By agreement I refer to Jules by the nickname her friends use. Too many of her students stalked her name searching the web. She thought it was weird. I guess I agree. But here we are again, another birthday. She always had a celebration that began at the end of the school year with her classmates. This was well before August. Then, the excuse was everyone would be on summer vacation. Then, we were on vacation, the Tyler Place. This called for a second celebration, cake, party, the whole works. And then there was the extended family of cousins, and grandparents at home. And on her actual birthday we had a family celebration. So it became a summer long party. For a kid who seemed deprived because of her August birthday, Jules would be about 100 by now if each party counted. And for the birthday wish, I wish her happiness. I think she is. Happy birthday kid.
I’ve been to the restaurant on top of the World Trade Center. Restaurants being what they are it was not too difficult to get a reservation as long as it was done in advance. I need not mention it no longer exists. This occasion was for my thirtieth birthday and Lisa sprang the surprise. I don’t have a shot of the view. It is of course why you go there. What’s in my archive are several pictures of how we looked a lot of years ago. No I wouldn’t embarrass Lisa with mention of age. Suffice it to say that these pictures were at the same age as my kids are now.
John and Eric, well, we were all pretty young. I was there at the restaurant on a couple other occasions once for a significant birthday for my neurosurgery chairman Joe Ransahoff. Of course there’s no going back. The restaurant was lost forever on 9/11. My kids never ate here. But they did once come to the top when the Frary’s visited.
Scotland again. Before they were called selfies, here’s one we did. I was not shy to use a mirror. The only thing was that the result wouldn’t be known for quite some time. There were no retakes. At most I might shoot two frames. This was the better of the two and barely passable on technical merit. But it reflects the time and place. Another shot from the archives that I bet Lisa hasn’t seen or remembers. I look back at the early work. Film was pretty restrictive and unforgiving. But there were enough shots that came out to make for some great memories.
I’ve been there and you could guess it was many years ago. There are restrictions and tickets necessary to visit now. Somebody made a pile of rocks. Yes, it’s a mystery. And of my shots, the ones (2) that counted had Lisa in them. As I have said there are many images one can find of monuments. What makes them different is the people in the image. You go places. And you take a picture and that picture is mine. It makes all the difference that I took it. But I’d do things differently now.
I would have done more but then I overdid it. Make sense? Lisa wasn’t a great photographic subject. She suffered my enthusiasm and didn’t want to be a subject at all. I wanted to shoot and shoot. Nope. Here and there I have some pretty nice images. She’d disagree. I don’t know. I married her and had my own cockeyed opinion of how well she looked. To say she’s beautiful she would accuse me of unbridled bias.
Once upon a time we did road trips in Europe. We’d rent a car and drive from one place to another with a general plan but no reservations. We would pull into a city and hit the tourist info center for a hotel reservation. It worked pretty well. There was a place in Antwerp where a number of roaches marched around the twelve foot high ceilings. I received a can of bug spray by way of my complaint to the manager. We never unpacked and he graciously handed back our money. In Belgium (no names to protect the innocent) we had secured a reservation and were headed across town to find the place. Stopped at a railroad crossing, I idly noticed this hotel. At my urging Lisa entered and asked about rooms and prices. She came back with a price of about $20 when the currency was converted. I said, impossible and sent her back to be sure. She not only confirmed but had also looked at a couple rooms. It seems the rooms were mostly open and available to view. Well, it couldn’t have been nicer than the one we were headed. The price was too good to be true. I remember mirrored ceiling but maybe it was the bathroom. The next morning we asked about staying for an extra night. The desk clerk ascertained that we would be out all day touring and then she agreed. Later that day Lisa had a small issue and needed a change of clothes. When we entered the lobby, the startled clerk explained we couldn’t enter the room. It was in use. Because of the train station next door folks used the rooms during the days to rest before continuing their journey. Lisa used the restroom and I noticed a beaded curtain and a couple emerged holding cocktails. My suspicion was reinforced by the parking lot full of cars. The lot was empty again in the evening. You do the math. And for the second night it appeared that we were the only guests again. Years later and armed with my story and picture, grandma and grandpa tried to get a room. No dice. I figure, they figured we were just a couple poor Americans kids and they took pity and let us stay a couple nights.
Progress occurs and before you know it your photo is historic. Sure we’re older. But that’s a portable phone in my hand. The hardline phone no longer restricted movement around the home. And then cellphones became commonplace. My kids don’t even have a hard wire phone in their homes. We still have a portable phone somewhere about. Why bother, the cellphone service has replaced the technology. Records, CD’s, DVD’s …
I wish I was smarter but hindsight …. I took lots of pictures when we were on vacation. It was to document the sights and monuments. When we traveled in England I got a lot of churches. Somewhere along the way, I realized it didn’t matter how many churches I’d been in and photographed. The pictures that count are the ones of family and friends. The complication begins where Lisa was never happy with her pictures. She would see the flaws rather than the love. So I took plenty of pictures but it was with reluctance on her part. She did have perfect teeth, no orthodontics, just great genes. I was the polar opposite having had dental problems from a very early age. Opposites attract? You get two types of pictures. Pictures with loved ones too small to make out any detail and then there are the close up portrait type. With digital you have the memory card capacity to do both. With film you were a lot more parsimonious. Sure I’d do it differently now.
We spent a bit of time in the Berkshires. This was a Shaker farm. The kids had some very pleasant fall outings. We rode bikes around. The kids raked leaves. We looked for a second home here. Real estate price being what they were, we bid on a couple places and eventually but too late the bids were accepted. We changed directions and looked on Long Island.This is the round barn at the Shaker village.
In order to give Lisa a little break, I periodically took the kids on field trips. This time it was Pennsylvania and the Amish. They had towns with names like – Bird in Hand and Intercourse. Go figure. Eating was family style buffets. I remember one dinner and the kids were on a strawberry kick. I brought a plate of strawberries from the salad bar. About seven or eight plates later, they didn’t ask me to get up any more. I kept under estimating the strawberries they could eat. I recall this was small amusement park. You gotta wonder what the kids were thinking as they played around with these ceramic totems. Milking a pottery cow?
Lisa was an avid quilter. And she took on some big projects. The process is all in the pieces and patterns. Then there is the matter of hand quilting. No machine work here. The quilting bee still exists. She did one for our queen bed. I helped. Yes, I actually quilted some. I brought my surgical skills and adapted some of the suture instruments to help things along. No matter, it was tedious. Lisa made quilts for her mom and then each of the kids. I think some of the work was out sourced to ladies in Pennsylvania who specialize in quilting after the pieces are assembled. At least I only quilted one project.She organized this one for the kids at school. I think it might still hang there.
If the candles are correct it’s fourteen. Otherwise there might be one there for good luck and it was the thirteenth birthday. I’ve reached the point where memory is fading. I don’t remember this cake. I remember this gathering of cousins. John had three sons. Eric had one. Count ‘em. All boys on my side of the family, Jules was the exception. On Lisa’s side it was two nieces. Symmetrical? I was one of three boys, Bill (grandpa) was one of three boys, and Vinnie (Lynn’s husband) the same. Yes, it was very symmetrical. It can’t last. This cake was in Lisa’s wedding cake decoration phase. The lace work and decorations would later be used in building a tiered wedding/celebration layer cake. She enjoyed the challenge. And once mastered, she never did it again.
I got a call one night. I was home in NY and on call. Lisa was on Long Island. It was twilight and she was breathless. She’d found a bridge and rode over it. She was still a long way from home but the view was breathtaking and she was exhilarated. It is a very long tall bridge in a spot you would never expect. Despite the long uphill ride, it’s not too strenuous. We’ve done it many times together since she discovered it. As impressive and hard as one might expect from its look, I’ve never been physically challenged as I thought. Every time we ride it I smile.
Lisa did a bicycle ride from Boston to New York City. It was an AIDS ride for charity. I think I was the main charity contributor. I’ve never done anything like this. I don’t have the will to train. Lisa did. she rode in all sorts of weather even the dead cold of winter. The photos aren’t pretty. She was physically exhausted and beat up. Her face had general edema from the physiological strain. But she did it!! And boy were we all proud. The kids and I went to the westside and caught our first glimpse after three days. The bike was a problem and her leg hurt. She was basically pedaling on one side. I could go on and on. Susan and Kevin gave her a send off in Boston. Nick and Nannette met her in NYC. We were all pretty proud. Funny as it seems, I later became the one to obsessively ride for fitness. Julia only recently took Lisa’s old Peugeot bike to California. It’s retro. And David never rode, and then he did a triathlon and went to Mexico for a 1000 mile summer trip by bike.
New York City occasionally does something nice. They took an abandoned section of elevated rail line and converted it into an elevated park/recreation/hiking space. It revitalized the neighborhood. So Dave and I walked it when we headed downtown. It’s a pleasant walk. You can see lots of pictures of the project elsewhere. Here we found a space that just lent itself to silliness and a bit of Photoshop.
A few posts ago, I gave a long rambling recitation of detective work or early dementia. I have been having a recent series of camera mishaps. Briefly, I lost one and then another camera (due to stupidity). I’m usually OCD, but lately…. Well, (don’t ask), I’ve been experimenting. I have decided that, of my two used Canon G12 cameras, that I have tested, the newer is fine and that the older (first) is now having some serious focus issues. I told you Canon service said, “Send the camera, pay $189, and we’ll tell you what’s wrong, fix it, and charge you more as we decide what’s wrong. It’s not a very good deal. I figured to send the first camera in anyway. But the logistics of getting it to and from the US is a problem. Canon has a repair center here in Jeddah. It is not too inspiring. I’ve been there. It shares space as a luggage company. And if they can’t get parts…. I gave it a try. What can you lose? It doesn’t work already. I have the other camera to compare and the broken one is ‘broke.’
Then for some silly reason, I took an image after I got a hair cut. They say, “Be careful what you wish for.” On one image (and it is reproducible), there is a single line of pixel errors (see vertical line; medial right eyeglasses). It is on the image/sensor. It doesn’t show on every image depending on the subject , but the defect is definitely real. This is a problem for me, especially as it is my primary dive camera. There is a workaround. I use Photoshop and heal the pixel defect – press ‘shift’ and then draw down the repair brush. Voila! The damage I magically repaired. The repair guy said it might be possible to repair this problem also, or maybe not. Or maybe you need a new optical (expensive) system. But if you saw the squid, the newer Canon G12 is sharp! I’m thinking I’ll wait a while. I’d rather have mostly sharply captured images than to introduce another variable. When I finally get all the troubles solved I will be so happy to just worry about technically getting a properly exposed image. Anyway, having a backup plan is always good.
I have to admit that I’m in a quandary. Sometimes you look at something … and then it’s like you really ‘look’ or you just discover you’re seeing it for the first time. I did try to notice when Lisa cut her hair. It’s very annoying even dangerous (for me) when she changes things and I don’t take note.
My Canon G12 was acting a bit funny. Don’t ask; we don’t have enough space here. Canon’s repair website feedback was no help. They just sent back a series of generic answers. No prob, what could they really do? My paranoia is worse because this was purchased as a used camera. The images were soft almost unfocused. It was not consistently bad. But it was noticeable when we rode and saw the Pepsi sign.
The example provided here shows that the center of the image is in focus with definite blurring at the edges. I panicked. This is my primary dive camera. And if it’s broken, I have no way to conveniently or reliably get it repaired or replaced here in Saudi. Then I wondered if I was simply crazy. Was this just a function of the camera and lens? You can also see wide angle distortion at close focus as well. To cut to the chase, I took the G12, S100 and my trusty Nikon D200 to the field – soccer practice with Farid’s kids. I shot comparable images. What I can say: the Nikon has better images. Larger and better glass (lens) appears to win every time. The G12 is okay at the center but it was definitely soft on the edges. My problem is that I am shooting wide angle and close up while diving. Shutter speed is slow and the f stop is wide open, not a good combination. (I did have reasonable shots underwater in California, before I noticed the problem.) The S100 is actually pretty good with reasonable edge to edge sharpness.
Has the Canon G12 been like this all along and is it only now that I noticed the edge blurring?
Solving my problem is not going to be simple or easy. I’m locked into the G12 because I have the underwater housing and don’t really want to upgrade and get (spend for) another housing. So I made a compromise and got another used G12 from a reputable camera store. I’ll try to see whether the first camera is really broken. I can go back to the S100 but the battery life is terrible – too small battery for multiple dives. I don’t want to change batteries and risk getting the camera wet/fried.
And then logistically, this all happened just before I returned to Saudi. Now the trick is getting the newly acquired G12 into my hands in Jeddah. Mail it? A US postal package can take more than a month. And Saudi customs is very much a problem. They x-ray and examine everything for contraband. Things like bibles are illegal and confiscated. I have been told that someone with a magic marker blots out magazine pictures with inappropriate pictures. (Maybe not.) Someone has told me that the customs people may take what they want and a camera is certainly something that can be easily “lost in transit.” Insurance is no consolation. I also had medication renewals that did not arrive before I left. A perusal of the website states that medication cannot be sent without obtaining some certificate from the Saudi government. Good luck. The good old internet is no particular help; there is too much conflicting info.
In a wild/frantic/hopeful series of emails, I tracked down my neighbor Wissam, a neurologist, who had casually mentioned he would be in Pennsylvania this week. Great! I found him! He graciously agreed to carry camera and meds with his hand luggage back to Saudi. David FedEx’ed the package. David did me a big favor to find and go to FedEx just as he was headed out the door on an evening out. We needed delivery the next day. I had to send it to a hotel. I double checked and made sure Wissam was a registered guest and that the hotel would accept a FedEx package in his name. As I write, the final story is not complete but it does look like I’ve got a solution going. I had no past problems with medication coming into Jeddah. I’d hate for Wissam to be in trouble.
I traveled to Hamilton College to watch one of Jules’ track meets and it was canceled. So we went to the Erie Canal instead. That was pretty neat. The canal slides are somewhere else and I haven’t digitized them yet. The film camera is long gone, relegated to the display shelf. I actually wore out that Domke bag. Judging from the straps hanging out, I was carrying more than one camera. I like things old and ‘beaten’ but I finally broke down and asked Santa for a new black one. This is an early ‘selfie’ before anyone thought to call them selfies. That’s my dog Nellie. The biggest difference in my camera bag, i don’t need all that space to carry film. So I carry snacks and candy.
I don’t know why Dave wasn’t with us. In all our time Lisa never attended a professional sports match. It was deep December and I got tickets to a Jets night game. We wore everything you could in layers to protect against the cold. But you just can sit around without moving. Jules and I wore ski gear. Eric wore heavy coveralls and boots. We were as they say ‘freakin’ cold.’ We were there, we stayed, but don’t ask who won.
As an aside, Jules and I still have those North Face ski jackets. That particular yellow color is so outdated it’s embarrassing. But you can’t kill those jackets. I still wear it and don’t mind looking like an old guy on the slopes. Jules moved on fashionably but still has hers.
I think the joke about dementia goes, “You make new friends everyday.” I apologize to those who are afflicted and who might be offended by a politically incorrect joke. The nature of much humor is that it’s not to some. But here I am browsing my Canon G3 images and look what turned up. In fact the images were lost for a while because I neglected to get them onto my backup, backup drives. I am redundantly backed up. Luckily! I actually lost track and almost couldn’t find the backup. Ah well, I did find them didn’t I? Here’s a shot taken by Lisa at Carolyn’s Bat Mitzvah. It’s not technically perfectly composed. But boy does it bring back memories I’d long forgotten. Obviously I have seen this picture? Well at least I think I have. I’ll have to check with J but a lot of folks called her “Jules” when she was young and in school, which may be less confusing than calling her “J.” I doubt her students will look her up on the ‘net with that search term.And this picture’s for Harry and Debbie, old friends, who famously avoided using camera where I was obsessed with documenting things I can’t remember now.
I began the transition to digital photography in 2003. I was given a Canon G3 by Lisa. She shopped and took the advice of the salesman. It was a good call. I continued to use slide film for another year. During that time the kids and I built a slide storage unit to last for the next twenty years. We built 26 brand new drawers. It would be less than half full as I suddenly switched to digital with the Nikon D70 in June 2004. It was an abrupt end to using film. It was eventful using the G3. Though by count I shot only several thousand images, there was a lot of action that occurred during that time. I shot images at two weddings, Amy and Katelyn. No no, I was not the primary photographer, but as friend of the family, I got to experiment with digital and slides all at the same time. I had yet to learn that taking a thousand digital images at an event was all for the cost of a memory card. Though I’d love to do weddings, I realize that I’m better at my day job. I did, as a favor to Susan (Amy’s mom), shoot Scott’s second wedding. Come to think of it, I shot his first wedding also. There was a school play. You can shoot in virtual darkness handheld. It sure beats slides which are held to a single low ISO. You learn to push the technical edge of your equipment. And I first realized that digital images could be adapted to Powerpoint for teaching. Anyone remember Kodak carousel slides at the national meeting?Lisa and Jules took it to Italy on vacation. I think that this would be Venice. Pardon the fat arm, but selfies do suffer from wide angle distortion. Though it sits on a shelf passed up by later cameras that came into my life, I did get a lot of important shots with the G3. Lisa was indeed prescient in her gift to me. And most annoyingly, she would not hesitate to smugly tell me, “I told you so.” And this would not be the first time she was right.
Now that I have an iPhone I suppose there is no excuse not to keep track of people’s birthdays. For this I am terribly guilty. I receive plenty of messages when I get another year older. And likewise I fail to reciprocate. Sorry! David will remember Eric’s birthday this year. He asked me and added it to his phone when he showed me how to do memos. I remember because it was the last day of school in the third grade for me. He was born in the middle of the night. His early years like my own were a blur. He wasn’t really on the radar until he was much older say eight or nine. As time goes by we don’t see each other too often but we are in touch. He picked me up and dropped me off at the airport. It’s a silly act but between us, it means a lot. He also slapped a box of Entenmann’s chocolate frosted doughnuts into my backpack at the airport. Somehow that box got back to Jeddah and didn’t even melt. This image was shot at JFK as I discovered that my camera was missing. At the same time I have discovered that the autofocus is soft at the image edges on this camera. Mechanical failure, I hate that. He is showing me the in’s and out’s of texting, which I have somehow been able to avoid till now. Well, it’s the 27th and I at least remember your birthday. So Happy Birthday! As to all my other friends I’ll try to track down your birthday without being too obvious. Isn’t there an app for that?
It started in an apartment upstairs in Manhattan Plaza. The guys started baking pies in neighbors’ ovens all over the building and were so successful that the rest, as they say, is history. It began many years ago, but, after we moved to the neighborhood so it has always been in my kids’ lives. The signature pie is the sour cream apple walnut, SCAW. They published a cookbook and did not include this recipe. Drat! So nostalgia drew us to get a small pie. David was gracious enough to allow (and he made it himself) me a BLT. Yeah, life is good.
I have been gifted a new unlocked iPhone (international compatible) by David. He insisted. His reasoning is that I should learn to use it before I’m too old to learn it. And now that he has a job, this was his treat. (Expletive deleted), the kid is too generous. The pictures I took in the Apple store were lost when I lost the camera (don’t ask). Meanwhile, truly clueless employees staffed the first Apple store. Sorry Apple. The second store set us straight and I had no choice in the purchase. We needed a phone that could work in both the US and Saudi.
The other half of the story is that David and Sarah are taking an apartment together downtown. Sarah is working a second job in a restaurant downtown so we went there my last evening. And knowing it was my birthday she chose the dessert. This visit home I felt very fortunate to have connections all over.
My glasses broke in California. A quick trip to the optometrist recommended by my buddy Wilson got a replacement on short notice for his “cousin.” Things had really gone great right up to the point where I lost that ‘xxxxxx’ camera. But what I always said to the kids took some reminding: you can always replace ‘things’, take care of your health. Lastly, I have to track down data service in Saudi. J was ecstatic that I have been dragged into the tech age and said so with many ‘!!!s’ in her email.