their pain."

I have mentioned in previous posts that I personally am a pacifist and that I feel that nothing good ever comes from war, but at the same time I have the utmost respect for the men and women who serve our country. And while Chuck was telling me his story all I could think is that to some he was likely the last face they saw on this earth, just before he gave them a needle; he was their angel.

Chuck talked a lot. He lives at home with his mom and is being treated for PTSD because he is "having difficulty back in civilian life." At one point, when there was a brief break in his story, I thanked him for his service to the country. This stopped him in his tracks. He had rarely looked me in the eye but now he was, and he stopped talking. "Thank you, sir. That means so much to me," is how he broke the silence. 

So by this point I knew my train was coming so I gave him $5 and asked if I could take our photo together. Really, he asked. It was the first time I saw him smile. Then he told me about his daughter, Karen, who was still waiting upstairs. "Come on," he said, "I really want Karen to be in the photo," and he began to run taking two stairs at a time. I caught up to him at the second level (there are three levels) and told him the train was coming and if I missed it I would be late for work. So he stands next to me as I ready the phone, and just before I snap the photo he says, "But she's right up there," pointing to the next level and calling her name, and then he darts to get her. Now I hear the train coming on the level below which only gave me seconds to get to it. "Sorry Chuck, I have to go," I yelled to him, and made the train just as it's doors were closing. I looked through the window as we pulled away but did not see him or his daughter.

So this is how I met a hero named Chuck on my way to work this morning.