Monday, December 22, 2014

City Retirement Party

I missed the Wombie's retirement party put on by the City at the VFW.  It was, by all accounts, a fine affair with many people attending, including his son (Aaron) and daughter 9Ashley) from Kansas City.  The organizers of the shindig had prepared a PowerPoint presentation with some pictures and I include just some of the pictures today.  Apparently there was one particular commentary from the MC during this show and since I wasn't there I can't comment, but it went something like this:

MC:  We know how Mark loves the Bears so we tried to call Jay Cutler.

Wombie:  What happened, did he drop the phone?   

That may be off quite a bit, but you get the idea.  And before you get any ideas that Mark actually does like the Bears, let me tell me dissuade you of that notion.  No Blythe, worth his or her salt likes the Bears.  I understand there are a couple in the family who think they do, but they don't and have yet to come to their senses.  

So without further commentary, here then are just a small selection of pictures from the tribute to the Wombie at his VFW party.   

That last picture is Mark peering through the crystal clear (as in water) award given him a couple years ago as Water Operator of the Year.  

Congratulations Mark and best wishes for a long retirement.  Uh, Mark, I could use a few bucks, call me.  Anyway, nice job, Wombie.  Not bad for the runt of the litter. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Flashback Friday

This was something I did a long time ago.  By a long time ago I mean more accurately 25 years ago.  Looking at it now, I can attest that I was never a gifted painter, just a weekend warrior type - self taught with remarkably little talent.  I wonder what would have happened had I taken art in school;  if Dr. LaMore never had that mandatory class that swept me off my feet?   What do artists end up doing?   Starving?  

Twenty-five years ago I was probably as happy as I thought I could be:  secure job that I loved, married 7 years with 2 new kids that were neat as all get-out.   Home ownership, projects, lots of time off, wanting an old car, relative peace and few personal or emotional headaches.  But that was then. 

I kind of went through a phase when I was working on portraiture, but then decided I wasn't good enough so I gave it up and moved on.  For all of you who may have a portrait I did, please feel free to go down into the basement or up to the attic, grab the monstrosity and destroy it.  Just to emphasize my dramatic artistic career careen I followed up portraiture with doing houses.  I was much better painting a porch than a face, so at that point I stopped trying and never went back.  I actually sold a painting of a lady's house in Oneida.  It was my first ever commission work, and my last.  All the other ones have been gifts.  

But the story of this painting is somewhat interesting.  Originally it had myself, the present Mrs. Blythe and Mackenzie, based on a photo.   The large dark area is the spot where the present Mrs. Blythe was and as you can see isn't.   Yep, just painted right over.  That's the easy part - grab a brush, mix some nondescript background color and wipe away your mistakes.  If only life was as easy.  Also, the kid was originally Mackenzie but Brendan rightly told me that I had already done a couple paintings of her, so I transplanted him where she was.   It is a lot like posing a picture - some are willing, others less so.  Tall in the back, short in the front.  

I always liked that we were wearing Met's shirts; I still am a fan (with considerably less gusto) and so is Brendan, although since being down here and seeing what a real good baseball organization can be, he is torn.  But then, we were buds, brothers in the bond, as it were.  

What would be interesting is to re-do this painting now and see what is different, what improves and what doesn't.  There are two ways I could do it:  same painting, same time period.  Or, get Brendan and I to pose together.  That sounds kind of neat, but then again, there was a reason I moved on to houses.  What skills have I improved on - what will never look good?  How would I render flesh today?  Winkles in the shirts? Or would I start and see the hopelessness of it, and that would be the end of it, another bit of canvas in the landfill?

How things change.   A twenty-five year span does not guarantee improvement in artistic skills or in life.  Today some of the joy of existing seems to be gone.  Christmas, a time I especially loved, seems more of a chore than a euphoria.  Bedlam sucks, as does Florida, and I'd race up to Northlandia but my Norah is here.   Kenzie and Brendan can do quite nicely without me, but Norah, well, she needs me, and I her.   Remember that slap Cher gave Cage in Moonstruck with the comment, "Snap out of it!"  Well, I need to snap out of it.  

So, will 2015 be a year of change?  What does it take for meaningful change?   Planning, commitment and purposeful action.  Just like painting a picture.  This time of year trumpets the bugle charge, I best keep working on those improvements, because its hard to tell where I'll be in another twenty five years.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014


The third and final Series of Fall pictures.  These feature the old Wolf Covered Bridge near Maquon.  I like history and all that but a replica of a covered bridge doesn't do much for me.  It is a shame that the original was destroyed by fire, a victim of vandalism, but to erect a replica, and then not take care of it (the amount of graffiti is unbelievable),  is an attempt to hold onto something that no longer exists.  Still, it made for a nice shot.   

This must be a party area for kids.  This small grill and remnants of a cookout litter this overlook.  

As I was driving by I noticed this on a tree in a forested area.  It looks like a kind of growth or mushroomy thing.  Never seen it on a tree before.  Anyone know what it is?   

While the days were mostly overcast and mostly cold, I was still able to get some photo shooting in.  Funny how you miss things when you don't have them anymore.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Night Moves

I mentioned earlier that the sky was mostly overcast my entire trip back to Northlandia.  There was, however, one evening that was pretty clear and warm; thus a trip not to the lagoon like the last trip,  but right next door to a field that stretches clear to Rt. 17.  These pictures are looking east and were taken with the Tokina 11-16 mm lens I rented for the trip.  

This was the best of the bunch.  I really like the look of this one, and with this particular lens you get a whole lot more sky than is possible with my other lens.  For you exif hounds, this was taken at 13 mm focal length,  f/2.8 for seconds and ISO 200.  What all that means is pure luck on my part.  I just kind of tweak and snap, a variation of the poke and hope.   

This sky shot caught some of the light pollution from the Quad Cities so it is a failed effort but is included here for no other reason except to look at the stars.

This shot shows the Pleides or Seven Sisters you see in the sky throughout the year.  Scroll up to the top picture again and look in the center.  That little fuzzy ball is the Pleides.  In this picture I took with the 300 mm lens are the six stars that make up the Pleides.  The Romans called it Seven Sisters, but there are really only 6 stars.  There has been astronomical speculation as to what happened to the Seventh sister.  

This is a kind of a nice picture but all that grain you see is called "noise".  Noise happens when you crank up the ISO in order to allow more light in for night shots.  It is a tightwire-walking routine to get the camera to allow enough light in and to make it so noise doesn't spoil the shot.  Ultimately this is a failed shot with the rented Tokina lens, but good enough to make it just marginally interesting.  

This was a pretty nice night to try this lens out and was the last warm one before the cold swept in the next day, along with more clouds, limiting any further shooting.   As it was, however, the nice dark clean sky and the new lens made for a fun time until a couple hounds spotted me from the nearest house.   Looking back I should have packed up my camera and gone to other places but at that time I thought I'd have many more opportunities.  Nope, just didn't work out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  I attended the St. Pete Craft Fair with Miss Norah and Company last weekend.

I still find it extraordinary down here:  any dirt at all, even in the most unlikeliest of places, and life will attempt to find purchase.   

This is an annual event where local businesses and individual artists in the arts and crafts world pitch their tents and their wares.  Some pretty nice stuff here.  It is a blend of the affordable and the not-so-affordable.  For instance, ceramic bowls and cups for $10--30, and then weird wall sculptures for $875 +.  This place is dog friendly so of course it is a good time to bring your pooch downtown, too.  

2.  My bicycle, a nice Trek, which got me around all kinds of places when I was first incarcerated down here, was stolen last week by someone here at Bedlam.  I'm mostly mad at myself: I left it unattended and unlocked when I should have gotten back to it and made it secure.  It's the city.  It's Florida.  It's my fault.    

3.  Remember a few weeks ago I mentioned I had been shorted change in a restaurant in G-Burg and here in St. Petersburg?   Apparently it is a national thing.  They are rounding up, or down, and not giving coin change back.  Just google it and you will find that it has been going on in some districts and cities for a while now.  There are varied reasons but it all ends up being rather shady. And these places are making out like bandits because they are counting on you not wanting to look cheap.  I have no problem looking cheap since they probably knew that when I walked in the door.  Help put a stop to this deceptive and fraudulent practice should you have the misfortune of being a victim.  Call them on it and ask for your change.

4. Saw this when I was out at Wal-Mart*, **, ***, **** the other day.

I'd love to get my bike gussied up like these bikes, but the electrical knowledge needed far exceeds my meager abilities.

*  As many longtime readers know I have an ongoing boycott of Wal-Mart that is entering its third year.  I will shop there when there are no other alternatives and/or accompany someone else.  In this case I needed something for Norah's next-day visit and had no other place locally to get it.  Forgive me.

** I should also tell you that this place has self-checkout lanes.  Average wait time is about 2 minutes compared to the usual 20.  

*** And I don't mind Sam's.  

**** Maybe I'm softening my stance just a teeny bit. 

Monday, December 15, 2014


Part Two of pictures taken in Northlandia while I was back.  Its funny the things you take for granted when you simply aren't paying attention.  

I have another set I'll post soon.  Thanks for looking.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Flashback Friday

I have been thinking of college lately.  Might be because my favorite professor recently passed away.  Maybe some because it was an exciting time and mostly because I was back at IWC when I visited last month for the Wombie's retirement party.  He, Holly and I went out to get the ever-popular, absolutely #1 pizza in the world, Jerry's.  We also went to the old Student Union which I now think is called something a bit more magisterial.  Perhaps it is my daydreaming that propels me to somewhere other than where I am;  those college years were transformative and a Hell of a lot of fun.  I guess I shouldn't bitch too much about how my Happiness Quotient has fallen;  it only had one way to go.    

I came across this picture someone took of me strolling in the parking lot behind the Student Union.  Apparently I had parked the car and was coming over to someone.  I don't have any idea who took it or where I was headed, but I'm sure it was well worth it.  I can assure you that Pinto is not mine - I'd rather walk than be seen in that thing.  I have ended up in considerable beaters in my time, but I never once stooped to a Pinto or Vega.  Oh wait, I had an AMC Pacer once.  OK, the Pinto isn't so bad, in retrospect.  

Along with college I have been thinking of life lately, too.  Perhaps I had it too good.  Like Hubbel everything came pretty easy to me.  Studies, finding and keeping a job and just about everything else.  

Until now.  That kid up in the picture even walked with a confidence, a gait that takes command.  Hopefully I will reawaken that part of me and raise my HQ before I simply tire of the weight. 

While we were in Mt. Pleasant we went to the West Side to have a beer.  This was the old hangout.  In fact the Wombie used to get a little beer money by tending bar.  Doris, longtime owner, who has now since passed on to the great kegger in the sky, was about the most unfriendly person ever in the bar business.   I'm glad we helped make her rich. 

She'd need her smelling salts now however since the kids have found someplace else to go for their fun.  But back when we were at Mt. P. this was the place.  Scabby, seedy and perfect for a bunch of grotty college kids this place was home to a varied bunch of kooks, never-do-wells and academics.  Among the academics was the Dean of Hawaii University who used to sidle up to the bar and discuss the 747's landing in his backyard, presumably to ferry him from Hawaii to sit all day in the bar.  There was also the fellow dying of cancer who had to barf up each of his beers in the tough urinal in the back.  And then the fellow who had lost his upper lip somehow but was lucky in that he did;t have to open his mouth to brush his teeth.  Let us not forget the blind man who we used to give quarters to play the juke box.  Not so much cruel as challenging.  

The place is deserted on the afternoon we were there.  They still have the pool tables but the wobbly tables along the wall are gone, now replaced by newer, firmer tables attacked to the wall.  The bar looks the same but the trough urban has given way to individual units.  The floor is different, but overall remains a time machine; step in and it can, with little imagination transport you back to the 

Another college pic and this was up in the fraternity house so it would have been my sophomore year.  By now I have chucked Poly Sci as my major and started to take more courses int he philosophy/theology/logic fields and that little come-to-Jesus ride out in the country with Phil is history.  I was about to put it in high gear academically, still hit the West Side with regularity,  and be cool and studly all at the same time.  Those last two are most likely my revisionist history, but hey, its my blog.   Yep, just too damn easy.  College kids, huh?