Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sister My Sister

Kim and I went to my folks' house last weekend for a day of eating, drinking, laughing and snapping with my parents, my sister Donna, Nana, my mom's sister Donna, my cousins Lisa and Fred. All activity at my parents' house happens around the kitchen table despite my mom's continued attempts to have us go downstairs where there is much more room.

Early in the day Donna (my sister- a well off, well traveled 30 something with a boyfriend in Iraq), in response to something that Donna (my Aunt) had said about the gathering that was taking place, said that my parents' kitchen was her favorite place in the entire world.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

So Long, Naomi

Naomi Edsall, a former neighbor of mine (and Todd's) when I lived on Main Street in Frostburg died on March 10th.

Naomi was one of my reasons for wanting to live at 195 East Main (the other being a desire to live as far from the previous six years of my life): she was chatty and welcoming when I asked her about the (phone number-less) FOR RENT sign in the upstairs window; her apartment (which she invited me into so she could write down the phone number of the landlord) smelled like beef stew- or at least that's how I remember it- (it seemed like her apartment always smelled like beef stew) and I'll never forget the two mason jars full of the stuff she gave me during the year that we were neighbors (also the year I started eating meat again). I loved that stew. One of the other benefits of being her neighbor was that she was nearly deaf- I could play my accordion at any hour and not bother her.

Naomi quickly became my Nana away from my Nana- when I was headed to the store I’d call and ask if she needed anything. On occasion Annabelle and I would go downstairs where I’d play tunes for her and listen to her stories about her oodles of brothers and sisters (all but one of nine dead), her having grown up on a farm in Avilton, Maryland, singing with her sisters in church, the Tallyho! (the restaurant she and her husband owned), her pet Pomeranian that died of cancer, Lawrence Welk and Myron Floren, the pain of missing her sister Vera (whom she had lived with), and her laments for her mother who she swore never wanted to have so many children.

When it snowed Todd and I would shovel her sidewalk, clean off her car, and occasionally we’d remove the fallen twigs from the low roof behind her kitchen. One icy February night, on the way home from either Kim's house, or the bar, I found a box of Christmas decorations (intended for the trash but blown into the street) and decided to decorate the small, sad, leafless, and neutered pear tree in the small bit of grass between our front doors and the road. I went to bed nervous as to how Naomi might react to the decorations- would she think I was silly? That this wasn’t the kind of thing a man did- even if he did play the accordion? At first she thought I was ridiculous for doing it-- in her only-her voice she asked me why I’d done it. But by mid March I got a call telling me that a decoration had blown off and would I come down and put it back up? I went downstairs and asked her which limb she wanted it on- when she had decided, I twisted the used baggie-tie that she had affixed to the decoration onto the limb and we looked at the tree for a little while and had a chat.

Naomi couldn’t understand why I wanted to leave my job teaching at FSU and was sure that I’d return from Virginia after getting my degree. Last summer I even received an angry letter from her telling me how disappointed she was in my having decided to stay in Richmond instead of coming back to the place where people loved me.

From The Republican News:

Naomi A. (Chaney) Edsall, 88, Frostburg, died Fri-day, March 10, 2006, at St. Vincent de Paul Nursing Center.

Born July 1, 1917, in Avilton, she was a daughter of the late Walter Chaney and Alice (Whiteman) Chaney. She was also preceded in death by her husband, William Edsall; five sisters, Vera Chaney, Hazel Robertson, Violet Chaney, Marie Bennett, and Ruth Crowe; and four brothers, Edgar, Oscar, Lawrence, and Paul Chaney.

She was a graduate of Grantsville High School. She retired as a housekeeper at Frostburg State University. She was a member of the Frostburg Church of the Brethren, where she served in the Women's Fellowship, sang in the choir, and formerly served on the church board. She was also a member of the Women of the Moose 348.

Surviving are one brother, the Rev. Connell Chaney, Grantsville; numerous nieces and nephews; and two stepsons, Richard and Robert Edsall, both of Johnstown, Pa.

Friends were received at the Durst Funeral Home, Frostburg, where a service was held on Tuesday, March 14, with the Rev. Rick Riley officiating.

Interment was in the Sunset Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be directed to the Frostburg Church of the Brethren, 1 Beall St., Frostburg, MD 21532.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dance Party 2!!

Here they are! Hopefully Blogger will get the kinks worked out (or I'll figure out what the hell I'm doing wrong) and I'll be able to post (with many pics) on a regular basis again.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Dance Party!!

Friday night Todd, Kristin, Kim and I had a dance party in our living room. I set up my camera in the door way, set it on "intervalometer" and took pictures of us as we danced for almost 2 hours.

If I can ever upload another image to Blooger I will put a bunch of them up- for some reason this hasn't been working for the past couple of days.

Oh well.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Street Lights in the Fan

A couple of weeks ago Style Weekly pricked my interest with a small column about "supplemental lighting" that Fan residents, along with City Councilman Bill Panetele, are working to have installed throughout the Fan district.

So far, seven lights have been installed along the 2300 block of Park Avenue. These are test-runs -promos- meant to help decide how many lamps there should be per block, what wattage is best (currently one side of the street has 100 watt bulbs, the other 150 watt bulbs- I couldn't tell the difference), and to drum up financial support for the remaining 400 (or so) lights the group hopes to install. I've visited the block a couple of times to check out the lamps- to look East, then West- to try and imagine what it will be like if Panatele and Co. get their lamps.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I watched as Frostburg was turned into a giant, treeless parking lot and still kick myself for never saying anything to the mayor and city officials while it was happening. I have no illusions about having any sort of affect on wealthy homeowners and their Councilman, however I think it's important to question whether making such a fundamental change to a city is a prudent idea, and whether the change will benefit the city as a whole and not just the people behind the pending change. I am wary of changes that affect my quality of life and know that these lights are the type of progress that most people won't question.

In order to sort out my thoughts I made a list…


  • The light emitted by the lamps is a cool white (it looks like Xenon but supposedly they are halogen), and are very different from what I am used to seeing along city streets. They aren’t at all like the lights that are currently in place (high pressure sodium “cobras”) which emit an orange cast and are the same lights used in parking garages. Looking west the street looks good- the light is bright and dare I say cheerful. Looking west the brightness lends to an appearance of safety. Looking east, the street still looks good, just not family-friendly and inviting (but you could say: romantic and mysterious, with a promising chance for discovery).
  • The intention of these lamps is to illuminate the sidewalks, and parked cars (not the street), so the bulbs of the lamps are maybe only 10-12 feet off the ground. And as the article claimed, it looks like the light doesn't shine into peoples' homes. The light does spill out into the street a bit, and this doesn't seem to be a problem. There are houses in Frostburg that have a streetlamp only a few feet away from an upstairs window.
  • The top of the lamp fixture is opaque, directing the light down, and out- not up. Supposedly the lamps can be fine-tuned for the specific location. As a maintenance guy I’ll say that I don’t want that job. God bless whoever has the responsibility for making all of the homeowners happy.
  • The goal is to work around all trees, not remove them like the planners did in Frostburg.

  • Assuming that the 2300 block of Park was chosen because it represents the average block in the Fan, I think seven is an excessive number of street lamps. Granted, leaves will darken the block considerably when they come back out, but I'd like to see the residents be conservative and have a maximum of three lamps per side, six lamps per block, with a goal to use even less. Alas, I fear this won't happen- we live in an age of fear, and Dominion Power is kicking-in over a million dollars to help out with the project for a reason.
  • The old streetlights (the orange-cast, high pressure sodium) will not be removed after the installation of the new lamps. I don’t understand the point of keeping both sets. Does the center of the street need to be lit any more than from the light spilling out from the lamps on the sidewalk? If pedestrians are using the sidewalk and cars with headlamps are in the streets, why do there need to be both? Again, Dominion Power is contributing significantly to the project.
  • If the lamps are being installed to deter crime, where will the people who were committing the crimes go (to commit crimes)? Is this a case of people being wealthy enough to keep people out? Are the lights acting as a fence in this situation? New Orleans is brightly lit and still the (overwhelmingly white, and wealthy) homeowners have 8' high walls (or higher), barbed wire, and broken glass shards cemented into the tops of their fences to guard their homes from intruders.
  • The lampposts are frightfully perfect- installing these lights throughout the Fan will amp up the neighborhood’s near perfection. This will boost its artificiality, making the area look more like a movie set than it already does, and cause those living in the vicinity to act accordingly. What types of people inhabit movie sets? By and large, it's rich white people. Yawn.

I am conflicted about posting this, as I'm not interested in making enemies of people I don't know or being seen as a neo-luddite-crank. But again, I think these questions should be asked.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pals in the Grass

Kim took this picture of Annabelle in Frostburg's Lion's Field a few summers ago. I photograph a tree in this field each time I visit and we made a day of doing this, walking, and visiting the strip mine on the south side of town.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Reine de Musette

The Baguette Quartette is a band out of Berkeley, CA that plays French Musettes (Parisian cafe music born out of early 1900's Paris suburbs). Odile Lavault plays the accordion, the bandoneon, and sings.

She is amazing.

Death by Musette is two guys in Richmond who blast their way through songs that the BQ are much more proficient at performing. I play the accordion, stomp on bells, and hoot every now and then. Todd holds it all together with his guitar, his mandolin, and his keen sense of rhythm.

No one else is doing it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What His Coming Means

Kim and I went to Ipanema after work today, and found this in front of Binford Model Middle as we walked East on Floyd. It's obviously related to the find I posted yesterday, and would have been an appropriate addition to that post.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Found: The Guilt of Concupiscence

Those who know me know that I love to find other peoples’ pictures (OPP); I probably have about 200 or so in my archive. I have no intention to send them to Davey Rothbart at Found Magazine, I don’t know how people do that. Most of my collection was found during the twelve years that Annabelle and I slinked the streets of Frostburg, Upper Marlboro, Fort Collins, Memphis, Albequerque, Yuma, Santa Maria, New Orleans, Ventura, and of course Richmond. For a find to be great, it must be acquired while walking, and for all of her life we took about three walks a day. We’d both sniff, but each for very different things. I’d find a picture and think that if it made sense (to speak in complete sentences to a dog) I’d tell her how I thought I was getting really good at knowing how to tell a wrapper from a picture, and how maybe, one day I’d get to teach a class on the finer points of discerning (from up to six feet) between a Ho-Ho wrapper board and a high school picture.

I’m going to start posting my finds here and am thrilled at the idea of sharing these images. These two items are my most recent finds. I found the porno pic on my bike ride to work as I was turning onto Granby from Floyd- it was folded up and all I could see was the color of white/pink flesh and a bit of the woman’s (?) eye. The color and quality was odd/bad enough that it made me turn around and pick it up- I figured it might have been made on someone’s desktop printer. I was surprised too see what it was, but not surprised to have found porn. I’ve found quite a bit of porn over the years (I passed up a stack of old Hustlers that were in a garbage can a little over a year ago, and the first find I ever kept was a porn magazine that my pal Jonathan and I found in the woods when we were in the fifth grade). I’d say that one of the reasons that porn is so easily found (or frequently discarded) is related to my second find of the day: it’s an old (classic?), weathered religious tract that tells the tale of a man on death row finding God (Life) while a lifer.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hiroshi Sugimoto at the Hirshorn

I went to see the Hiroshi Sugimoto survey at the Hirshorn with my parents this past Saturday. The show has received a lot hype- most of it about the installation (which really is pretty incredible). The work is good- it's conceptually engaging, and the images are beautiful objects (the architecture series! the sea scapes!).
Hirsohi Sugimoto Polar Bear 1976

Sugimoto has many concerns/questions that he explores with his work. One is the nature of reality and how our reality is affected by the camera-image. The exhibit starts with his earliest series of images: photographs of dioramas from natural history museums. Concise wall text accompanies each body of work in the exhibit- to introduce the diorama series, Sugimoto says something to the effect of having been struck with the articfice of the diorama when he first saw them in NYC. He also says that he realized that by closing one eye while looking at them he could make the imagined space appear more real. This led him to photograph them- to turn them into two dimensional, black and white representations, thereby giving them a credence, a verisimilitude not evident when standing in front of them. In essence, by photographing these fake scenes, he was making them more real.

After leaving the Hirshorn we went to the Botanical Gardens so my mom could take a picture of an orchid for my Aunt Vera. Although I am a fan of flora- I love to identify flowers, trees, and shrubs- the Botanical garden has always rubbed me the wrong way. My mom ran around with her digi, snapping away and I went into the "jungle" to bask in the humidity and hope that I might see a monkey (there are no monkeys). After sitting for a few minutes on a bench next to a bridge molded to resemble a fallen redwood and feeling alienated and undoubtedly oozing some serious ex-suburban ennui, I realized I could take a picture of this ridiculousness, convert it to black and white, and tell you that I went to the jungle this past weekend.

I went to the jungle this past weekend.

Some advice if you plan to go to the Hirshorn (and you should go- if nothing else, it's free): go early! We arrived Saturday at 10:15 and had the galleries to ourselves. I'd skip the Botanical Garden (unless your mom needs a picture of an orchid or you've got the hankering for humidity and want to look for monkeys-there aren't any monkeys).

Friday, March 03, 2006

Big Chimpin'

I had dinner with Paul, Charles, George and Travis tonight and I mentioned a term that I learned from Kate Lacey a while back to describe people looking at pictures of themselves on the screen of a digital camera. George suggested I mention it here.