Sunday, May 31, 2020


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


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.

Friday, May 29, 2020


An art gallery in Maplewood, something of a cooperative, something of a place to learn. I checked out their website,, 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


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:

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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


You never know. When the zombie apocalypse comes (if you follow the news you may agree that it's already here) we may need all of our wits to head for the hills. Or the prairie, depending on which direction you go from here.

These so-called escape rooms are all over the place. A group of people has to cooperate to find clues to get themselves out of a confined space within a time limit. A Wikipedia entry says they started in Asia, then turned up in parts of Europe before they spread here. I've never been in one or known anyone who has. Maybe it's more for the younger set. 

On a related note, some years ago there was a post-apocalyptic movie called Escape From New York. It was actually shot in some of the more derelict areas of St. Louis. C'mon, Detroit would have been easier.      

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


In 1624, the English poet John Donne wrote

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Not that this isn't true every day of our lives but most of the time we conveniently overlook it. Now the idea slaps us in the face. Wear that mask, dammit. Do your bit to keep me alive.

In a storefront window on Manchester Road in Maplewood.         

Monday, May 25, 2020


I don't get around to STL's neighborhoods enough. The other day I took a walk down the main street of Maplewood, an older (by our standards) town adjacent to the city proper. You couldn't tell the difference if you crossed the line. The main drag, Manchester Road, has everything from edgy shops to restaurants all along the spectrum to a major supermarket. Some eateries still provide only carry out, others have outdoor dining and a few invite patrons inside. I saw little about spacing and how many people were allowed at a time.

Tiffany's Diner was certainly open for business without rules posted. The single customer was not wearing a mask  There were not many people on the street but most of them were.            

Sunday, May 24, 2020


There are some things about modern society that I cannot understand. Never mind virus disbelievers and anti-vaxers (aaaaagggghhhh!), let's think about climate science deniers. These are people who would gladly ensure the end of our species (and we'll take quite a few others with us) for vast wealth now, or who earnestly think that climate change is fake. 

I am not religious but I do believe in the scientific method. If you think that climate change is a canard, I want you to be consistent. Abandon your car and travel only on foot or horseback. If you break a leg, fix it yourself. Disconnect your home's electric service. Heat it by wood and cool it with open windows. Trash the phone, the television, the laptop. Make your own clothes and grow your own food, or barter with your neighbors. Science brought you every one of  these things.

Saturday, May 23, 2020


Where angels and photographers fear to tread. Nothing to worry about the day I took this - it was closed and this is the back. Would I go in if I were invited to shoot something for them? Maybe, if I had a safe conduct pass and the means to back it up. I have some appropriate clothing: weathered jeans, heavy boots and some weird tee shirts. (Although I probably shouldn't wear the one with French on the front - L'enfer, c'est les autres.) 

The front of this establishment opens onto a major street. It has a large overhead door so that the patrons can roll right in during warm weather. Quite a sight in the summer but I don't think I would stop for a snap.       

Friday, May 22, 2020


I've posted pictures a couple of times of signs put up by the STL MADE organization, It's a wonderful thing to have an outfit that promotes a sense of regional identity and pride, honoring the people who improve life in The Lou.

Still, I find some of their signs enigmatic. If you drove past this on the highway it wouldn't have any special meaning. I had to think about it for a while. What it may be saying is that some of us should be entrepreneurs, create businesses that are exceptional and then not leave. I don't know if that last part is a problem or not. This is a pretty good place to live unless you are poor, black or some other minorities, sick and without health insurance - the usual American picture but more than average.

It has been 53 years since I came here for college. My New York accent is almost completely gone. I stayed and I'm glad I did.                 

Thursday, May 21, 2020


Haven't run one of these for a while. It's not so different. After 20 years of photographing this thing my imagination wears thin. This was shot on the same dank day as the last few posts. This one is from the observation deck, a few feet from Malcolm Martin's statue. It's a great view but the damn thing for photographers is that there are three pairs of high voltage electric lines crossing the the upper half of the frame. You can take them out in Photoshop - I did - but it is slow, painstaking work. Anyway, hoping for better weather and light.                

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Just back on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River in a grungy area a little north of the Arch. Looking at this picture, I realize that I know nothing about how trees branch and why. Part of the floodwall runs across the bottom. The structure with too many syllables in its name, the Stan Musial - Veterans Memorial Bridge, is in the background. It is the newest span across Big Muddy in our area.          

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


Malcolm Martin had a long career as an attorney in St. Louis. His big firm and my tiny one were in the same building for years and I would often see him on the elevator, always a gentleman, always with a kind smile for a young lawyer. He was deeply involved with local civic organizations, was a member of the Board of Education and a co-founder of our local public television station.

The story has it than he never married and had no children. When he died in 2004 he left $5 million to acquire the land in Illinois directly opposite the Arch. There is now a large open green space, an observation platform 40 feet / 12 meters high with the best view of the Arch around, and the Gateway Geyser we've seen in the last couple of days. (If we get better weather I'll go back.)

Now his likeness sits on top of the view site, gazing for some fraction of eternity at the Arch and downtown St. Louis.        

Monday, May 18, 2020


I was editing some more photos of the Gateway Geyser and came up with this. Thought it was worth publishing. See tomorrow's regular post about Malcolm Martin, the person for whom the park is named.       


The best teacher I ever had in my life is the photographer Bobbi Lane. I studied portraits with her at the Maine Media Workshops some years ago. She has daily and weekly photo exercises for her alums on her Facebook page. Yesterday's weekly challenge was to photograph a person with an object that is precious to them.

Madeleine was an easy choice. Here she is in front of chez Crowe holding Brown Lambie. It was given to her as a newborn by our good friend Virginia. There are newer back-up lambies but none but the original will do. It's been through the washer, the wringer and mom's doll hospital quite a few times. Hence, brown lambie. Heaven protect it.                

Sunday, May 17, 2020


There is a park in East St. Louis, Illinois, directly across from the Arch. It has a tall overlook facing downtown and this thing, the Gateway Geyser. It looks a lot better on a clear day and when it is spraying up to its full height, but I took what I could get. 

On a day when the air is perfectly still the spray can go over 600 feet, about 190 meters, as tall as the Arch itself. It wasn't half that yesterday although there was little wind. I'll go back on a nicer day.           

Saturday, May 16, 2020


Like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, that's the feeling I sometimes get from a Lensbaby image of a figure. You can get the sense that unnatural forces are at work, that matter is beginning to dissolve and vanish. (Ever read The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway?)

This is Eros Bendato by Igor Mitoraj in Citygarden. It is enigmatic. The blindfold isn't doing a very good job but there are no eyes behind it to see. Children frequently crawl around in the hollow interior.            

Friday, May 15, 2020


An old favorite, Tom Otterness' Kindly Geppetto, done with the Lensbaby in Citygarden. I really like his work. On the surface it looks so simple, even childish, but it often expresses pathos or tragedy. Another favorite example is his Crying Giant,, in front of the contemporary art museum in Kansas City. 

This refers to the children's tale of Geppetto, the puppet maker, and Pinocchio, his creation who yearned to be a real boy. I can't say whether what we see here is an act of creation or destruction.            

Thursday, May 14, 2020


What lies just beneath the surface of downtown St. Louis? Does anyone really want to know? Maybe beer monsters, the ghosts of Lewis and Clark or Anheuser and Busch, or maybe just pipes and cables. There is a system of steam pipes that brought heat and power to downtown buildings. It's still around.

So, another Lensbaby shot. This is a new installation and I don't know the title or sculptor. Didn't take a picture of the plaque and the Citygarden website is not up to date. In any case, I wouldn't pull the handle back farther.     

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


Twenty years of digital photography has left me with a lot of . . . stuff. It gets piled up in boxes, more or less sorted by brand (Canon, Olympus, and, for a while now, Fujifilm). I was digging around in the Fuji box looking for something when I came across my near-forgotten Lensbaby.

Ever hear of these or play with one? Look at . It is a special lens that has a focused center spot (which can be moved) that becomes progressively blurred toward the edges (which can be varied). There are quite a few different varieties and diopters you can switch in and out.

So I took the Lensbaby and my Fujifilm X-T3 to Citygarden after work yesterday. This is Aristide Maillol's La Riviere. I think it worked. Might have some more of this.   

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


If I'm out of ideas for a post the easiest thing to do is to go to the graffiti-permitted section of the Mississippi floodwall south of the Arch.  There is a time of year, known as Paint Louis, when the whole thing is redone. However, people repaint parts of it here and there as they please so there is constant change. This gap in the wall gives access to an industrial area that serves the river barges (a steel gate can close it when necessary). That gray horizontal streak in the lower center is one of them. The tall smokestacks are on a factory across the Mississippi in Illinois, more than a mile away.             

Monday, May 11, 2020


She's getting there but becomes frustrated easily. Also learning the coordination skills to play catch. She pulls a ball in better than she throws it. Some effort is required to keep her occupied these days with no other children to play with. More will be needed when school finishes next week.

Sunday, May 10, 2020


Our wonderful government has been sending military air displays around the country, ostensibly as a tribute to healthcare workers. I think it's Trumpian swagger. Some places got the Air Force and Navy's stunt flying teams, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels, and I gotta admit they are pretty cool to watch. We got a flyover on Friday by a B2 stealth bomber, one of those planes that looks like the Bat Signal in the sky.

A couple hundred people and I turned out under the Arch at the appointed hour, assuming that was the logical starting point. We waited and waited and waited. No luck. The specific location of the flight path had not been released. The plane went much farther west, away from the river. People eventually drifted away in disappointment. Unlikely any of them were named Estragon.         

Saturday, May 9, 2020


Another pic from Bellefontaine Cemetery. The writer William S. Burroughs,, is one of my cultural heroes. He was born here to great wealth - his grandfather had invented the adding machine and built a fortune on it. He went to Harvard, with degrees in English and anthropology, and later attended medical school in Vienna. Then he went on, with his pals Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, to revolutionize American writing through the course of his sordid life.

I remember reading Cities of the Red Night and The Western Lands when they were published during my 30's. The possibilities of prose would never seem the same to me. Some people left a few coins on the small grave stone in tribute. The fork has to be in honor of his infamous novel, Naked Lunch. The grave is not easy to find but for some of us is worth the effort.  

You can find some audio clips on YouTube of Burroughs reading his work. Most of it is hilarious but not for the squeamish.  I recommend a clip from Naked Lunch about Dr. Benway in surgery, . Someone we know had cancer that required immediate surgery and he was assigned to a Washington University physician named Dr. Benway. We could have fainted.             

Friday, May 8, 2020


Turtle Playground on the edge of Forest Park. The sculptures were designed by STL's late mad genius, Bob Cassilly, founder of our quirky City Museum. Kids usually climb all over these (there are several) but, of course, it's cordoned off now. I wonder if any children have the courage to crawl in the mouth of this one.        

Thursday, May 7, 2020


Notes from the six year old entertainment committee: I've whined occasionally about the difficulties of three adults trying to work in a smallish house with a first grader underfoot. The burden is hardest on my daughter, who works for our firm. She has a lot of computer and phone duties, plus supervising the kid's school assignments. It can get overwhelming.

So yesterday afternoon, a beautiful spring day, we drove the kid out to a county park that contains a wildlife preserve. Access is partly restricted - you can do a one-way drive through and have to stay in your car. We saw bison, elk and deer. There was also a flock of geese with many little ones that decided to cross the road right in front of us. Ellie squealed with pleasure.                            

Wednesday, May 6, 2020


There is a meme in old American movies about a stick-up, an armed robbery. The criminal is facing his victim and holding a gun. "Your money or your life," the thug barks. It's a bad choice but one is much worse than the other.  

A Faustian bargain refers to the legend of the old alchemist who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for youth, love and wealth. Everything the world has to offer came to Faust, but in the end he was doomed. Our government's policies about the virus and economic recovery have begun to feel like this. Your money or your life, indeed. Granted, my family is financially secure and I understand why others would be desperate. In the big picture, though, I'd rather have my life, and my family's, friends and co-workers. And yours.

Normally at this time of year I'd be shooting The Lou's many outdoor events. All canceled, of course, so I have to find something else. Last weekend I went to one of our two huge old cemeteries, Bellefontaine. It's all Protestant (every name is English, Scottish or German). The Catholic one, Calvary, is adjacent. It's where our rich and famous get planted. I got a good shot of the grave of our native son and cultural hero, William S. Burroughs. Tennessee Williams is across the road. We will come back to the subject.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2020


This banner is high on a wall of the enormous Barnes-Jewish Hospital / Washington University Medical Center complex. I've been repaired there a time or two. The American Heritage Dictionary defines hero as:
  • n. In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods.
  • n. A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.
Words are inadequate to express our appreciation for front-line medical workers. Courage, nobility and risk like no other. Then, on the other hand, we have the anti-public health, anti-vaccine people. I respect their right to speak but I don't respect their judgment. There was an interesting piece in The Conversation yesterday about what may happen with these people when a vaccine is developed. Could it be that the tables are turned and they become the object of rage by the rest of the country for prolonging danger and unemployment? And then we get into the questions about what society - all of us together, the national government if you want to call it that - must do to keep us fed and housed. John Maynard Keynes, where are you, now that we need you?

There are times I think a lot of us could use an intro course in epistemology but, as the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Or was the last word "think"? 

This probably qualifies as the occasional rant.

Monday, May 4, 2020


Closed today but not forever. Like most cities, we have a number of small breweries, some with enough volume to sell in stores, some just restaurant-sized. This is part of one of my favorites, Urban Chestnut. As a matter of fact, I am sipping one of their products as I write this. They call it Zwickel, described as Bavarian lager. Mmmm mmmm.         

Sunday, May 3, 2020


My ideal day in STL? Fluffy clouds but not too hot (which rules out much of the summer). No hurry to get up. Dark roast coffee and breakfast with Mrs. C, who remains my best friend. An afternoon shooting at one of The Lou's unique events, particularly the People's Joy Parade, . Picnic dinner on the lawn outside the theater where Opera Theatre of St. Louis takes place, followed by a performance of, say, Le Nozze di Figaro.  A glass of champagne under the opera festival tent before bed.  (But not this year.)

We found this rock on Picnic Island in Forest Park, apparently one of fifty. I have a picture of another we found in front of the art museum that I may post. We could start a scavenger hunt, but 50 rocks in 1,300 acres / 526 hectares, while better than a needle in a haystack, is a big challenge. Anyone interested?           

Saturday, May 2, 2020


How did I not see this before? It's in a section of Locust Street just west of downtown, an area that's part rehabbed and part derelict. Maybe the light was just perfect at the moment I drove by. Some artist put a lot of thought and effort into this, apparently heavy paper applied to boarded-up doors. It's beautiful.         

Friday, May 1, 2020


I bet we'll see pictures of empty parking lots and well-spaced queues today. Because I am particularly high risk, my doctor has forbidden me from entering stores. Either the family gets things for me or I fall back on the convenience of putting money in Jeff Bezos' pocket. This could be my shopping list for today.