Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Paint It...What?

Veterans Parade 4

No patriotic parade is complete without a marching band. But look carefully at the flip-chart sheet music of the horn player above. It's the Rolling Stones Paint It Black, not exactly flag waving and not at all marchable unless you try to force a square peg into a round hole. Sheesh, that song was popular when I was in high school. The tempo is much too fast for marching and, anyway, the Stones' original version, although in 4/4 time, is built on bars made of four fast doublets (listen to Charley Watts rhythm on the drums). The trombonists would trip on their slides. However, by the time the band was stepping down Market Street it was John Philip Sousa all the way. That was just right.

I think I'm going to do theme day for a change tomorrow with an animal shot from the parade.

NOTE TO LOCAL READERS: it's only a few days until our national festival of beer, guacamole dip and giant screen televisions. Oh, and some event in which behemoths repeatedly damage one another's brains. For 25 or 30 years Mrs. C and I have had our own private Stupid Bowl party. We are horrified by the way American football destroys players' bodies and minds for the sake of money and spectacle. We always go out to dinner during the game. If the restaurant is open, you can have your pick of tables and most attentive service. Any like-minded St. Louisans who might care to join us can email me. We have a few choices in under consideration.

Veterans Parade 15

Monday, January 30, 2012

Paul Says Welcome Home, Too

Veterans Parade 9 (Paul Pagano - Father Time)

Paul Pagano is a St. Louis institution. He's 88 or 89 now and goes by the nickname Father Time. STL DPB has featured him before (check out the sign on his back in the second photo.) I have memories of Paul driving around downtown at public events, particularly opening day of the baseball season, in an old bus completely covered with red, white and blue patriotic slogans. He had a loudspeaker on top blaring Kate Smith singing God Bless America.

Pagano often walked around at occasions like the German street festival seen in the link above, covered with signs. I never saw the man without a smile on his face. It's been a while since I've spotted him and I wondered how he was doing. He may be a bit more frail now but the attitude is unchanged.

Below, a family welcomes its sailor back.

Veterans Parade 10

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Welcome Home

Veterans Parade 6

Something unusual happened downtown yesterday, a parade. Parades are commonplace, but this was the first and so far only ceremony welcoming home our men and women in uniform now that our national adventure in Iraq is over. Whatever you think of President Bush's eruption into the land where there were no WMDs (and it leaves me shaking my head), Americans appreciate the risks and effort undertaken by our armed forces. What a difference from when I was a young man and our soldiers came home from Vietnam to be met with scorn.

Two guys dreamed this up over coffee just a few weeks ago. They started a Facebook page. Money and help poured in. Even MSNBC, the cable channel for left wing political rant in this country (you know, the one we watch - none of that Rupert Murdoch claptrap in this house) urged everyone to turn out. Thousands of people lined Market Street for the event. We will have more scenes over the next few days. Good video from NBC News here.

Veterans Parade 8

Veterans Parade 5

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Who's In Charge

Downtown Buildings 2012-01-24 4 (City Hall)

Another shot from the Park Pacific of a notable downtown building, this time City Hall. Unfortunately, it was taken through a window, not from the rooftop terrace. The building has considerable architectural interest. Its inspiration was Paris' Hôtel de Ville, although ours is rather less grand. (The two cities are easily distinguished.) The interior is impressive, especially the rotunda. Really need to go shoot there some time but the building is only open on weekdays. That's hard for my overloaded schedule.

Below is Mayor Francis Slay. He's been running the show for eleven years and is likely to get another term. I've taken his photo on a number of occasions but I think he's still a little puzzled about who this older guy is in the suit with the big camera. He's always gracious and well-respected in most quarters. (He's a politician - can't please everybody.)

Park Pacific 2012-01-24 5 (Mayor Slay Makes A Point)

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Courts

Downtown Buildings 2012-01-24 2

Another view from the rooftop terrace at the Park Pacific apartments. These are places lawyers hang out so beware. Center-left is the Egypto-Babbylonio-Neoclassic confection known as the Civil Courts Building. It contains Missouri state courts. On the right is the Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse, the seat of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Eagleton was a senator some decades back. It may surprise you to learn that this is the largest single courts building in the country. In any event, I try to avoid both of them.

Below is another shot from the party at Park Pacific, a couple who appear to be having a good time. Turns out the young lady and I have only one degree of separation, as they say, a common client. We knew of each other but had never met. These small-town happenstances occur in St. Louis all the time.

Park Pacific 2012-01-24 7

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Not Exactly The Thursday Arch Series

Downtown Buildings 2012-01-24 1

Well, it's Thursday and I needed something with the Arch at least in it. Plus I want to run with the Park Pacific shots for a bit. The top photo is a view from the 23rd floor rooftop of the apartment building looking east. Our firm is in the office tower on the left - well, sort of tower. There aren't any buildings in St. Louis taller than the Arch. I can see that the lights are still on in my partner's office. That woman works a lot of hours.

The bottom picture is one of the guests at the party in a model apartment. Nice kitchen build out, as you can see. He seems to be enjoying himself but how come they gave him twice as much champagne as me?

Park Pacific 2012-01-24 3

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Party At The Park Pacific

Park Pacific 2012-01-24 2

Had some fun last night. I was invited to a reception at the downtown Park Pacific apartments, maybe because I've worked downtown for ages and maybe also because of this blog. It was built in the 1920s as the headquarters of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Those of you with literary interests would recognize it as the building where the father worked in St. Louisan Jonathan Franzen's bestseller The Corrections. It's been beautifully restored into rental apartments. The party promoted this building and downtown living in general.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, including two of the bartenders, above. The choice of wine to sample was a very serious decision, as you can tell from the couple below.

More of this over the next few days.

Park Pacific 2012-01-24 4

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

River Navigation

Eads Bridge 2012-01-22 1

The water level in the Mississippi is low at this time of year, so the barge pilots must be extra cautious. There are five bridges across the river at or near downtown, with a sixth under construction, all throwing concrete and steel obstacles in the way of maritime traffic. Fog makes the task even more difficult.

There is a museum at the first lock and dam at Alton, Illinois, just north of us. (It's so flat south of here all the way to New Orleans that none are needed.) One of the exhibits is a video game in which you are the pilot, trying to maneuver your towboat and a chain of barges several city blocks long into a lock. I run the thing into the ground every time.

Eads Bridge 2012-01-22 2

Monday, January 23, 2012


Forest Park 2012-01-22 4 (Statue of St Louis)

Foggy, cold, damp, miserable day yesterday. Everything your eyes observed was soft, including the angular statue of King Louis IX of France, St. Louis, in front of the art museum.

Sunday, January 22, 2012



Did I? What did you see?

From the Mississippi floodwall. By the way, the figure in yesterday's post was watching the icy water skiing in the river on New Year's Day.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Watching And Waiting

Watching The River

They also serve who only stand and wait.

- John Milton, On His Blindness, 1655

A woman stands on the cobblestone levee by the Mississippi River on a cold January day. What is she watching or expecting to happen? I know, but I think it's more interesting if you use your imagination. Anyone who comments could give us his or her guess.

The family went to the theater Friday night (Sunday In The Park With George) so I was unable to leave many comments on my friends' blogs.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Torreadors and Sphinxes

2012-01-15 Las Vegas - Mexican Restaurant At The Luxor

A bit more from Vegas while I pull together some STL stuff. As I have mentioned, we stayed at the Luxor, built with over-the-top Ancient Egypt themes. The building itself is a 15 story black glass pyramid with a fiberglass sphinx out front and topped with a blinding searchlight pointing into the heavens (see Wednesday's post). So what's with a Mexican restaurant in the lobby? The Aztecs and Mayans had pyramids but I don't think that's the connection.

Like everything else in Las Vegas, it's about money. Something to pull the visitors in. The guest rooms of the hotel are inside the walls of the pyramid and there is an atrium within that. This pic was taken from the walkway near our 9th floor room, looking down at the top of the restaurant. The mural is very attractive but this crenelated aluminum something over the tables is a puzzle. No one like Escamillo in sight, either. Made me wonder who would win a fight between a toreador and, say, Horus.

After taking the shot, we got on the elevator to go eat there. All of the elevator cars are decorated with this image of Pharaoh Akenaten and his family. Weird, weird, weird. But how many visitors to Las Vegas know their bullfighters from their ancient rulers with Marfan's Syndrome? Who cares?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday Arch Series

Arch 2012-01-07 2

Deep blue sky, wide-angle lens, colossal stack of stainless steel. Couldn't be a better day in downtown St. Louis.

Back home now. Got no fresh local material so I'll either go diving in the archives or use a bit more Las Vegas stuff tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Leaving Las Vegas

2012-01-15 Las Vegas - Luxor Hotel 2

Home now. Although we love the desert we had about as much of Las Vegas as we could take. It seems to appeal to so many of our basest desires, although if you are open minded it does cultivate a sense of irony.

These scenes are of the front of the Luxor Hotel and Casino where we stayed. Good deal, comfortable, horrible food. We've been to the real Luxor and I want to tell you that there aren't any slot machines in the temple. The name has been defiled.

Something was different about the place. We hadn't spent a penny in the slot machines. After dinner on our last night, we thought about throwing away some quarters. That's when we realized that the sound was different. The incessant electronic warbling of the machines was much quieter than on previous visits. The metallic rattle of quarters cascading into steel trays after a win was completely gone.

As we walked among the machines we noticed that the slots where you fed your quarters were taped over. The slot machines have no more slots. They now take only paper money, some with a minimum of $5. So you can't lose just 75 cents for amusement. The stakes have been raised. The frenetic sensory experience of the casino, the sounds, the rhythm of feeding in your coins, has been taken away. We went back to our room.

No new local material so I may continue this theme for a bit.

2012-01-15 Las Vegas - Luxor Hotel 4

2012-01-15 Las Vegas - Luxor Hotel 1

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

STL DPB On The Road: Hoover Dam

2012-01-15 Hoover Dam 1

We drove out to Hoover Dam on our last day in weird, weird Las Vegas. It blocks the Colorado River, the most important source of water in the American Southwest, creating huge Lake Mead upstream. It's an engineering marvel and has been around for 80 years. We took a short tour through one of the hydroelectric turbine halls. The guides were over the top, wisecracking you can take as many dam pictures as you want. Har.

The shadow in both shots is the brand new highway bridge over the Colorado just downstream. The road used to go across the top of the dam. It was slow and the heavy trucks were a risk for structural damage.

The bottom pic is a Las Vegas teaser. It's a view of the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, an architectural absurdity with a King Arthur theme. More Vegas photos tomorrow if I have time to edit. I actually have to work on the plane home.

2012-01-15 Hoover Dam 2

2012-01-15 Las Vegas - Excalibur Hotel

Monday, January 16, 2012

STL DPB On The Road: Zion National Park

2012-01-15 Zion 1

We drove two and a half hours northeast of Las Vegas yesterday, cutting across the corner of Arizona and into Utah to visit Zion National Park. The Virgin River cuts a deep and spectacular gorge, giving visitors a complex lesson in geology. Although the park is surrounded by desert, its cool micro-climate and ample water create a unique oasis.

2012-01-15 Zion 6

2012-01-15 Zion 4

2012-01-15 Zion 3

2012-01-15 Zion 5

Sunday, January 15, 2012

STL DPB Hits Bottom: Badwater, Death Valley

2012-01-14 Death Valley 1

I got so many good pictures in Death Valley today but, again, it's late, and I only have time to edit one. This is Badwater, the lowest place in North America, 282 feet / 85 m below sea level. The salt flats seem to go on forever.

There is nowhere like Death Valley in the world. You cannot appreciate its vastness and emptiness unless you visit. It is the US's largest national park and our favorite place to go to clear our heads. More pix when I can work them up.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

STL DPB On The Road: In The Mojave Desert

Mojave Desert 1 (Sand Dunes)

The Internet service in our room doesn't work so this is going up late (I'm at the Starbucks of the Luxor Hotel right now). We have not slept in the pyramid yet because the place was packed when we got in late Thursday night and there were no good rooms left. They will move us today. And, just to keep complaning, one of my camera bodies wasn't working yesterday but I cleaned the battery contacts and it seems okay now.

We drove south yesterday into California to visit Mojave National Preserve. Gotta get on the road for Death Valley now so just a few scenes. More to come.

Mojave Desert 2 (Wilderness Boundary)

Mojave Desert 3 (Objects In Mirror)

Friday, January 13, 2012

STL DPB On The Road: We Hate This Place

Welcome To Las Vegas

Oh, it's late. Here's a crummy iPhone shot of our arrival at the airport.

We do not like Las Vegas, not at all. Well, I have a morbid fascination with photographing it. We don't gamble and we think most of the shows are insipid. The city is American garish at its most extreme. So what are we doing here?

We love the desert. We will eat and sleep in the city but take day trips into the wild, open country every day. Mojave National Preserve, Death Valley, Zion National Park in Utah and Lake Mead are on the agenda. Lots of that to come. Now to bed.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday Arch Series

Arch 2012-01-07 4

Aw, cute. A couple of kids do handstands at the base of the Arch as their parents snap away off-camera. A good find, too, for any other photographer wandering through.

The Arch looks like a pyramid that recedes so sharply you can't see the tip. We will sleep in an actual pyramid tonight.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012



The glower. Beethoven is so often depicted this way. It's hard to read that stone visage. He could be grouchy, determined, tired or just annoyed at a hapless student. He does not look like he's working out the Ode To Joy in his mind.

This bust is in Tower Grove Park, an urban oasis that has a very 19th Century feel. There is a circle of these granite busts on marble columns surrounding an ornate gazebo. Beethoven is joined by other faves of the era, including Wagner, Verdi (those two don't get along very well), Mozart, Gounod, Tchaikovsky and Brahms. They don't get a lot of attention from most of the park's patrons but they do from me.

Mrs. C and I are getting away for a few days - there is a desperate need to clean out the closets of my brain. I apologize in advance for a lack of comments over the next few days. Need to pack tonight and tomorrow is a travel day. We get in pretty late Thursday so there may or may not be a post on Friday. But the destination has fabulous photo ops. All will be revealed soon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Do Or Die

We Do Or Die

He's wearing a Cubs hat so probably more the latter.

The tee shirt brought back a memory and an upcoming dilemma. My son-in-law is in food service management at St. Louis University's 10,000 seat arena. I haven't been to one of their basketball games in ages. They're normally mediocre but they are having an outstanding season this year and getting some national attention. For Christmas, Brian got us tickets to a February game against New York's Fordham University.

There is a common question in this town used as an icebreaker and immediate identification of social status: where did you go to high school? (No place else cares about this.) Well, I went to high school at Fordham. I have a strong memory of the high school and university's fight song. You could get me to sing it for only a couple of drinks. Part of it goes we'll sing our battle song - WHAT'LL WE DO? - we'll do or die. So who am I supposed to root for at the game? Sentimentality favors my adolescent haunt. But, of course, I'm a St. Louisan now and spent seven years at SLU versus four at Fordham. I have a month and a half to figure it out.

BTW, this photo was taken last Saturday under the Arch.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Light, Spring Temperature

Tower Grove Park 2012-01-07 1

Winter light is a treat. Golden hour just lasts and lasts. It's particularly pleasant when you have a golden carpet to shoot on, like in the manicured evergreen woods in Tower Grove Park. The shooting was easy last weekend, when the temperatures reached 65 F / 18 C. This is supposed to be deep winter, ladies and gentlemen. We're not that far north and a typical January isn't that bad here, but I remember -16 F / -27 C in January since I've lived in this city. Makes us wonder what we will experience in July.

My view is that Al Gore is right and U.S. Senator James Inhofe is a dangerous wacko. Your views are welcome.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Your Dream Fulfilled

Your Dream Fulfilled

All of St. Louis? The good, the bad, the poshest restaurant, the police holdover, Monets at the art museum, my messy desk? And fun, too? Not one of those boring here's the McDonald's, there's a firetruck tours. Who could ask for more? But you will have to be patient and come back in several weeks.

This was found along the river under the Arch.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


First Night 2011-12-31 13 (Drumline)

I don't know if this happens in other cities but it's pretty common here. We have groups of young African-Americans (20-ish down to small children, and almost all boys) who come to public events and set up a massive drum section. They just call themselves drumlines and play for tips. They do well - their rhythm explosions are hot. There is one group that is always outside of Busch Stadium after baseball games, beating on big plastic buckets. All they need are sticks and something to bang on.

These guys were kneeling in Grand Boulevard during First Night. There was a good deal of money in the open drum case on the ground in front of them.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Latin Beat

First night 2011-12-31 11

After Samba Bom, the Brazilian group seen here the last two days, the next performers at The Sheldon were Sol Salseros, a pan-Caribbean Latin band playing salsa, merengue, cumbia, cha cha and samba. So, okay, they threw in some Brazilian.

I like Latin music but I don't know that much about it, being the kind of guy who listens to the Metropolitan Opera channel on satellite radio while driving around. However, I once got to hear Tito Puente and his band play at the Blue Note in NYC. Talk about hot. Here's an example.

First night 2011-12-31 10

First night 2011-12-31 5

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Samba Lesson

First night 2011-12-31 6 (Latin Dance Lesson)

I'm giving the Thursday Arch Series a week off. I could use a week off. I'll get five days off soon but we'll come to that later (it's a massive photo op).

The dancer we saw in yesterday's post changed costume after the set and then came back to offer a samba lesson to anyone interested. I was pleased that several children joined the group and amused that they stood together, apart from the adults. The light on this ain't perfect. I was trying to use available light with an 85 mm fixed focal length lens at f 1.8 and 1600 ISO. Flash just blew out the foreground.

Below, the whole samba band and our dancer's companion, who wore a headdress suitable for an Aztec king.

First Night 2011-12-31 7

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First Night

First night 2011-12-31 4

The lead photo in Monday's post was from First Night, The Lou's no-booze public New Year's Eve party. They say that's family friendly. Hmm. Do you hate your family if you have a glass of champagne at midnight? Well, the point is that nobody gets rowdy, which is fine.

Saturday night's temperature was shockingly warm for December 31 (climatologists take note) and the area was absolutely packed. We went to performances that were not too crowded or venues where we knew you could move around. The upstairs ballroom at the marvelous Sheldon Concert Hall was the headquarters for Latin music. This shot is from the performance by Samba Bom, playing Brazilian music that gets you out of your chair. After the show, the dancer above gave a group lesson. We'll get to that soon.

First Night 2011-12-31 3