Sunday, July 5, 2020

I CAN ONLY GUESS


It was dead quiet in this town yesterday. Normally an occasion for trombones, snare drums, politicians waving from the back of convertibles and colorful explosives, we could hear only a few passing cars and the wind from our porch. I went out in the late afternoon cruising for images and might have come back with nothing.

As usual I ended up in Forest Park. Pretty empty. When I took a swing by the great statue of Louis IX I found what looked like a small group of conservative Catholics on patrol. (Don't get me wrong. I spent five years under the supervision of the Sisters of Mercy and eleven in Jesuit schools.) There was a priest in an ankle-length cassock, something you don't see much anymore.  And this man. Anti-mask (ggrrr). No churches closed? What kind? No Nazis, no Communists and no Muslims? No "new normal." What is the new normal? Love his shoelaces, though.        

Saturday, July 4, 2020

THE FOURTH OF JULY


Our national holiday in what may be a year of sweeping change. There is more hope for racial and economic justice, but it remains unfulfilled. The economy itself is battered by a disease that many of our leaders lack the courage or intelligence to control, while many of our people reject the medical science that can lead our way out of it. We have the opportunity but not the certainty of turning out of office a corrupt wannabe strongman who threatens our democracy. May July 4, 2021, be brighter.                 

Friday, July 3, 2020

THAT HOUSE ON THAT STREET


You have seen this view on television, in electronic media or a newspaper. This is the entrance to Portland Place, a private street filled with old mansions in The Lou's Central West End. You also saw the owners of this mansion, fellow members of the local bar, standing in front. He had a semi-automatic rifle. She had a small hand gun pointed at the passing protesters, finger on the trigger. It is unclear whether the crowd broke through the locked gate.

The car in the foreground is from the news department of a local television station. No particular repercussions so far but the story has not ended.                

Thursday, July 2, 2020

AFTER THE RAIN


Wave after wave of storms have passed over us. There is no dust, no smoke. The statues in Citygarden are dripping. All the plants are lush and dampen what little sound is made by the virus-chastened city.

Some people can form a mental visual image - they can see things "in their mind's eye." I'm a little different. I can hear music in my mind's ear. Not a hallucination, just a clear non-physical experience of the music. This is what has been playing all day:

    

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

CITY DAILY PHOTO JULY THEME DAY - MY NEIGHBORHOOD


I've run these images before but it's what I got. So here we are in Webster Groves, Missouri, back in the spring, when my neighbors would set up a well-spaced lawn chair happy hour in the cul de sac in front of our home. The second one is at the point where our community driveways (the garages face the back) abut a large, grassy school yard. The view is due west. Sunset has moved way to the right by now.              


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

SATURDAY AND MONDAY


From Saturday's demonstration at the statue of Louis IX in front of the art museum. It strikes me that "loser" is Trump rhetoric. And, of course, there are two sides to every story. If interested, see his bio on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_IX_of_France. There is much to say on his behalf. You decide. I don't have a dog in this fight. I've been a recovering Catholic for a long time.

I drove by the site late yesterday afternoon to see what was up. The pedestal had been cleaned. No one was there.

              

Monday, June 29, 2020

PRIDEFEST IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC


In normal times this would have been Pridefest weekend. It's usually our best photo op of the year. Now, in terms of Euclidean geometry, I'm as straight as the shortest distance between two points. Still, I hope the day will come when festivals like this will not be necessary because people's sexual preferences are such a normal part of society that there is no need to call attention to it.

The local community came up with a creative alternative. There was a car parade, a Care A Van, with a long line of decorated vehicles snaking through the city, decorated for the occasion. Not nearly as good as the usual crazy annual parade, https://tinyurl.com/y85yx, but in the times we live in it will have to do.               

Sunday, June 28, 2020

STATUE IN THE CROSSHAIRS


A new development in local political and social protest: for the last couple of days there have been people in Forest Park demanding the removal of the great statue of St. Louis in front of the art museum. It's been seen dozens of times in these pages. The demonstrators claim that Louis IX, if I get it correctly, was a genocidal actor against Muslims and Jews. They want to rename the city, too.

Apparently this peaked about noon Saturday. I didn't hear about it until a bit later from a headlines email from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I got there about 2 when the crowd was a lot smaller. There were Catholic counter-protesters defending the statue, like the couple left-center above who were saying the rosary.

If you are interested in this, locals I assume, see the Post-Dispatch on-line article at https://tinyurl.com/yddlqmbm . Its pictures at the height of the action are much better than these. There were some scuffles yesterday. The comments to the article are worth a look, some insightful, some stupid. This started a few days ago and there are reports that a couple of the Catholics got beat up.

There are more pictures. I'm going to report on this and not take a position. If I did I'd lose either way if this post gets around. This may peter out but, if not, it could get ugly.       



Friday, June 26, 2020

STRANGE BREWS

There is a shop here in Webster Groves with the odd name of Civil Alchemy. They sell an assortment of very upscale, expensive household stuff, foods, clothing (I  would never ever buy a $150 shirt. You could get a very nice one for a fraction and do some good with what's left.) and a wild range of alcoholic beverages - 98 proof rum from Oaxaca, Mexico; liqueur from Brooklyn; absinthe. You pays yer money (a substantial amount) and you takes yer choice. 

The only odd booze we drink in our house is Aperol. Our French friends turned us on to it. It is an aperitif made in Italy, orange in color with an intense fruit taste and a tiny hint of bitterness. Only 11% alcohol. The classic preparation is an Aperol spritz. People vary the proportions but you mix Aperol and prosecco, add a tiny slice of orange, a splash of club soda and ice. Summertime heaven.          

Thursday, June 25, 2020

THURSDAY ARCH SERIES


Pretty abstract and rather like a graph. It looks like part of a stock market chart.

I need some stimulation. The Saharan dust storm may get here by this weekend, which could make for crazy sunrises and sets.                  

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

BUSINESS DISTRICT


This has an old-fashioned feel to me, despite the sans serif font on the realtor's office. The jeweler's sign looks much older, and undoubtedly is. The geometry and tonal difference in black and white appeal to me. Found on Manchester Avenue in the business district of Maplewood.         

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

THEY MUST HAVE A HECK OF A DISTRIBUTION CHAIN


An unboarded shop window in The Loop. Is there a city on this planet that doesn't love ice cream? Maybe it is frowned upon in Hindu societies; someone can let us know, but then I remember seeing a Baskin-Robbins in Kathmandu. So, no, I guess, there aren't any. We know what the owners are talking about but their claim is, um, sweeping.           

Monday, June 22, 2020

DAMN, IT'S QUIET


During the warm months I depend on our many outdoor public activities for material. This weekend, though, there was nothing going on. Nothing. It wasn't quite as hot as the previous few days but there was hardly anyone on the streets and in Forest Park. This may be a good thing, perhaps a time to sit alone with your thoughts.             

Sunday, June 21, 2020

MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO


As everyone has heard, many Americans are tired of following rules that they find chafing, even though they are a powerful brake on the spread of Covid-19 and will save thousands of lives (maybe their own, or their parents). I'm still horrified at how many people I see at outdoor bars, maskless and packed closely together. (And, no, Stolichnaya is not an adequate disinfectant.)
 
The reference is to a song (is that the right term?) by the hip hop group N.W.A. It is called Straight Outta Compton, that being a hard-life part of the Los Angeles area. The piece is extremely violent. I knew of it but had to look up the lyrics to get the point. Take my word for it.
 
Can't wait to see what  happens after 19,000 people packed an arena in Tulsa to see the would-be dictator last night. Is the appropriate concept herd immunity or thinning the herd?                  

Saturday, June 20, 2020

AT THE BOAT HOUSE


The St. Louis Art Museum just reopened with strict attendance controls. We wanted to have another look at the special show, Millet and Modern Art: From Van Gogh to Dalí. The subject is the influential 19th Century French painter, Jean-François Millet, an artist who had great impact but I didn't know well. Van Gogh worshiped him.
              
It was lunch time when we were done. We won't go inside restaurants yet but there was window service and a big terrace at the Boat House. You can rent a paddle boat, kayak or paddle board to putt around Forest Park's large system of waterways. We had our sandwiches and watched people glide across the water. It's as close as St. Louisans can get to a cheeseburger in paradise. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

WHY IS A LAWYER LIKE GUACAMOLE?


Okay, this one is a stretch. I'm working part time now and there was no reason to go to the office yesterday. The circumstances made me chairman of the 6 year old entertainment committee for the afternoon. I need to get out and do something but for now it's back into recent inventory.

As you might guess, this is another painting on plywood in The Loop. It reminded me of the Mexican fruit and the words for lawyer in the romance languages: avocat in French, abogado in Spanish, avvocato in Italian. None of which have any direct connection to avocados but I worry that some day I'll be down in Costa Rica trying to speak Spanish and say that I'm something you could chop with onions and tomatoes and serve with chips.

I think I need some stimulation.              

Thursday, June 18, 2020

ASSURANCE


A business on Delmar Boulevard in The Loop. I don't feel assured but then I don't know what's going on inside. I think it is a tattoo parlor. Maybe you're into that or maybe you're not (I'm horrified by it but my children have lots) but I can't imagine how it could be done safely. 

The public response to the pandemic remains unsatisfactory. The Governor of Missouri, Mike Parson, has declared the state to be wide open, subject to greater restrictions by local government like St. Louis City and County. Restaurants are reopening albeit with reduced capacity. Everyone in my suburban supermarket wears a mask but my one visit to Walmart was a horror. I am shocked by the number of people in our parks who don't bother with protection. They don't respect me or give a damn about my health. We just hope we come out well on the other side.        

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

SEEN IN THE LOOP


The portrait of George Floyd on the wall is well known by now. I find it, hard, though, to interpret the man's hand gesture. I asked his permission to photograph him. It wasn't clear whether he was trying to strike a dramatic pose for me, if he wanted to squeeze something or whether he was a little anxious. His right hand is pulling the bottom of his tee shirt while his eyes and mouth may express uncertainty. You can read as much as you want into a photograph.
              

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

CHUCK BERRY MATTERS


Chuck Berry, sometimes called the father of rock and roll, was born in St. Louis and lived here most of his life. We got to hear him play a few times. Even though my interest in popular music declined through the years (I mostly like unpopular music now), it was always a joy to hear him perform. He often played, sometimes unexpectedly, at a bar and restaurant in The Loop called Blueberry Hill. A statue was erected in his honor in 2011 across the street. I was acquainted with the sculptor. After the dedication, he got me into Blueberry Hill for the party. I got a decent close up of the great musician, https://tinyurl.com/ybndyrot

Berry died in 2017. I think he would have approved of the sign.         

Monday, June 15, 2020

MADELEINE MONDAY


A couple of recent shots. Might as well use them both.

First, from last week's trip to the zoo. The carousel is always a hit. BTW, her shirt says resiSTL. She's her mother's daughter.

Second, she likes to play with water guns and in the sprinkler in the cul de sac in front our house. This led to a suggestion that she wash Mrs. C's and her mother's cars parked there. Then she was invited to wash the van of a couple who were visiting our next door neighbors. They paid her a dollar, which was probably fair since she couldn't reach the top.         


Sunday, June 14, 2020

IN THE LOOP


Not in the sense on being in the know or having the right information. The Loop is a stretch of Delmar Boulevard that straddles the line between St. Louis and University City. The area got its name a long time ago because trolleys from the city proper would barely edge out into the newly forming suburbs and turn around on a loop of track to head back in. Now it's full of interesting restaurants, offbeat shops, an art house cinema and the bar where Chuck Berry used to play. The feel is adventurous and the politics pretty far left.

The Loop has been the scene of several recent demonstrations. Many businesses have boarded their windows as a precaution. I walked the strip yesterday, taking pictures of some of the things painted on the wood. This got my attention.             

Saturday, June 13, 2020

THE ZOO REOPENS


Many things are reopening here, although I question the wisdom of it. People are very tired of being cooped up and are bursting to get out, although the danger isn't much different than when the quarantine started. Compliance with masks is fairly good, but only fairly. Social distancing is often ignored, although some are careful.

The St. Louis Zoo reopened this week. It controls the number of people by requiring online, timed tickets (although, as always, it is free). This week was members only and we took Ellie. My daughter and I had to work some of the day so we went at 10, getting me the worst possible light. Plus, it's summertime hot. Ellie was bouncing off the walls while my legs turned to rubber. Mrs. C and I sat for a while while the kid took a spin on the carousel.    

Friday, June 12, 2020

IF YOU DON'T LIKE THE WEATHER...


In St. Louis, as we say, just wait a few hours. Being in the middle of the country, we get caught between warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cooler, drier air from the Canadian plains, plus anything that wants to whip east out of the Rockies. This was taken a few days ago when it was cool and damp. It became summertime hot soon thereafter.

It looks like a glorious weekend here. The zoo is reopening on a limited basis. You have to get timed tickets online and this week is members-only (we are). Today we are taking Ellie for her first visit there in some time. Pix are sure to follow.     

Thursday, June 11, 2020

AN ASSIGNMENT


I learned most of what photography skills I have at the Maine Media Workshops, a bit of paradise for people like me. Throughout the summer they run week-long, work-your-ass-off programs in every aspect of photography, video, fine art printing, you name it. I've been there five times. They were some of the best weeks of my life.

And the best teacher I had there, in fact the best teacher I've had from kindergarten through incipient old age, was Bobbi Lane. I took her portraits course and I've never had a week in which I learned more. We keep in touch. She has sort of a daily assignment or theme on her Facebook page for her former students. We post pictures and comment on one another's stuff. Wednesday's theme was macros, something I don't do a lot. My camera bag was in my car so I went out hunting and found this.

          

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

REMNANTS OF CRISTOBAL


Over the last few days Hurricane Cristobal swept straight north across the Gulf of Mexico and the central U.S. We were brushed by it but no significant effects. It made for nice reflections, though. This downtown office building is maybe 40 years old, all curtain wall, no windows you can open. It may storm outside but the occupants are quite isolated from the elements.   

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

MAYBE YES, MAYBE NO


After all we have been through in recent weeks and months, all we can say is that we will find out when we get there. Whether our political and social upheaval means anything will not be known until November 4 and maybe not for a long time after that. 

And the virus - people are tired of confinement and rules. The people I've seen at demonstrations here and in the media have thrown distancing to the winds. Most - but only most - people are still wearing masks. I want to scream at those who don't that they are threatening my life. The director general of the World Health Organization said the other day that “the biggest threat now is complacency.”

I had never heard of this company on the western edge of downtown so I looked it up. It's a worldwide marketing agency that specializes in just branding.   

Monday, June 8, 2020

EVEN HERE IN WEBSTER GROVES


I live in what is sometimes called a leafy suburb, Webster Groves. Just two miles outside the city limits of St. Louis proper, it is green, comfortable and convenient, a mix of working class to upper middle class but leaning toward the prosperous. And old, by local standards, meaning that it was established in the late 19th Century. 

There have been rallies and marches throughout the metro area in the last week. (Remember that Ferguson is also a suburb of STL.) One was organized in a Webster park by young people who grew up here and went through the school system. Most of them were black but there was also a young Jewish man, the son of immigrants, who described himself as "one of about 2 1/2 Jews in Webster High."  Over and over, they told horrifying stories that most white people don't know, repeatedly asking what we are going to do. Therein lies individual responsibility.         





Sunday, June 7, 2020

NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE


A statue of justice in front of one of the downtown courthouses. That's not just shadow - it is dirty and wet. How will we, as a nation, clean it?         

Saturday, June 6, 2020

WHERE TO NOW?


An iconic logo that comes from the baseball team, seen in a rainy plaza downtown. STL is our abbreviation for our town. It's the airport code. Here, the bright color seems to be vanishing in the mist. Now where for us? No one knows. In the short term, I worry that the packed crowds from all the demonstrations - social distancing be damned - may lead to a surge in Covid-19 cases. In the medium term, I worry about the would-be dictator and his henchmen.       

Friday, June 5, 2020

TODAY'S STARTING LINEUP IS - NOBODY


Helicopter view down into Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals play. In a normal year, we would be a third of the way through the season. Something may start in July before empty stadiums. The leagues and divisions may be re-arranged so that teams only play others closest to them, minimizing travel. How the players will be protected on the field, in the dugout and in the locker room is uncertain. It is all being negotiated between the owners and players. I guess they will make what money they can from TV and the Internet.

Although I'm pretty put off by the crass commercialization of professional sports I still like baseball. I played it a a boy and spent happy hours in the cheap seats in Yankee Stadium (there used to be some). What did SImon and Garfunkle sing? Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our  nation turns its lonely eyes to you...                   

Thursday, June 4, 2020

THURSDAY ARCH SERIES


And now for something completely different. The helicopter that carried Ellie and me is about even with the top of the Arch. Color and tone could be better but the scene is heavily backlit. We rarely get to see the shadow of the monument in a recognizable form but it looks like you could pick up two handles, peeling back the ground. (What's under downtown St. Louis? Do we really want to know?)

This was the third time in my 70 years I've been in a helicopter. It is mildly scary but a lot of fun.          


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

BOB AND ELLIE'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE


After recent events around this country, it feels deeply ironic to go back to a life where little has changed except for the masks. But I'm still trying to document life in The Lou from my perspective and so, forward.

Monday's post noted that Ellie and I did something special after her bike ride around the Arch. There has been a tourist helicopter on the riverfront for years, taking visitors on a swoop over the area for a significant fee. Mrs. C and I rode it once some time ago when we received a gift certificate. It was a blast.

As the kid and I passed by I thought what the heck. As my son in Michigan says, YOLO, you only live once. We went in the office, melted a bit of my credit card and were escorted on board.

Ellie didn't have a drop of fear. Once we got up and across the Mississippi, I asked her how she liked it. Her answer was something like YIPPIE!   


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

IT'S GOING TO TAKE MORE THAN THAT


This is an unhappy time for many Americans. People are becoming terribly ill and dying from an invisible scourge. Millions are falling into poverty and bankruptcy. The smoldering underground fire of racism and economic inequality has erupted into the streets. Meanwhile, our president hides in the White House, babbling nonsense on Twitter. 

We can wash our hands free of virus but not of responsibility.

Tomorrow's post has a great change of tone. I understand the irony.
           

ANGRY, LOUD, PEACEFUL



There was a demonstration in downtown St. Louis yesterday afternoon. It started at what is euphemistically called the City Justice Center, the jail where criminal defendants who can't make bail are held pending trial. That was too far for my crumbly spine to carry me from my office but the crowd headed east on Market Street toward the Arch, where I met them.

My guess is that there were a couple of thousand people. The march was well organized. People were angry, people were shouting, but it was peaceful. There were more white people than black. Almost everyone wore masks but maintaining distance was out of the question. No politicians, no major leaders that I could tell but the city has promised to distribute masks at any future events.

There are many more of these photos but i have no energy to edit more. Maybe I'll add others later.          











Monday, June 1, 2020

MADELEINE MONDAY


After a long spell of unusually cool, wet weather, the end of May has brought glorious spring skies. To get Ellie out of her mother's hair while working at home, I had the kid pick where to take her bike. She chose the Arch grounds. Here she is, standing at the base and holding the thing up. But there was a much greater adventure later in the day that we will get to soon.       

CITY DAILY PHOTO JUNE THEME DAY - SHOW US A PARK IN YOUR CITY


Forest Park is the largest urban park in the United States. There are a few that are bigger within a city's official border (Phoenix, Boise) but they are in unpopulated areas. Ours is significantly bigger than Central in New York or Golden Gate in San Francisco, which would probably be most people's guess, and smack in the middle of town. The city is hard up for money but the park has been maintained and greatly improved by a private foundation, Forest Park Forever

I have 513 photos of the park on Flickr (and I have not been good about keeping it up to date lately). No way to pick just one. Two was difficult. The first picture is the top of Art Hill in October with the iconic statue of Louis IX of France. The second is the balloon glow held the night before the Great Forest Park Balloon Race, which may or may not take place September. If I am at a loss for something to shoot, there is always material there.         


Sunday, May 31, 2020

HAND ROLLED


Back in my college days it was common for people to hand roll, uh, something. I've seen people hand rolling cigars in touristy little shops. But incense? Someone please explain why you you would want to hand roll incense or why that's better than the little sticks and cones you see everywhere. Can you smell the difference? Inquiring minds want to know.

Once again, on Manchester Road in Maplewood.        

Saturday, May 30, 2020

UP IN SMOKE


I guess everybody knows what this is about by now. The place sells everything to do with so-called electronic cigarettes.No first-hand experience, of course, but my understanding is that you put a solution that contains nicotine in a chamber and some electric gizmo heats it. The user gets a nicotine-infused vapor without all the other smoke junk. Many, many flavors can be added. Some people think they are safer than cigarettes because there is no particulate smoke. However, research says e-cigs can be even more dangerous. https://tinyurl.com/y8btke95

Friday, May 29, 2020

THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST


An art gallery in Maplewood, something of a cooperative, something of a place to learn. I checked out their website, https://www.artistsfirststl.org/, and it sounds like a very cool organization but one I didn't know. Their web site makes it sound like social distancing is impossible in their activities. Another victim of the pandemic.         



Thursday, May 28, 2020

USED BOOK STORE


There are still a number of used book stores around St. Louis. Maybe they are an anachronism, but there are still plenty in a time when booksellers like Barnes & Noble are closing. This is another business on Manchester Road in Maplewood, called The Book House, and its endurance deserves a link: https://www.bookhousestl.com/

I used to read a lot of books until the point in my career when the time demands became too great. There was also an issue of space: our house isn't very big and we ran out of places to put them all. (Why do we keep all those old books anyway?) Now if I want something in print I buy a Kindle book. They have no physical presence but I can carry a large library around with me, although I like the feel of a paper book better. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks since, like most Americans, I spend a fair amount of time in the car.