Saturday, June 18, 2016

Time for Retrospection

I'll begin this posting with a poem that has haunted me for a long time. I've read and re-read this poem many times, but I can't seem to memorize it. Maybe, that's because I don't want to. Maybe it's because I still live in denial. Maybe I want to believe that things will change, but inside, I know they won't. Perhaps it IS the truth I seek and I just need to learn to believe.

For thirty-years, I've been trying to rectify this wisdom with the ideas of pre-determined destiny, reincarnation of the soul and life as a free spirit which has things to learn in this life as a stepping stone to a better life beyond.

Then I wonder also whether or not I have been a good "bow". Through my triumphs and failures, have I provided their souls with enough information to complete their destiny?

Oh, Shit! I need some lunch and a beer ... and maybe a couple of aspirin.

Take care, be cool and stay tuned-in.


Living Small(er)

My new and humble abode at the dealership - washed and ready for my New RV Owner's Class
Ah, the next challenge. How, why or should I even attempt to live full time in a home so small? The answer always comes back, "Why not?" Life is an adventure, isn't it? I don't have to report to work daily. I surely have enough housewares from a two bedroom apartment to make it work. In fact, I'll have to rid myself of a lot of collected ... stuff.

Several years ago, I decided that I had a lot to do before I could even attempt it to live smaller. I just had too much stuff -  material things that I purchased for one reason or another, for needs real or imagined, to make me happy or perhaps even less sad. Who knows? It would be a big job, but I had to start somewhere. Immediately, we all think, "Yard Sale". I did too, at first.

My initial downsizing target would be my collected media. I had three bookcases full of media, not counting the storage area underneath my entertainment center furniture. Let's start with my VHS tape collection. Internet research revealed that I could purchase a "gizmo" that would wire-in a VHS tape player into my computer and then burn a DVD from there. Effective, but cumbersome, time consuming and utilizing too many resources for some old movies and TV shows that I recorded from Cable TV .. once upon a time and not always at best quality mode. Some I wanted to keep, other programs, I didn't. Editing would be ongoing.

The method I chose was to purchase a VHS/DVD Recorder/Player from Sony. Put the tape in one side and a blank DVD in the other side, follow the directions and then, "Let the games begin". It worked. I had lots of homey-tapes, but I also had lots of purchased movies that I wouldn't copy .. illegal, you know. I thought I'd sell them, but selling VHS tapes in a Blu-Ray DVD World is tough.

I gave them to my brother in Tennessee, who had decent cable TV access on his hilltop land, but (like me) sometimes you just want to get into a story without commercials every 8-minutes. Altogether, I had four Banker's Boxes of neatly stacked tapes. It took my spare time for an entire winter. Some people collect other things, but I collect media. Had I lived 100 years ago, I'm sure I would have had a pretty large library.

Oh, my books ... What about them?

So, the next winter, in a similar process, I converted all my cassette tapes to mp3 music files. That was another tedious project. My Windows XP-driven desktop computer took this moment to die. I completed this project on my Windows Vista-driven laptop. Connecting the cassette player to the computer was easy enough, but the conversion process created ONE file for the whole side of the tape. So I had Side A and Side B for each cassette that I copied. This process also created very large files in WAV format. So, each side had to be split and renamed for each song title on the album. Then WAV files had to be converted to mp3 files and the original WAV files deleted. Not only that, but meta-data had to be filled-in for each song so that they could be easily filed and cross-referenced in my iTunes software. Whew! I'm glad that's over.

Years later, I find myself this summer, engaged in a similar project with some great old, out-of-print, 33-1/3 LP vinyl albums that my friend, Steve, had for sale in his Antique Mall business. I freaked out at some of the great old Jazz, Big Band and other genres that over the years I've come to appreciate. Here's an old Louis Armstrong album that was given to radio stations as a promotion - not available in stores, as they say. Definitely a rainy day project, but very worthwhile. (Psst. I also got "Abbey Road" for free.) It's a similar process to the cassette tape conversions in almost every respect except using a special turntable. The bonus is that you get to hear each song played while in the capture process. 

The computer does all the work, but keep that album jacket handy to input meta-data.
The DVDs in my collection were a different matter. I just wanted to cut the labels out - preserving as much cover art as possible - to allow them to fit inside a DVD folio. Once done, I took two large plastic bags full of DVD cases to a plastic recycling bin. Ta-Dah! Downsized. That dismissed and reduced my entire media collection to a few folios, a few boxes of DVDs and CDs and many gigabytes of music incorporated into iTunes on my computer hard drive.

Oh, my books? What about them?

The furniture would have to be sold and clothing would have to be pared down to just the good stuff. It was weird to know that I'd never see that ragged old T-shirt and sweatshirt that were more comfortable because they had been lived-in, but I would need lots of cleaning rags ... maybe. The good stuff, I donated.

Dishes, pots and pans -  how many would I need and do I break up the service for 8 set, complete with serving pieces? Tough call, but I'd cross that issue later.

So, by now, you get the idea. It isn't a new idea at all. People think it is, but I remember reading Henry David Thoreau and how he lived so small, to live deliberately and unencumbered. It made an impression on me then and it still does.

Henry David Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond (replica)
Not bragging, but my camping trailer is bigger than Thoreau's cabin, but I don't have a fireplace. 

I still can't decide about many of my collected books. Some, I've donated. Some, I've gifted to my grandchildren. Some, I just can't part with now, so I'll carry them until I can't carry them any longer.

Hey, I guess that could describe me.... maybe.

Take care, be cool and stay tuned-in.



Friday, June 17, 2016

The Camera and Me

Friends always ask me, "Why do you take so many pictures and what are you going to do with them all?"

My first response thought is, "I don't know.", but I always come up with something that sounds good at the moment. They seem appeased so I let it drop. I guess the truth is, I'm driven to do it.

My first camera. We joined the film club and got it for free.
Some have heard me tell this story before, but here it is again, anyway. It all started within me back in my early high school times. We were gathered around the Thanksgiving Day table, altogether as a family - Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, Dad, brothers Bill and David and I - enjoying a feast fit for a king. Grandma was a great cook and my mom learned from her. Afterward, we cleared the dishes and the rest of the guys went in to watch NFL Football on TV. Grandma's house was smallish and the sofa was full of dad and my two brothers, grandpa had his upholstered rocking chair, so if I wanted to watch the game, I would have to bring in a chair from the dining room or watch from the floor. I chose Option C - sit in the dining room with mom and grandma.

Grandma asked me to go upstairs and get the photo albums and shoe box from the old wooden trunk in the attic and bring it down. I brought them down and placed them on the table between mom and grandma. Mom reached for her photo album. Inside she showed me some cool pictures of her wearing pigtails holding her little dog, "Toto". She was a big fan of the 1939 film, "Wizard of Oz". Being born in 1933, this was a new film and at that time, she was six or seven years old.

Also inside her album was a newspaper clipping of her much younger dressed in a Shirley Temple dress advertised from L.S. Ayers - a local, upscale department store in Indianapolis. Here was mom in her dress as the winner of the Shirley Temple Look-alike Contest. She won $50 and there was the check stub to prove it taped on the other page. Of course, she was proud of her school report cards and had them pasted there, too. Lots of other photos of her younger life - a life I never knew. Not that it was a secret, but I just wasn't there at the time. I came along much later.

There were loose photos in the shoe box that grandma said she would organize for us someday. That day never came and as it turned out, this was the last and only day we had this photo memory session. I never knew why. Maybe it stirred old and painful memories. Maybe it brought up things better left alone and dusty in an old box. Photos of relatives with their names and locations written on the back of the image with pencil .. in grandma's handwriting. In retrospect, she wanted to finish that project someday, but just not today.

There was a photo of her brother, Edgar. I never knew she had a brother. Unknown at the time, there was a conflict between grandma and grandpa's DNA concerning the RH factor. The baby passed away at a year and a half. I also didn't know that my grandpa was actually my mom's second father, since her genetic father passed away at age 33 of Tuberculosis. He died before my mom was fully aware and she never really knew him, but .. grandma saved the photo of him. Life throws curve balls at all of us.

Grandma's photo album was very similar. There she was with her 16-year old girlfriends on the steps of her high school. It's hard to imaging one's grandmother as a 16-year old girl during the late 1920s, but there she was ... pretty. Her report cards looked just like mom's - straight A's except for Physical Education. She had a friend who later became an artist in Brown County. They were friends their entire lives.

Here was a photo of grandpa holding a little baby in his arms in the big metal chairs on the front porch of their house. I asked grandma, "Is that little Edgar, before he passed away?"

Grandma couldn't speak. Mom jumped-in and said, "No, Jimmy. That baby is you. That's why I took the picture. You see, after little Edgar passed away, grandpa wouldn't ever hold another baby for fear he would break it or cause it harm. He couldn't get passed the fact that his own baby son had died. Since you were my firstborn, this is an important picture."

I never forgot those words.

About a month went by and I asked mom if I could have a camera. Of course, I only equated pictures with cameras, not with the cost of film, film processing, postage and handling, photo albums and all the rest of the costs involved. My allowance was only $1.00/day for school lunches. I could easily eat 50-cents worth.

So, mom cut out a coupon from a page in a magazine offering a free Kodak camera with free film for life if you only had your film processed with their labs. Seemed like the best deal going. So, I had to "share" the camera with mom and dad, but they never used it. It wasn't until after I was back from Marine Corps Recruit Training that I bought my first 35mm camera. Up until that time, I used the revised and updated model of Kodak Instamatic camera and shot lots of film during Marine Corps training exercises wherever we went. Being noticed, I was offered the job as the Public Affairs NCO for our Reserve Unit in Indianapolis. I used their camera with a 50mm lens and all the black and white film I could shoot which remained the property of the Unit, of course.

Through the years, I've had pretty good jobs in photography, traveled a lot at the expense of my employers, shot interesting and various subjects including dancers, glamour shots, families, sports teams, church directories, weddings and high school seniors. I even had a real photojournalism job at a medium market newspaper in West Virginia - my first day was 9-11-01.

Now I shoot with a Nikon D2x .. love this thing.

Today, I shoot what I want to shoot and as often as I want. It's all digital now. If I don't like it, I delete it and shoot again. Its all very convenient. I never print anything. I don't produce "art". I shoot snapshots, but I try to do it the best that I know how.

I also have a ballpoint pen camera, another Kodak digital, two Kodak video cameras and a Drift Ghost HD waterproof video camera. I even have a camera hidden in a pair of sunglasses. I don't hold the moniker "CameraJim" for nothing. Throughout the course of this weblog, I will probably be uploading photos/videos from either of these cameras.

Thousands of words can be written in description of people, places, things and events, but photos and videos can take you there. I remember history classes in high school, but I couldn't imagine or picture in my head they way things might have looked. Today, we have re-enactors to show us by their highly researched apparel and performances almost exactly the conditions that our forefathers endured to bring their heirs into the the world. I believe, it is up to us to honor that and in so doing, honor them. We have photos today taken of environmental conditions depicting the hardships of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl days. Photojournalism took us back to those days.

Photographs give us hope and inspiration to do great things. One photo in particular galvanized our nation during a time of great sacrifice and potential peril. We've all seen it. A few still understand.

Second flag raising by Marines on Mt. Suribachi by Joe Rosenthal.
I still don't know why I do it, but maybe someday, somewhere, someone will want to know, "Who I was? and What was I thinking."

Take care, be cool.


How It All Began

Having retired from full-time employment during the summer of 2014, I had prepared myself for the lifelong goal to travel the United States. I had saved regularly and had a little more financial help from employer-sponsored retirement plans and a union-negotiated payout at the closing of their plant where about 165 others and I were employed. The company moved to Canada and Mexico, with corporate operations in the UK. You may have read elsewhere about the flight of American business away from oppressive tax situations - now creating more pressure on citizens to float the government coffers. However, that is a different story.

My retirement goals were non-specific at first, but became more and more focused as opportunities presented themselves. Some would call it luck, but I found exactly what I wanted and only what I needed to put my ideas into motion - I mean literally and figuratively.

I was able to purchase this travel outfit. The camper is a 2010 Palomino Puma (Model 18-DB) and the SUV is a 2006 GMC Envoy with many nice options to make my traveling the experience of a lifetime. Admittedly, I am now much poorer in the bank, but much lighter in spirit as both are debt-free and in prime condition. I think the way this all came together must have been luck. I could never have planned it this way .. ever.

I decided that my first retirement winter (isn't everyone's) should be spent in Florida, but I had a few stops to make along the way. Of course, my lifelong friend, Steve had to see my rig. I had seen his Class C rig during my 2012 visit to the USAF Thunderbirds Air Show in Mt. Comfort and his travel trailer on other another occasion. Even though I had talked about it before, Steve made the first move to acquire the equipment to take it on the road. Now, I can't remember which of us had the idea first, but it doesn't matter. Our friendship had never been competitive except that Steve got all the girls.

The USAF Thunderbirds in formation over Mt. Comfort, Indiana.
I was still camping in a tent in those days and I enjoyed the simplicity of it all. Throw your stuff in the trunk and take-off. That was all fine and dandy until the July 4th 2011 weekend camping on the banks of Lake Ontario near the Four Mile Creek State Park and Old Fort Niagara (like "the falls"), there came a thunderstorm to beat the band, as they say. I'm on my cot, Coleman lantern lit and listening to booming thunder echo off the lake after the lightning flashed and rain coming down very hard almost threatening my sanity.

Reading the history of the Battle for Fort Niagara (French & Indian War)
I watched the water seeping into the tent, but was powerless to stop it. One does NOT touch the sides of a tent during a rainstorm. After it was all over, I was glad that a towel could easily sop up the rain water and after a few wring-outs, I was high and dry again. Lesson learned. That Coleman tent was about 20 years old and still doing its job well. I still have it, by the way.

So, what else can I tell you? The older I get, the more I enjoy American History.The older I get, the more I realize that history is the only thing older than me. (Insert your chuckle here) Perhaps having the birth date of July 3rd may have something to do with that. We always had cookouts and parties near or on July 4th. After the get -together, we'd adjourn around 8:30 pm, pile in the family car and drive to the nearest drive-in movie theater (or a parking lot nearby) and watch the fireworks display honoring America's official birthday. We know the Declaration was signed on the 3nd and wasn't ratified until around the 8th, but it was made public by nailing printed copies onto message boards and trees in the town square.

Camping in Rhinebeck, New York - rustic with Wi-Fi.
The next year, I visited the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome which is dedicated to the preservation of early aviation aircraft. If you've ever seen the movie, "Those Daring Young Men in Their Flying Machines" and focus on the machines, you'll see the type I mean. Flying was accomplished by low powered engines and warping of wings for flight controls. Daring! I took many photos there. My favorite is this Fokker DR-1 (replica).

During the Rhinebeck Air Shows, they try to give the public a taste of what areal dog fighting might have looked like to ground observers. They do their best to put you in the mood with antique cars, fashion shows and airplanes that you would swear could never fly.. I mean with only 35 hp, 3-cylinder  engines, but they did.

I like going to these kinds of places and putting myself into history in this way. Later, I'll take you to places that take you back to the days of the Revolutionary War, The French-Indian War, The Battle for the Alamo, The Battle for New Orleans and even a celebration or two. 

We'll visit other historic and scenic areas along the trip. We'll visit famous caves, attend a street party or two, go kayak paddling with the alligators (that I didn't know were there), and sit on the beach and watch the ocean come in during high tide. So, I'll leave you with a short video I shot during my first RV camping season while visiting Daytona Beach. This is my first attempt at uploading video to Blogger. The video isn't very scenic, but to be doing this when folks in Indiana and West Virginia are hunkered down under down-filled comforters keeping warm, is pretty cool, I think. 

Take care, be cool and stay tuned-in.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Great-Grandpa Jim? Today?

I had driven 400 miles from West Virginia to be present for the birth of my first great-grandson. My second eldest granddaughter, Brittney Suzanne, was giving us this gift, but I'm sure she will be keeping him all to herself for a while.

This is a photo I took of the courtyard at the hospital the very morning my first great-grandson was born in Noblesville, Indiana. With all the other watchful family visitors, this area gave me some peace. I also had a severe asthma thing going on which required ER treatment later in the day.

It was too warm to light the gas log, but having it there was aesthetically pleasant.

They make the maternity waiting rooms much more comfortable these days. I remember metal chairs and a granite floor when my son was born, but that was in 1968. I remember in a different hospital a small room with old dog-eared magazines for expectant fathers when my daughter was born in 1973. It was very early in the middle of the night and I tried to nap this time. I had been assured by the doctor that all would be normal and I had to go to work in the morning. I had done the pacing and hand-wringing the night my son was born.

I was the last to get permission to hold our young family addition, but I was grateful to be on the list. Great grandpa and tiny newborn, Zane. Babies now come with hats.  (Hey, don't judge our appearances, we both had been up all night.

Here he is... little Zane.

So very, very tiny. I still bet he'll be walking in a year.

Happy Birthday, little one. April 27, 2015.

Posted from my Kindle Fire App. Testing...1 ..2..3.  Hey! It works!


Final Day .. Day ONE

I joined Facebook in an effort to stay in contact primarily with my son, daughter and three lovely granddaughters in the easiest and most prevalent electronic format possible. We all live such varied and time-stressed lives that a common forum such as Facebook seemed to fill a void thereby providing a method to eliminate missed phone calls and text messages, allow sharing photos and videos and all the services that Facebook and accompanying Messenger provide free of charge (in exchange for advertising, of course).

Over the next few days, I will be deleting my account on Facebook, removing photos/videos and saying goodbye to everyone. It seems my primary reasons to join Facebook have no reasons to share anything with me. There is no blame on their part, nor would I ever wish to assign any. Having experienced similar life events, I totally understand their points of view. My life journey took me in other directions. It seems that I was unable to pass along a better family life than the one I experienced although I tried very hard for 16 years. I've read that it takes 3 generations to cure that.

I remained in contact, sharing little pieces of myself online so that, perhaps, some form of dialogue could be rekindled and our relationships likewise. It now seems, this is neither welcome nor desired. It appears that I can't outlive my mistakes or rectify damages done. It seems that I am what I've become.

And so, it is time for me to "get real" with the world and stop living in a fantasy land. Norman Rockwell painted fictional characters, Leave It To Beaver wasn't a real family and neither is so-called "reality tv". Even the words, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." is a lie.

I've enjoyed my relationships with each and every one of you, my friends. I wish they could have been better and lasted longer. Goodbye.

Day ONE:

HELLO, Blogger bloggers. (Sounds funnier that way.)

I was gone, but now I'm back. (It doesn't matter why.)

I have a few friends who would like updates on my travels as a full-time, retired traveler in the United States. This blog space, is for you.

For a while, I'll be playing catch-up, then will be getting into pretty much, real time updating - prevailing Wi-Fi hot spots willing.

So, be warned and be ready. I hope you enjoy it.