Green Day

Wake me up when September ends

An unexpected rain yesterday dropped about three quarters of an inch on us. This is a morning image of the crepe myrtle in the front yard.
An unexpected rain yesterday dropped about three quarters of an inch on us. This is a morning image of the crepe myrtle in the front yard.
  • After a summer that got browner and hotter from the end of June through most of August, our patch of green got some unexpected – and sometimes unforecast – rain.
  • The Shoffner family reunion was this weekend, and I went Saturday.
The Shoffner family trades stories and secrets Saturday afternoon in Sterling, Oklahoma.
The Shoffner family trades stories and secrets Saturday afternoon in Sterling, Oklahoma.
On the way home from the reunion Saturday, I stopped to photograph this gorgeous Catholic Church in Sterling, Oklahoma.
On the way home from the reunion Saturday, I stopped to photograph this gorgeous Catholic Church in Sterling, Oklahoma.
  • Our hosts Troy and Rachel had portobello mushrooms on hand to make as veggie patties, but I had a longish drive home so I didn’t stay for dinner, so they sent them with me, which I made for my last two meals, and which were delicious.
Portobello mushroom caps sizzle as I sauté them for lunch today.
Portobello mushroom caps sizzle as I sauté them for lunch today.
  • I washed my wallet. It was probably time to replace it, but I was super annoyed with myself for throwing those jeans in the washer without checking the pockets first.
After washing my wallet, I decided to replace it, the first time in maybe 15 years.
After washing my wallet, I decided to replace it, the first time in maybe 15 years.
  • I traded a pistol I didn’t like for one I think I will like, the Ruger LCP-II in .22lr. It didn’t do well the first time out; I think I have a bad magazine, since rounds kind of pop up and strike above the feed ramp and won’t feed. I ordered two more magazines, so we’ll see.
I heard good things about the Ruger LCP II in .22lr. Except for a flawed magazine creating a couple of issues, it seems like it will be a very fun pistol to shoot.
I heard good things about the Ruger LCP II in .22lr. Except for a flawed magazine creating a couple of issues, it seems like it will be a very fun pistol to shoot.
  • I just finished teaching a really fun photography class. We made lots of great photos and had tons of “aha” moments.
Classmates Stephanie and Cara share images as we shoot at the Pontotoc Technology Center two Mondays ago. I think I gave them the tools they need to be better photographers, and we all had a great time.
Classmates Stephanie and Cara share images as we shoot at the Pontotoc Technology Center two Mondays ago. I think I gave them the tools they need to be better photographers, and we all had a great time.
  • The fall sports season has started, and it’s kept me busy, including a super-fun evening covering the Ada Cougars at Ardmore Friday. The drive down there was brimming with rainbows, which I chased a bit.
I took several stabs at photographing this rainbow Friday night on my way to Ardmore to cover a football game. This is nice, but I feel like I should finesse it more. I'll work on it.
I took several stabs at photographing this rainbow Friday night on my way to Ardmore to cover a football game. This is nice, but I feel like I should finesse it more. I’ll work on it.
It has become a bit of a tradition to have my picture made with my good friend and partner in crime Courtney Morehead.
It has become a bit of a tradition to have my picture made with my good friend and partner in crime Courtney Morehead.

Today is also the 44th anniversary of my journal.

My students and I had beautiful light for classes in August.
My students and I had beautiful light for classes in August.

Returned to the Fold

Decades ago I was a member of the Ada Amateur Radio Club, listed as Ada ARC. I let my membership lapse about 20 years ago during a time when the club fell into neglect.

This is a snapshot of me at a meeting of the Ada Amateur Radio Club. In my right hand is my first dual-band handheld transceiver, the Kenwood TH-79A, with a long BNC-whip antenna a fellow member was letting me try. The phone on my belt was my first cell phone, which I got in January 1997, and which only lasted a couple of years, so this photo was from that era.
This is a snapshot of me at a meeting of the Ada Amateur Radio Club. In my right hand is my first dual-band handheld transceiver, the Kenwood TH-79A, with a long BNC-whip antenna a fellow member was letting me try. The phone on my belt was my first cell phone, which I got in January 1997, and which only lasted a couple of years, so this photo was from that era.

Yesterday I was listening to a local amateur radio repeater, one I use and monitor all the time, and heard several “hams” mention that their meeting would take place at 6:30 at the college, and that the parking lot construction was finished, so parking wouldn’t be a problem.

“I should go to that meeting,” I thought to myself, “and join the club.”

Ada ARC has long since been replaced by the Pontotoc County Amateur Radio Association (PCARA), and though I have been a licensed amateur radio operator since 1996 (callsign KC5TFZ), I have never been a PCARA member, so I applied and was accepted last night.

I bought the Icom 2350H in the late 1990s when it was discontinued, and have found it to be one of the most robust and reliable electronic devices I have ever owned.
I bought the Icom 2350H in the late 1990s when it was discontinued, and have found it to be one of the most robust and reliable electronic devices I have ever owned.

In the same way that photographers like to ask you about your cameras, and shooters like to ask about your guns, ham radio operators like to ask about your radios, which, last night, they did. I told them that I have two dual band Icom radios in my Nissan Juke. The 2820H below the climate/audio panel is set up as a scanner on the left side, and my primary transceiver on the right side, while the 2350 in the center console is set up like a VHF scanner on the left, and a UHF scanner on the right, programmed to monitor police, fire, EMS and storm spotters around the area. The Icom IC-V8000 is a high-power 2-meter transceiver in my Nissan Frontier 4×4.

They all informed me I should have bigger antennas, but my current setup is about right-sized, since they all seem to have solid signals while being short enough they don’t bang on the garage door frame when I pull into the garage.

At the end of the meeting, I invited anyone who was interested to join me as my guest Friday morning at 6:45 at the Aldridge for Ada Sunrise Rotary. Some of them seemed surprised to learn that there is a 6:45 in the morning.

My Icom 2820H is shown configured for split uses. The left side of the radio is set up to scan my most important public safety frequencies, and the right side of the radio is set up to operate in the amateur band.
My Icom 2820H is shown configured for split uses. The left side of the radio is set up to scan my most important public safety frequencies, and the right side of the radio is set up to operate in the amateur band.

A Visit from a Red-Headed Stranger

I had a very welcome visit today from Abby’s daughter Chele, her husband Tom, their son Paul, and their gorgeous golden retriever Samson. They grabbed a couple of pizzas on the way in, and we had a great time.

One of the many gifts Abby gave me in our years of marriage is love of dogs, and I was able to meet Samson, Abby's "grand dog", today.
One of the many gifts Abby gave me in our years of marriage is love of dogs, and I was able to meet Samson, Abby’s “grand dog”, today.

After Abby died in March, Chele and I spent a week kick-starting the big clean-out, the process of changing our home into my home. We set aside several plastic bins of items that Chele considered sentimental or valuable to her, with the intention of storing them here until Chele and her family moved to the Dallas area from Baltimore, which they did a month ago.

In the intervening months, however, I went through many more items, especially family documents and photographs, and loaded more plastic bins.

Anyone who knows Chele knows that she is the person you want on point on Thanksgiving day when it’s time to put away the leftovers. No one is better at “fridge Tetris” than she is.

Despite this fact, we only got a fraction of the bins and boxes loaded into their truck.

I anticipate traveling their direction before too much longer, though, with my truck loaded with more bins and boxes.

One thing I’d really like to do on my next trip to the Dallas area is visit Founder’s Plaza, DFW airport’s hot spot for airline spotting, which is interesting to me both as a pilot and as a photographer.

It was great seeing Chele and her family again, and I’m glad I finally got to meet their wonderful dog Samson. Samson got along with my dogs, and we all had a great time.

Tom, Chele and Paul pose in the front yard today with their gorgeous dog Samson. Not everyone likes or even gets along with their in-laws and out-laws, but Abby's family and I have always been close.
Tom, Chele and Paul pose in the front yard today with their gorgeous dog Samson. Not everyone likes or even gets along with their in-laws and out-laws, but Abby’s family and I have always been close.

Bringing Dead Tech Back to Life

This is an array of some of the old garage sale/thrift store/Ebay handheld scanners I have around the house. About half of them work, but getting the other ones to work is an intriguing rainy-day project idea.
This is an array of some of the old garage sale/thrift store/Ebay handheld scanners I have around the house. About half of them work, but getting the other ones to work is an intriguing rainy-day project idea.

In a household clean-out that seems never-ending, today I reached down under a 14-hole cubby cabinet in the sewing room to find a plastic cube bin that appeared to contain something technological. After carefully vacuuming the spiders and other sketchy-looking stuff from it, I started pulling things out. Included were…

  1. A Sony FM/casette Walkman
  2. A Coby MP3 player
  3. Three unused wired earbuds
  4. Two well-used wired earbuds with earhooks
This is the Sony cassette Walkman at pretty much the pinnacle of development. I think it's a very neat-looking piece of hardware.
This is the Sony cassette Walkman at pretty much the pinnacle of development. I think it’s a very neat-looking piece of hardware.

I don’t know anything about the cassette player, except that it’s nice-looking, like a stylish piece of tech from the 1990s near the peak of its evolution. But I do recall the Coby MP3 player, which Abby used for years at work, mostly to listen to audio books while she worked. Before that, she used various CD MP3 players, and after that, until she retired, she used her smartphones.

I turned on the Coby, and it seems to be working fine. It plugs directly into USB, so I put it in my laptop and saw it contained one of the books Abby was hearing right around the time she retired.

When you turn off the Coby MP3 player, it’s display says, “Bye Bye!!

This Coby MP3 player of maybe 2005 vintage still works just fine, and will hold 1GB of music. I also found its teensie plug-in boombox, which only needed a new AA battery.
This Coby MP3 player of maybe 2005 vintage still works just fine, and will hold 1GB of music. I also found its teensie plug-in boombox, which only needed a new AA battery.

Collecting and playing with aging technology is one of my interests, though I don’t exactly know why. It’s very fun for me, but to what end? Part of me thinks it has to do with the galling idea that capitalism/mercantilism is selling us the same thing over and over, with the entirely hollow and somewhat immoral idea of taking our money.

You own a VHS video cassette of Gone with the Wind. Then you own the DVD of Gone with the Wind. Then you own the Blu-Ray of Gone with the Wind. Then you own the rights to stream Gone with the Wind. You have basically bought the same product four times.

Another area of old tech I think is fun to collect is old police scanners, shortwave receivers, and amateur radio transceivers. Some of them work, and some of them don’t, and some of them are becoming less useful as communications becomes more integrated with digital communications and  the internet. But there are still some neat radios out there to collect, try to make work, and even use while I still can. And one of the best things about that is that they cost nothing: you can sometimes get this stuff for $5 at a yard sale.

In their heyday, these two scanners, the Radio Shack Pro-2004 (bottom) and the Radio Shack Pro-2006 (top) were the best you could buy, costing nearly $1000 new. I was able to fix the 2006, but the internet informs me that the 2004 is a hopeless case due to bad soldering during its production run. Too bad I wasted $15 on it on Ebay.
In their heyday, these two scanners, the Radio Shack Pro-2004 (bottom) and the Radio Shack Pro-2006 (top) were the best you could buy, costing nearly $1000 new. I was able to fix the 2006, but the internet informs me that the 2004 is a hopeless case due to bad soldering during its production run. Too bad I wasted $15 on it on Ebay.

Surgery Virgin

Trigger warning: stop now if pictures of stitches or scars bother you.

Updated June 28 to include a photo of the scar with the sutures removed.

I haven’t had any surgery of any kind since I was 17, when I had my upper third molars (“wisdom teeth,” whatever) removed. Before that you have to go back to 1968, when I had my tonsils out when I was just five.

Yesterday I had a teensy basil cell carcinoma on the left side of my neck excised. Basil cell is the most common cancer in the world, and one not likely to metastasize, but there was no real reason to ignore it, so I had it taken off.

I thought it was teensy, about the size of a dime, but of course, there are more cells than you can really see on the surface, so a skilled dermatologist will dig around and get it all, so I was a little taken aback when I removed the bandage this morning to see two inches of incision and 14 stitches, more than I’ve ever had anywhere (the previous record being five stitches in my chin after a bike crash when I was 11.)

By the time my wife was my age, she’d had many of the standard removables removed: hysterectomy, thyroidectomy, cholecystectomy, and full mouth dental extraction and dental implants. She still had her appendix, both lungs and kidneys, and her scruples. A friend of mine, Wayne, had a kidney and pancreas transplant this spring, so wow, I really am a surgery virgin, and would like to keep it that way.

It doesn’t really hurt, but it does itch a bit, and I wore a bandage on it at work to spare my coworkers and the public from thinking I was among the undead, and as a result of that bandage tugging at me oddly, I put tension into my shoulders and back, so that hurts a bit.

This is a very minor surgery, but it's new to me.
This is a very minor surgery, but it’s new to me.
This is the scar the day I had the sutures removed.
This is the scar the day I had the sutures removed.

Vacuuming a Vacuum

For some time now I have noted that my vacuum cleaner, a wedding gift from Dorothy in 2004, wasn’t picking up things like yarn bits and threads like it should. I don’t know how long this has been going on, but a while.

Yesterday when I spilled a huge amount of dirt and dust from an area rug on the bare kitchen floor, I decided it would be easier to vacuum it up than to sweep it. When I ran the vacuum over it, though, it didn’t really do the job, so I upended the thing to find the beater bar wasn’t spinning.

I disassembled it to find that the belt was broken, and as it happened, I had an extra belt hanging on the handle.

While I had it open, I noted that it was super-filthy inside, so I got a smaller vacuum and vacuumed out the vacuum.

When I put it back together today with the belt in place, it was like a brand new machine. I vacuumed the living room until the canister got full, about a quarter of the way across the room.

I find this episode personally embarrassing, since I should have realized long ago – although I don’t know how long ago – that the belt was broken.

In the end, though, I’m glad I got it fixed, because I am getting rid of a huge amount of household filth.

I hate to think how long this deep filth has been lingering beneath me, but I am glad to finally be getting rid of it.
I hate to think how long this deep filth has been lingering beneath me, but I am glad to finally be getting rid of it.

“Dear Abby”

Abby walks down to meet the neighbors on beautiful summer evening. I love this image.
Abby walks down to meet the neighbors on beautiful summer evening. I love this image.

I had lunch in Ardmore yesterday with Abby’s daughter Chele and her husband Tom, who were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to look for a house, as they are moving there from Baltimore in July. It was great seeing them, and we all hope their move puts them on the north side of the metro area so meeting for lunch regularly like this will be this easy.

Later, one of my longest-time friends Jamie and her husband Ian came by to get my six-burner propane grill, an item Abby was super-proud to have brought home to me, and one with which we made some great meals. But I don’t use it any more, and Jamie and Ian will, since they entertain all the time.

The six-burner propane grill sits in the driveway in April 2020.
The six-burner propane grill sits in the driveway in April 2020.

While they were here, we poked around in the garage for a while, where Jamie decided it was just too chaotic.

This was the scene earlier this week in my garage.
This was the scene earlier this week in my garage.

Jamie plopped down on the garage floor and started organizing.

It doesn't really show, but Jamie did tons of organizing, including freeing up shelf space to eventually hold stuff I want to keep. She even offered to help me host a garage sale.
It doesn’t really show, but Jamie did tons of organizing, including freeing up shelf space to eventually hold stuff I want to keep. She even offered to help me host a garage sale.

In the mean time, Ian got interested in a console radio/phonograph that Abby had purchased years ago as a piece of furniture, and was able to get it to come on and receive one very close radio station.

Ian was able to get the this pile of vacuum tubes and dust mites to tune in a radio station.
Ian was able to get the this pile of vacuum tubes and dust mites to tune in a radio station.

Last week in my cleaning efforts, I found a 1/4-size Moleskine notebook with journal entries by Abby from March 2004 until the day we got married in October 2004. The notebook itself was mostly empty, so I decided to use it to make notes about what our marriage was like in the form of letters to her … “Dear Abby.”

I was also aware that she’d written more journal entries than these. After Jamie and Ian left, I did some more cleaning, and found a ½-size hardback journal with entries in it starting on January 31, 2003…

“I’ve started dating Richard Barron. It is so great it’s scary.”

Yes, it was, Abby. Yes, it was.

As I was contemplating all this, the song My Tears Are Becoming a Sea, by M83, shuffled past, and it fit so well.

“I’m slowly drifting to you
The stars and the planets
Are calling me
A billion years away from you
I’m on my way.”

I miss her today.

Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day. "One year with Richard," she wrote. "I met Richard at his apartment. He had candles, wine, and a gift for me... great romantic evening."
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day. “One year with Richard,” she wrote. “I met Richard at his apartment. He had candles, wine, and a gift for me… great romantic evening.”

Two Chances of a Lifetime

Now is the time for Team Blackout to start planning for two solar eclipse events.

An annular eclipse will pass across the United States October 14, 2023, and a total eclipse will pass across the United State on April 8, 2024 just two years from today.

This map shows the path of the October 14, 2023 annular eclipse.
This map shows the path of the October 14, 2023 annular eclipse.
This map shows the path of the April 8, 2024 total eclipse.
This map shows the path of the April 8, 2024 total eclipse.

I plan to be in the path of both of these events to photograph and enjoy them. Abby and I met with my sister Nicole and her husband for the Great American Eclipse of 2017 (link), and it was an amazing experience.

Now is your chance to plan a road trip! Who’s in?

The most unusual item Abby and I photographed in 2017 was the Great America Eclipse, which we saw with my sister and her husband in our mother's hometown of Park Hills, Missouri.
The most unusual item Abby and I photographed in 2017 was the Great America Eclipse, which we saw with my sister and her husband in our mother’s hometown of Park Hills, Missouri.

Why I Don’t Want to Be “That Guy”

A vial of cyanocobalamin, vitamin B12, a syringe of B12, and some B and C vitamin tablets sit on my bathroom counter tonight.
A vial of cyanocobalamin, vitamin B12, a syringe of B12, and some B and C vitamin tablets sit on my bathroom counter tonight.

Today would have been my wife Abby’s 72nd birthday. Since she died just ten days ago, I’ve had a ton of stuff to do, and another ton of stuff on my mind.

I shared my thoughts about her birthday on Facebook, saying, “I promise I won’t be that guy who gets all nostalgic with every holiday and anniversary, but this one snuck up on me…”

Almost everyone told me it was okay to “be that guy,” or be anyone I want, as if I was telling them I wouldn’t be boring them with endless moroseness or tedious old news, but the truth is I was saying it to myself.

I don’t want to be the guy who was crushed by grief over my wife’s death. I want to be the guy who gets up in the morning and sees the sun shining a little brighter because she was here with me for nearly two decades. I want to be the guy who smiles more and says hello more and does a better job because of the love Abby and I shared.

I am also hearing (and seeing via technology) a lot of people asking me if I am okay. Yes, I am okay. I am not numb or dead inside, and I have no sense of regret or unfinished business. It is true that my body is responding to this process, and I am feeling an uptick in the little things, like tendonitis in a few of my joints due to my job and my age, and I recognize that big emotional changes are indivorceable from physical changes. “The body knows.” I am responding as I always have, with heat, stretching and exercise, and Tylenol when my jaw clinching gives me a headache.

So, I am taking care of myself. I am busy and optimistic. I am eating and sleeping. I am talking when I need to talk. An aside to this is that tonight I decided to use Abby’s prescription injectable vitamin B12. (I got really good with needles in the 1990s when I was giving myself allergy shots.) I don’t think I am vitamin deficient in any way, and I believe that diet is always the best way to address potential nutrient deficiencies, but the B12 is already in the medicine cabinet, and it won’t hurt me to use it.

So let me leave you with this heartwarming story of love to the end: when Abby was in nursing care, I visited her every day. When she was well enough, I’d pile her into a wheelchair and we’d go for a stroll, sometimes with Summer the Chihuahua in her lap. Sometimes she would ask me for a Coke, a drink she associated with growing up. On one occasion, the vending machine was out of Coke, so I went to the corner store to get one, where I found a bottle of Starbucks’ frappuccino, which I often brought home to her, and bought it, too. When I rounded the corner coming into her room, her smile was irrepressible, and as she drank it, she looked so happy. “This is so good,” she told me. That was about a week before she died.

Sometimes all we need is a little something that helps us feel good.
Sometimes all we need is a little something that helps us feel good.

The Comfort of Chatter

Most of the people I’ve known over the years have had the habit of having a television on from the moment they get up or the moment they get home from work. My wife always does, but when asked why, she only ever said, “It’s background noise.”

I kind of piled an odd collection of old and new handheld radios together recently to remind me to charge all their batteries in advance of storm spotting season.
I kind of piled an odd collection of old and new handheld radios together recently to remind me to charge all their batteries in advance of storm spotting season.

I find the chatter of television utterly distracting and irritating. Never mind that the actual content is usually insulting to our intelligence, the side-chatter it produces when you are not watching it is almost unbearable.

One of the real evils of television is the way advertising it produced and presented to be louder and more attention-getting than content. In the broadcast world, this is equivalent to having a huge red banner flapping in the breeze above a car dealer’s lot, or a brightly-flashing sign by the highway at the casino.

The result, for me, is distraction driven close to madness. I hate that chatter.

This is the barely-working Realistic Pro-2020, a 20-channel analog scanner from the early 1980s, which I bought a couple of years ago on Ebay for about $10. I like old scanners.
This is the barely-working Realistic Pro-2020, a 20-channel analog scanner from the early 1980s, which I bought a couple of years ago on Ebay for about $10. I like old scanners.

I also know tons of people who keep broadcast radio on at all times in their cars, regardless of content, usually at levels too low to actually hear and enjoy the content, but too loud to converse over. I despise that as well.

But I’m not necessarily pure. There is one form of chatter that I enjoy and appreciate, though many, like my wife, hate it.

American 689, level at two five zero, light chop.

I’m 10-8, 10-19.

2224 is 1 and 2 to Mercy.

Engine 680 is on the scene. 501 is command.

KC5TFZ monitoring.

Even if none of this chatter yields a news story or other amazing tale, I still find myself digesting and processing all the things I hear on my boxes: crimes, flights, fires, cures, lives saved, persons jailed, information traded; people touched in one way or another.

I have storm-spotted, both as an emergency operations volunteer, and as an amateur radio operator. I have had many discussions with air traffic controllers about this altitude and that waypoint. So once in a while, if you are lucky, you might hear my voice in the chatter.

Though we have a P-25 compatible digital scanner at our newspaper, I am still able to monitor many important public safety communications using older analog radios.
Though we have a P-25 compatible digital scanner at our newspaper, I am still able to monitor many important public safety communications using older analog radios.

The Ring of Truth

I spent the evening with my wife Abby at Ballard Nursing Center watching Super Bowl LVI. She and I have shared every Super Bowl since we’ve known each other. This one wasn’t very good, and the pageantry surrounding it was even worse. We turned to conversation.

“I lost one of my travel rings Friday,” I told her. “It probably came off when I was covering basketball at the Ada Cougar Activity Center.”

“I used to find rings inside gloves,” she told me, noting that we both have slender hands, and when it’s cold, our fingers shrink a bit and tend to remain very slick. I told her that it was just a $10 ring, and that it was just an object.

I came back home and let the dogs in, then gathered all the trash to take to the curb. I donned a pair of my work gloves and … hm. What the? In the right glove was the ring I thought I had lost on Friday!

In the center is the $10 "travel ring" I though I lost this weekend, and the gold rings on either side are rings Abby thought she had lost, but which I found in the floorboard of our Nissan Frontier while I was looking for her lost purse, which turned out to be not lost at all.
In the center is the $10 “travel ring” I though I lost this weekend, and the gold rings on either side are rings Abby thought she had lost, but which I found in the floorboard of our Nissan Frontier while I was looking for her lost purse, which turned out to be not lost at all.

A COVID-19 Journal

This is my rapid COVID-19 test from the evening of Jan. 16, 2022, indicating I am positive for the virus.
This is my rapid COVID-19 test from the evening of Jan. 16, 2022, indicating I am positive for the virus.

Day 10, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, final report: This is my last entry about this illness. Although I am still experiencing residual symptoms, especially nasal and chest congestion, I believe I am through it. It’s been days since I had any fever.

I had a worse case than many of those around me, and there is no telling why that might be the case. On the other hand, I never felt that my life was in danger, nor did I ever feel compelled to go to the emergency room.

My case is an excellent argument for the use of masks in public, since I was probably contagious for several days before I was aware I was ill, but I masked the entire time.

How does the vaccine fit into all this? I was vaccinated before the omicron variant appeared, and was probably protected from the previous variants.

Day 9, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022: I managed to sleep until 10:30 this morning, all on the living room couch, which, for unknown reasons, seemed to accommodate me better than the bed right now.

No fever today, and I am eating, but I still have that nagging cough, and I still can barely speak.

For the first time all week it was nice out, so I walked the dogs, and that went fine. While I was out I saw Mike next door. I kept my distance. He told me he was about to take his daughter Jen to the emergency room in Shawnee because of “some kind of crud.”

When I am legitimately better, I am going to clean, clean, clean. The reason I can’t do it now is 1. Cleaning send  clouds of filth into the air and into my nose and lungs, and 2. The head-down posture required for things like scrubbing a sink causes a mucus shift in my chest and sinuses, which often triggers a coughing fit.

Day 8, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022: I slept the whole night, only interrupted by a couple of coughing fits, after which I was able to go right back to sleep. I was also able to eat a real meal today. I weighed 150 pounds this morning, compared to 139 pounds two years ago when I had the flu. Directly comparing them isn’t very useful, but at least in terms of “how I felt,” I was legitimately sicker when I had the flu.

My cough is mostly productive, and my voice has returned about 5%.

I think today was a step in the right direction.

Day 7, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022: As the day turned to night yesterday, it seemed like my cough was getting more productive and, despite the 100-yard walk to the mailbox that made me a little woozy, I hoped to get to sleep earlier and try to make up for a very sleepless period.

By about 1:30 this morning, I started having very intense dreams about being congested. To my surprise, with no warning or even nausea, I found myself running to the bathroom to throw up, which I did three times, and I was such a mess. I also had to clean up the mess in the hall where I hadn’t been quite fast enough to make it to the bathroom. It’s not like me at all to have gastrointestinal symptoms. I guess this is another thing we are finding with this pandemic; it is a very complex and dangerous disease.

Day 6, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022: It was very hard to sleep last night, despite taking a bunch of Benadryl, which makes me drowsy. The trouble both nights was that if a lied down and actually went sleep, not long after that a hugely uncomfortable coughing fit hit me hard, over and over. I ended up kind of propping myself in the corner of the couch and dozing off. If I wasn’t in a hard sleep, I could feel the coughing attack coming on and could either chase it out of my chest with a big glass of water, or by coughing it up before it got too terrible. Either way, I was up and down in a half-sleep doing that about every 20 to 30 minutes all night.

Day 5 supplemental: At around 4 p.m. while trying to talk to the dogs, I discovered that I have lost my voice. I also discovered that my throat was getting sore, and the mucus was looser. I don’t know if that’s a stage of the disease, random chance, or me doubling-down on the expectorants, but it is nice that I have a more-productive cough, which hopefully keeps me out away from any kind of pneumonia.

Day 5, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022: My recovery seems to be on hold. I don’t have any fever today, and I have yet to experience body aches many of my friends have described. But it seems to have settled in my chest. I am breathing fine, but I have a nagging, frustrating cough, such that despite medicating myself with tons of OTC meds, woke me up repeatedly last night. By about 4 a.m., I gave up and turned on some Netflix. I got a grand total of maybe three hours of actual sleep.

Once last night and once this morning, I coughed so hard I actually did blarf, but it wasn’t from nausea or GI, but that the muscles of my diaphragm slammed so hard it actually forced a little bit of food up.

Exactly zero appetite.

Day 4, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022: My symptoms are hanging on tight as a tick. Several people who had the omicron variant recently said they had a nearly identical set of symptoms, and they all said it was “like the worst head cold you ever had.”

I can still taste and smell. I woke up in coughing fits a couple of times last night and nearly blarfed from coughing so hard. My ribs hurt from coughing.

Since I have no appetite, I made a deal with myself that I’ve made with Abby a bunch over the years: even though it doesn’t sound good, what if I put some scrambled eggs in front of me? Turns out, they were great.

I had a very rough cold that was just like this in 2005, the week my dad died, and I felt so apologetic that I couldn’t stop coughing on the plane when Abby and I flew to Florida for his funeral.

It’s still early in my isolation, but except that I can’t visit Abby right now, I am enjoying it. The dogs are great company, and I use whatever energy I have to take on little projects around the house. I am also immersed in entertainment.

Day 3, later in the morning Monday, Jan. 17, 2022: Jamie called to ask me if I needed anything. For some reason, her genuine concern sort of shook off a layer of denial for me. After thanking her and hanging up, I worked myself into a legitimate panic attack which, in my current state, I mistook for shortness of breath. I laid down and put a fan on myself and tried to sleep, with Summer the Chihuahua on my lap. A minute or two later I thought I should call Abby and tell her I love her incase I died right then. I talked to her and she sounded good, so I was able to calm myself. As of 1:15 this afternoon, I am not dead.

Day 3, early morning, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022: I seemed to sleep all night long, but woke up feeling weirdly weak and dizzy. I am still coughing. No fever. If there is a bright spot, it’s that tooth paste and coffee smell and taste like toothpaste and coffee.

It might not last, but on Day 3, I could still taste and smell coffee.
It might not last, but on Day 3, I could still taste and smell coffee.

Day 2, evening, Sunday Jan. 16. 2022: A friend on social media saw that I couldn’t find a test kit and dropped one in our mailbox for me this evening. I took the test and it was positive. I have COVID-19.

Day 2, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022: I was able to sleep in, and slept well. First temp was 98.5ºF. Cough sounds and feels ugly, but not very different from a cough that might have with a cold.

Day 1, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022: I felt fine for much of the day, but by afternoon, I started thinking my chest congestion was becoming more significant. By around 5 p.m., I was running a fever hovering around 99.2º F, but no additional symptoms. My nose was less runny, but my chest remained congested in just about the same way it does once or twice a year when I catch the crud. It is a nagging nuisance, but I don’t feel any difficulty breathing, and I don’t feel any rattling like I did two years ago when I had the flu. Update late Saturday night: I still have my sense of taste and smell.

Prior to day 1, I felt fine except for a runny, itchy nose completely consistent with hay fever for about three days. It was very windy some of those days, and I covered several grass fires for my newspaper and got into the smoke. I masked the entire time.

At a photo/interview op Friday, the Ada Police Chief Carl Allen told me, “Don’t have a stroke, don’t have a heart attack, don’t get in a car crash, don’t fall out of a tree. There is no room for you in any hospital.”

I am not currently in possession of a COVID-19 home test kit, so I may go to town for one tomorrow.

COVID-19 numbers nationwide have been soaring, with a seven-day new case average of nearly 800,000, but fewer people than ever seem concerned or wear masks. The current dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2 is the Omicron, which is reportedly much more contagious than previous versions, but also notably less severe.

I got the Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations on Feb. 24 and March 26, and a booster vaccination on Aug. 23.

I have been in a hospital setting most of the time for the last six months, since my wife Abby was critically ill, then in long-term care. I have always masked in those settings, but I am certain that my risk was elevated by this.

My overall health situation is that I am 58, physically active at home and on the job, am not diabetic or obese, and tend to eat very healthy foods. My blood pressure is well-controlled, and I don’t have any important underlying medical conditions.

Sadly, I will not be able to visit my wife until I am fully well.

My second dose of Moderna-made coronavirus vaccine goes in my arm March 26, 2021.
My second dose of Moderna-made coronavirus vaccine goes in my arm March 26, 2021.

Interesting Times

When I feel like I am getting into a creative rut, I sometimes turn to the rather large cadre of work I have created in my journals over the years. Just in the last few days, I picked up a journal from 2002 and read in it some, putting little Post-It® notes on the pages with notes like “Kay said she loved me on the phone,” or “OU practice light gun,” about getting the control tower in Norman to use the signal lights as I climbed out on my way back to Ada in the Cessna 172 I was renting all the time back then.

These notes are from 2001-2002, right around the time I tried to date Lisa, and about six months before I started dating Abby.

I love it when she says my life is better than hers. I could listen to her voice for hours, but not for days.

Misty told me, “We’ll never forget these endless nights on the balcony.” (We shared a balcony at my apartment.)

Balcony party, early 2000s.
Balcony party, early 2000s.

Laughed and laughed all night long with Kay online, both of us joking that we’d meet in Joplin tomorrow at midnight. Such tender feelings for her. I adore her.

Wayne is playing Quake III Arena on my computer and Misty is contemplating cutting her own hair.

In Norman, I decided on Thai food for lunch. It’s the anti-Ada. Excellent volleyball later on in a clear afternoon with Misty and two kids from across the street. We ended up on the balcony in the warm night air, trading stories.

I called Kay after her computer crashed, and listened to her go on about the stupidest stuff, captivated by the way her voice trails off and the way she pronounces her Ps.

Jamie called to tell me about getting run over and breaking her hand getting her friend’s car out of ditch.

Ten years ago was dirty and pure. It was just before Pam in the middle of the whole MP infatuation thing. In a way, I miss those times, and in a way, I know I never want to do that again.

I saw Anna (not the Norman one) at the store, and as I left, I thought, “I can’t believe I ever went out with her,” and I’m sure she was thinking the same thing.

Ostensibly for Cinco de Mayo, I took Wayne and Misty to Norman for dinner with the gang. Thea cooked and did a great job, and everyone laughed and had a great time.

Marilyn has been trying to set me up with someone named Amy. I called her today and asked her out, and she said, “I don’t even know you!” Why even try?

Instant message with Kay tonight…

K: I’m sorry, it’s not you. I’m just very mellow tonight.
R: If I were there, I would brush your hair.
K: I wonder why my husband never thinks of that.
R: Some guys are hair-brushers, and some guys aren’t. You are a great person and a great friend.
K: Thanks. I haven’t felt worthy of it in the last few days.
R: You have my permission to sleep well and wake up in a positive mood.
K: I’ll do my best. Thanks for cheering me up.
R: I love you. Good night.
K: I love you.

May 15: So much emotion arcing between Kay and me tonight. We admire each other. Today in an email, she said, “that’s why you’re my idol.” I’ve never felt closer to her.

Kay called to say she wouldn’t be online tonight. In some ways, she’s my defacto girlfriend. I probably talk to her as much as anyone, including her husband. Maybe it’s just as well that she lives 450 miles away. Or maybe if she lived close, this relationship wouldn’t exist. Sometimes I really hurt for her.

“It feels like I’m fighting God, that God hates me.” ~A

She wants her love life to be like a book, but it’s not a good book.

“When I wasn’t looking, you became my closest confidant.” ~Kay, May 29

She’s spending the evening with her husband, and it feels like she’s cheating on me.

“Have I said ‘I love you’ lately?” ~Kay, June 4. She called me four times today, and during the last one she said, “That’s why you’re my mentor, my hero.”

June 8: Jamie and I laid down together on my futon, where she slept for an hour while I read Quiet Days in Clichy. I could feel her body unwind as I held her. Afterwards, I could smell her on my clothes.

June 11: I had an excited message from Kay. I called her, and she was excited because she had processed her film from class. “I wanted to tell someone,” she said, “but no one cares but you.”

Women all around, all out of reach.

D told me that “kids suck.”

June 17: A told me she masturbated six times yesterday.

Kay isn’t who I think she is.

June 20: K and I just talked and talked and talked. She told me it was no accident that she calls all the time, and she really likes “talking to someone who has something intelligent to say.” I told her I hope I was a good listener. “I hadn’t really thought about it,” she added. “Maybe that’s why I like talking to you so much.”

I have a spotty acting career that included being in my next door neighbor Wayne's send up of James Bond, Montana Max. In this March 2002 scene, Max is about to break my neck at the end of a fight scene.
I have a spotty acting career that included being in my next door neighbor Wayne’s send up of James Bond, Montana Max. In this March 2002 scene, Max is about to break my neck at the end of a fight scene.

Kay, why didn’t this happen to us nine years ago? She is so much on my mind. I seriously doubt she understands the depth of my feelings for her. After all, what woman ever has?

“Your scrapbooks?” I told Kay, “they’re your style!”
“Ugh,” she said. “Can I have your style instead?”

June 27: “Kay, you can’t dispute what I am about to say. You were adorable in junior high.” …followed by the sound of a frustrated sigh on the other end of the phone.

She called me later on the phone in a foul and furious mood, repeatedly referring to herself as “stupid.”

“And it would be better if I could just go home and go to sleep,” she said, “but my husband will be there, and I don’t want to explain to him why I had a bad day. So you’re getting it all. I’m really a bitch on days like these.”

July 23, 2002: “You know why I like being with you?” Jamie asked. “All my other friends are noisy. You’re quiet.”

I ran into Allison, another woman who I asked out but wouldn’t go out with me.

July 31, 2002: Looking at my logbook, I realize yet again what a shame it is that I’m not flying much any more. Years ago it was so easy: the keys to the Cessna 150 were in my pocket, and Vera sent me a bill every month at $30 an hour. I practically had no choice but to fly a couple of times a week. Now, though, scheduling is a pain, and it’s more than $60 an hour for the Skyhawk. My flight instructor and the airport manager both haven’t flown in years.

I was flying a fair amount during this period.
I was flying a fair amount during this period.

August 3, 2002: At last I got my biennial flight review in the T-34. I didn’t fly especially well, but it was only my second hour in the model. Its splendid handling and power are easily offset by its awkward control layout and ergonomics. Still, it was a joy to fly.

Kay called me “Sweetie” on the phone today. Later she was online only long enough to tell me she was pissed off at her husband and “wasn’t handling it very well.” I re-read her December 1994 letter about how much she is in love with her husband, but she never says that about him any more. For the first time, I heard her use the phrase “seven year itch” to describe her marriage.

Wayne and Misty decided to move out.

It was that week that I got an email from a mutual friend that Lisa, a long-time hard crush for me, was divorcing, and that became my primary focus.

Kay called and told me she felt “protective of” me.

“Lisa was in my arms tonight!” ~Journal, August 11, 2002

In the middle of an my emotional conflagration, in the middle of the night, there is a knock at the door. It’s Jamie, who is a mess. “I just needed a few minutes with somebody sane,” she tells me, and I am secretly amused by the irony.

Kay called and listened to my self-indulgence for about 45 minutes. Sometimes I don’t understand what she gets from “us.”

September 16, 2002: I certainly haven’t been a Buddha these last few weeks. My thoughts are all over the place, in other times and other’s hearts.

Great flirting with Kay on the phone. Very affectionate. At the end of the conversation, she said she loved me.

A called in her usual funk of dissatisfaction. Jamie called in a miasma of heartache. The comfort of tears, and the night.

When asked to pick one word to describe me, W said it was a tie between “intense” and “passionate.”

Kay on the phone, miserable with allergies. A on the phone, miserable with a toothache. Richard (me) on the phone, miserable with self-indulgence and ingratitude. Lame is too lame a word to describe it.

This chapter sort of ends in October 2002, when I took a trip to Caprock Canyons in Texas, then just a month later, a longer trip to Utah.

This was my apartment in 2002.
This was my apartment in 2002.

 

Euphoria

Journal, March 1997…

“You sounded really euphoric on the phone,” she said.

Alone in the four-seat Cessna Skyhawk, I climbed quickly to 4500 feet to find a very special layered sunset. I did a couple of hard-breaking power-on stalls, and handled them perfectly, then headed back for my required three night full-stop landings to remain current.

I fly in the pursuit of perfection.

The sky awaits.
The sky awaits.

National Pickle Day

Robert wears a pickle suit and holds "The Pickle" in downtown Ada, Oklahoma today.
Robert wears a pickle suit and holds “The Pickle” in downtown Ada, Oklahoma today.

Our long-time photographer friend Robert visited today, both to see Abby, and because today is National Pickle Day, and he brought The Pickle.

Wait, “The Pickle”?

Robert balances The Pickle on a rail of our front deck this afternoon.
Robert balances The Pickle on a rail of our front deck this afternoon.

Well, it’s a long story, and I haven’t talked about it much because really, it’s not my story. The Pickle has been on television and in newspapers, and, as pickles go, it is famous.

The Pickle wears the fifth iteration of a case. When it was first "pickled" in 1984, it wore a Seal-a-Meal bag, but as it became famous, it got a series of new enclosures.
The Pickle wears the fifth iteration of a case. When it was first “pickled” in 1984, it wore a Seal-a-Meal bag, but as it became famous, it got a series of new enclosures.

Abby enjoyed her visit, for which Robert dressed in a pickle costume. He brought her flowers, and said she looked good.

Robert photographed me visiting Abby at Ballard Nursing Center, where coronavirus restrictions have forced us to visit through a window. Abby looked and sounded good.
Robert photographed me visiting Abby at Ballard Nursing Center, where coronavirus restrictions have forced us to visit through a window. Abby looked and sounded good.

As always, Robert and I did photography together.

Robert holds the pickle while we visit Abby today.
Robert holds the pickle while we visit Abby today.

Abby and I were glad to see him.

Your humble host photographs Summer the Chihuahua this afternoon.
Your humble host photographs Summer the Chihuahua this afternoon.

Chapter Ideas / Titles (from the blue spiral notebook)

How can winter be coming again?

Everything in tenth grade was blue and grey.

“The pain comes in waves. Soon they will wash me away.” Did Anna write that in a letter from Puerto Rico in 1983? I want to know, but I don’t want to reread those letters because I was such an asshole to her.

Do you know where I am?

With Tomorrow / Last Goodbye

“Swirling toilet of despair.” I can still taste the despair.

Was I really standing here with her on her front porch, asking her to go steady with me? I can remember every detail from that day 47 years ago. But did it really even happen?

“I put out your hand just to touch your soft hair…”

With her covering the scene of a shallow grave

Saying goodbye in the snow

Old Land / Driving through Saint Louis

The Pain Unbearable

It’s broken and I don’t know if I can fix it.

You can’t have your hand back

The trust of a child

Movieland

“When the winds of forget-me-not blow…”

“As of this moment, I am a stranger. I never existed. I’m gone.” ~Love letter revised eight years later.

Ice

All we really have is ourselves

The Bridge / first hug / the moon

Vamoosa / power plant

Killing time

Flag Day

Ben Casey

Swing set talk as the storm approached

Heart of Glass / Single Wish

Forever

Mismatched socks

Still Return

Driving music

“Hey, you’re that girl!”

Moving away

October fight

“Cover the ground with ashes…”

“My love will keep you warm.”

“I didn’t think it could hurt this much,” ~K, journal, November 1983

I bought a super-cheap box of cassette tapes to send single songs to her.

Somewhere in the distance, so far and separate that it shouldn’t matter, the horn of a freight train sounds as it crosses slowly through the city. They go slower now, to stay away from limbs and things.* On nights like tonight, it’s nice to walk. All the words and images inside are the same, just twisted around in circles. But since there is no one here at all, I’ll have to make do with the materials on hand. So it won’t just do to walk on this night. You see, there’s nothing out there at all any more. And it isn’t that tonight I roll in teardrops, for it seems that freedom too has escaped me. And it doesn’t help to close my eyes, for I still see the the same things, since there’s nothing there to see anyway. My hand scratches silently along, the air gets colder, and the days get shorter.

“Whipping wind whispering songs of silent seclusion…”

There are those of us who spend their whole lives waxing rhapsodic about autumn.

“It never worked.” Holy, crap, did she really just reduce our two years together to three words?

I don’t want to write.
I don’t want to itch.
I don’t want to feel useless.
I don’t want to seem like a burden.
I don’t want my eyes to itch.
I don’t want to make anyone hurt.
I don’t want to forget.
I don’t want to lose myself.
I don’t want to throw up.
I don’t want to burn up.
I don’t want to grow up.
I don’t want to break a leg.
I don’t want arthritis.
I don’t want to bite my tongue.
I don’t want to shake.
I don’t want to be forgotten.
I don’t want to ache.
I don’t want disease.
I don’t want to be hungry.
I don’t want to be mentally ill.
I don’t want to be in an asylum.
I don’t want to cough.
I don’t want to be an asshole.
I don’t want to seem insensitive.
I don’t want to lose touch.
I don’t want to lose face.
And I don’t want to lose you.

* My college roommate’s brother lost his lower leg when he walked across the tracks and got caught on something as the train arrived.

A Different Kind of Intimacy

I feel sad for people who are incapable of genuine intimacy.

“Our communication is almost entirely physical, through looks and, mostly, through touch. What we say to each other seems incidental. Tonight I rubbed her back for a while, then brushed her silky blonde hair for half an hour. She fell asleep in my lap,” I said in my journal in January 1993 about a young woman with whom I had a friendship with limited benefits. She an had extraordinarily soft neck, and her hands were as soft as melted butter, though her heart was as hard as steel.

“I wish I had someone’s lap to fall asleep in.” ~The Girlfriend Who Wasn’t

Thinking about them summoned my thoughts about hands. I love women’s hands, and I love my wife’s hands most of all. Why do I love hands? Is it that hands are our first line of contact, and thus our first line of defense? Or is is that women’s hands are evolutionarily constructed to attract someone like me?

“Hold me tight.” ~Girlfriend from 2000. She had tiny, pretty, soft hands, but a shallow disposition.

The Girlfriend Who Wasn’t told me on a number of occasions that she didn’t like “being touched or tied down,” but she always held my hand. I don’t know if that was because she realized it meant something to me, or she liked it, or she imagined she would get something from it, or even that she was lying when she said she didn’t like being touched. Part of me thinks she only said this to guys like me because she considered us unattractive.

“I’m going through another, ‘I can’t deal with our life/work arrangement another minute longer!’ I feel like my life is wasting away and the next time I turn around, I’ll be turning 50 instead of 40, and I’ll be in the same situation.” ~The Girlfriend Who Wasn’t, who turns 58 in a few days.

I knew several women who had rough hands, and it always turned me off.

And yes, I know that the size and shape of fingers and hands are genetic, but at the same time, it is a mistake to dismiss genetics as a valid criteria for finding our way.

There have been women in my life who didn’t understand hugging, or why it’s good. I am a hugger. One long-ago girlfriend called me “the best” hugger. When I run into someone who appreciates this trait in me – most recently, Jamie – we fall into each other’s arms and soak it up.

A beautiful woman with a camera in her beautiful hands with a pony tail? So very.
A beautiful woman with a camera in her beautiful hands with a pony tail? So very.

Take Care of Yourself

Abby's therapy included the intravenous antibiotic ceftriaxone, a powerful, broad-spectrum drug she has received many times over the years.
Abby’s therapy included the intravenous antibiotic ceftriaxone, a powerful, broad-spectrum drug she has received many times over the years.

My wife Abby is back in the hospital, this time for a bout of lower lobe pneumonia. The acute phase is over, but her recovery, like her difficult illness in August, is achingly slow.

It is stretching me thin.

One thing everybody tells me is “take care of yourself.” On paper, I know what that means, but I also know my duty to my wife, and that being true to that means I might not be able to always take care of myself.

Abby was well enough ten days ago to attend the annual Shoffner Family Reunion.
Abby was well enough ten days ago to attend the annual Shoffner Family Reunion.

So I’m eating and sleeping, but those activities are tainted by worry and frustration.

A bright spot in this otherwise cheerless entry is that longtime friend Ann Dicus baked us a pecan pie and sent it along with a kind, empathetic card today. Thank you, Ann.

Ann's pecan pie was a very kind, meaningful, caring gesture.
Ann’s pecan pie was a very kind, meaningful, caring gesture.

Thoughts about Dan Fogelberg

As the years have gone by, I have made a mental note of prominent people, many celebrities, who died at a younger age than I am now, 58 as I write this. Steve McQueen and Michael Jackson were 50. Frank Zappa and Christopher Reeve were 52. Jim Henson and John Denver were 53. John Ritter, Peter Sellers, and Michael Landon were 54. Steve Jobs and Linda McCartney were 56. Prince, Patrick Swayze, and Humphrey Bogart were 57. George Harrison and Andy Warhol were 58.

And Dan Fogelberg was 56.

Recently his widow Jean Fogelberg  shared “All the Time in the World,” (later removed), a serial memoir, on their website, and I read each installment as she published it each week, curious both about the life of the man whose music I admired, especially when I was in college, but also about what it must have been like to get sick and die at the young age of 56. In the midst of reading this, I wrote her a short, frank email:

Feb. 2, 2021

Dear Jean,

My wife Abby and I love to travel. We got married in Moab, Utah, at Arches National Park. Between our home in Oklahoma and Moab, there is New Mexico, which we love, and Abby and I are especially fond of the Santa Fe area.

In October 2019, we drove up to Pagosa Springs for our 15th anniversary vacation, and in our conversation I said, “I think Dan Fogelberg lived around here somewhere.” It sent me down the path of talking about his music, how I discovered it, and where it took me.

This is one of my images from the San Juan Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado in October 2019. In the distance is Squaretop Mountain, just north of the massive Ranch that was once home to musician Dan Fogelberg.
This is one of my images from the San Juan Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado in October 2019. In the distance is Squaretop Mountain, just north of the massive Ranch that was once home to musician Dan Fogelberg.

My first experience with the music of Dan Fogelberg was in 1979 when I was in high school, when my first girlfriend Tina decided “Longer” would be “our song.” I didn’t care for it much, but she was young and sentimental, so it fit, as I expect that song did for a lot of kids of that era.

In January 1982, Tina and I saw Dan Fogelberg in concert at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma, when I was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. The 11,000-seat facility was standing room only. The thing I most remember about the show was that Tina wanted to hear “Longer,” and when he did play it, he insisted on silence from the audience, so when someone would “woo-hoo” from the seats, he played around the intro again until everyone shut up.

This is my first girlfriend Tina, whose real name was Yvonne.
This is my first girlfriend Tina, whose real name was Yvonne.

Those days were so naive for me. I was learning so much, but it was uncontained, chaotic, sophomoric. I was building a philosophy, but at the same time I was devoting too many hours to hi-fi stereo, fast cars, staying up late and blowing off class. In April 1982, a close friend, Debbie, died in a car crash, and in May, my former college roommate Jeff shot himself in the head. Interesting times.

I listened to a lot more Fogelberg in college than I had in high school, and his work, especially the early work, had an influence on me. If I had to pin it down, I’d say 1977’s Nether Lands was his strongest album.

I was also a devoted Pink Floyd listener, and was discovering Kansas, Phil Keaggy, James Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Journey, Simon and Garfunkel, Alan Parsons, more.

It would be decades before I expanded into genius like Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins, and This Mortal Coil, and years later I would follow the downward spiral of Nine Inch Nails. It all points to the powerful influence of music.

But back to Santa Fe. I got a big kick out of your description of living in and around the Plaza, and recognizing every landmark you mentioned. I even have a nice image of Abby and her Chihuahua Sierra in Burro Alley.

Abby walks her Chihuahua Sierra along Burro Alley in Santa Fe in 2016.
Abby walks her Chihuahua Sierra along Burro Alley in Santa Fe in 2016.

You may have been to Madrid south of Santa Fe on SH14. We always make time to stop there and eat at The Hollar. Abby always says she would love to live there.

Abby and her Chihuahua Summer enjoy lunch in the sunshine at The Hollar in Madrid, New Mexico in 2019.
Abby and her Chihuahua Summer enjoy lunch in the sunshine at The Hollar in Madrid, New Mexico in 2019.

When Abby and I got home from Colorado in 2019, we bought “A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg,” and listened to it together in one sitting. Like his music in general, some of it was brilliant, and some of it missed the mark. That’s true for all musicians.

My favorite Dan Fogelberg cover isn’t on the Tribute, but the title track from Ashton, Becker and Dente’s 1994 cover album “Along the Road.”

Jean talks about Dan sailing alone in the last few months of his life, and while there is a certain romance about going off to sea and disappearing forever, I think this was a serious mistake: pilots aren’t allowed to fly on all the drugs he was taking, and I’m not sure driving is even safe in that situation. If the argument is that it was his business how he wanted to live and die at the end, fine, but search and rescue is costly and dangerous to all involved.

“Stress and physical wear and tear had begun wreaking havoc on my own body,” she writes in the chapter called Living with the Enemy, and I am certainly in synch with this feeling. When Abby is at her sickest, I stop eating and sleeping, lose weight, and my stomach hurts. You can argue that I should take care of myself, but it is a very fundamental reaction to that kind of stress.

Like a lot of artists, it would have been better for Fogelberg’s music to disappear without a trace rather than get drawn into the corporate music mill. As I wrote this, I listened to his entire catalog, and I remembered fondly his amazing early music, and cringed with embarrassment for us all when I got to 1987’s Exiles. This album sounded like the culture at the time, from the Entertainment Tonight-like soprano sax solos to the drum machines. He became the hair band of easy listening. Exiles is as derivative as any music I’ve ever experienced.

It didn’t have to be that way, of course. It wasn’t his sound. It was the sound (and bad advice) of some popped-collar producer who wanted to ride the industry tide.

In some ways, it’s tempting to forgive individual musicians for the dreck they pumped out during that time. 1987 was, after all, the year that gave us Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, I Want to Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston, Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car by Billy Ocean, and … oh, it hurts my brain to even type this … (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.

Dan Fogelberg’s best songs, in my offbeat estimation, are the ones that take advantage of his amazing guitar skills and triharmonic vocals: Scarecrow’s DreamThe Last Nail, The Innocent Age, Sketches, Souvenirs, and Along the Road.

Same Old Lang Syne and Leader of the Band are often cited as great, but they don’t reach me like they do most people.

The chapters of Jean’s account drift off-course fairly often. I know it’s meant to be an intimate tale of their lives together, but I got really bored with the banal chit-chat about which wine they chose to go with which pasta.

Speaking of wine, there is a chapter in which she talks about their wine collection being ruined by a dehumidifier, and they would have to go to the wine shop the next day to replace their expensive Italian wines. Wow. Those poor little rich people had to replace their precious, pricey wine. Sometimes the wealthy can really lose sight of themselves.

I want to add that I thought very highly of Fogelberg’s music when he was really at the crest of his talent and popularity, from 1972’s Home Free through 1983’s Windows and Walls. It’s quite a musical achievement to have such a long run of great music, especially in a world of one-hit wonders.

I would have liked to meet and photograph the man, but I’ve never liked the paparazzi photography scene, and I’m not certain I would have been the photographer for him. Still, I feel I might have been able to express something about his amazing musical talent, and something about how his music and vision influenced me.

My first Dan Fogelberg albums were vinyl records, later replaced by CDs, later supplemented by MP3s.
My first Dan Fogelberg albums were vinyl records, later replaced by CDs, later supplemented by MP3s.

My Name (jotted in journal, November 1990)

My name
Band names
Baby names
Baby lotion
Emotion lotion
Emotional rescue
Rescue helicopter
Attack helicopter
Heart attack
Heartburn
Sunburn
Sunstroke
Stroke of genius
Genius at work
Men at work
Hard work
Hardball
Softball
Soft sell
Sell your soul
Soul mate
Cell mate
Mating game
Dating game
Dating service
Service with a smile
Smile when you say that
When you say
My name

Blue 56

Over the last year and a half, I’ve made an effort to write more by hand in my journal.

When I first started keeping a journal, I married it to a rigid style: date and day at the top of the page, standard block paragraphs, at least a page a day.

I tried to break out of this mold in my 20s by allowing myself to draw, write poetry, and be more abstract, but the one thing I wish I’d done more is make notes about life.

During my recent push, I have done exactly that. I note everything in my journals these days, and use them as more than journals, but also as records of events, travels, media, vaccinations, gossip, weather, entertainment, notes for stories, photos, and columns, and even medication notes.

In the next day or two, the purple journal book, number 55, will be full, and I will start writing in number 56, which is blue.

Journal 55 is full. Journal 56 sits on top of it.
Journal 55 is full. Journal 56 sits on top of it.

The Golden Age of the Internet

No matter how many laptop computers you have, you can't make people put down their smartphones.
No matter how many laptop computers you have, you can’t make people put down their smartphones.

In the last 15 years, we have all witnessed the internet deteriorate. What at first seemed like a gleaming futurtopia of the “information superhighway” has become a place for intellectual and spiritual poison.

I’ve been getting nostalgic recently about that golden age: Nyan Cat, Amber Lamps, Double Rainbow All the Way, Badger Badger Badger, Salad Fingers, The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, Teen Girl Squad, and others have served to remind me that there was a time when the web could entertain us without the appalling obsession with money.

Black box warning: clicking on any of the above links may be preceded by, or contain, advertising.

A recent trip down the Wikipedia rabbit hole on various subjects brought me to this article: the digital dark age. I hate to say it, but I tend to be right about stuff a lot, and I was always right about this one. I tell my students to keep migrating their data to newer technologies, or they will lose them forever.

And of course, you know where I am going with this: it’s all about money. There’s no money in being brilliant. It’s not socially-piercing poetry that gets 10 million likes. The likes, and the money, go to intellectually numbing crap on sites like Tic-Toc.

Of particular annoyance is that so many (probably the majority of) websites have some kind of nagging beg for money. Pop-overs, pop-downs, ads that take forever to load, all make those pages insufferable. Even the Associated Press home page nags us every time with a pop-over that you can’t not see…

You know what, AP website? Go f*ck yourself.
You know what, AP website? Go f*ck yourself.

This web site, richardbarron.net, has been online since 2004, and I am keeping it up. A downside to that is that viewers gloss over links on social media, and seldom navigate to websites based on searches or bookmarks. I sometimes think that no one ever clicks on links when they browse social media because, to be kind, they are brainwashed into consuming their reality in tiny, salty, sugary, cheesy little bytes.

Part of what we web old-timers liked was the idea of flowing freely from one page to the next, following suggested links or search results, in a fashion that made the internet a bit like a scavenger hunt. In 2021, many, maybe most, users, follow only what one app offers them.

The most obvious solution to you and your digital footprint is to find a way to express it non-digitally. Write or type on paper. Print your photographs. Hold on to your phonograph records, audio tapes, and CDs. Yet I remain pessimistic when I see more powerful and complex smartphones used to create mediocre photos and video, open to one app, used for bottom-tier entertainment only.

In conclusion, if you sprinkle Ivermectin on your Tide pods, it works twice as well to prevent the Rona.

Tiny monsters loom large if they are close enough.
Tiny monsters loom large if they are close enough.

“Oink!”

By the time I was a senior is high school, I was hanging out with some people who might not have been the best influences on me.

One thing we did all summer long after graduation was to “cruise.” Younger readers might not exactly understand this activity, since it seems so lame, but essentially, we drove around in big circles, showing off something – how cool we were, how much cooler we were, how much cooler we were than (insert other kinds of people like “goat ropers” or “proud crowd”), and, in the case of the people I cruised with, how cool their cars were.

I recently watched a video on a YouTube channel called Audit the Audit, which is about “the right and wrong of police interactions.”

The video that prompted this entry (link) was one about police detaining a group of young people because one of them shouted “f*ck the police” at them from the passenger side of their vehicle.

A nearly identical event happened to me in 1981: I was riding in a vehicle with two other teenagers when one of them spotted a cop and called “OINK!” as loud as he could from the passenger window.

The police weren’t very happy hearing that, and immediately pulled us over. I understand now, as an adult, why this is so offensive, but at that time in my life, steered by the influence of kids with too much money and huge egos, it felt rebellious and event righteous.

The police called us back behind the car one at a time, and I was first. They asked me who yelled at them, and I told them it was my friend in the back seat. Our driver was next, and he also told them it was our back-seater.

The kid who oinked was back there along time, and the driver and I heard raised police voices. When he came back to the car and the police told us we could go, he was visibly shaken, and told us it was because he recognized the officer as one who had allegedly shot a teenager while working as deputy in a nearby small town.

I thought of this encounter and similar ones from my youth after watching the Audit the Audit video, which concluded that the police officer in the video, who was fired from the force after the incident, acted wrongly, and that criticism of the police, even vulgar, puerile criticism, is a right protected by the Constitution.

Tennagers are children in adult bodies, and can often be arrogant, selfish, and short-sighted.
Tennagers are children in adult bodies, and can often be arrogant, selfish, and short-sighted.

Sidebar: this is a separate entry I have been holding for a few years, but it seems connected to this item in many ways…

I took up with the wrong people in late high school and college, not by virtue of them ruining my life or getting me in trouble, but because they were assholes.

  • J, who moved into my dorm room by trading with my assigned roommate while I was away, without asking me, was something of a sadist, took pleasure in making people look foolish, and constantly made fun of music I liked even though I never asked him to listen to it.
  • A, who set some sort of “trap” to find out if I’d been sleeping in J’s bed, which I had not, and took great pleasure in accusing me of it.
  • On the first day of my sophomore year, A and C brought a dog to our room while I was away, and asked me if they could keep him. When I said no, A said, “See, I told you so.” No you can’t keep a dog in student housing, you four year old.
  • C and J once accidentally skipped the check at a popular Mexican restaurant, and upon discovering how it happened, repeatedly skipped the check in the same fashion.
  • C kept a pistol in his car, and routinely parked in the tow-away zone. Once he fell asleep and his car was towed. About to be arrested for illegal possession of a firearm on campus, his father intervened, possibly with a bribe, to make the charges go away. C had the gun in his car as soon as it was returned to him.
  • C and J made it the duty of passengers to throw any fast food packaging onto the road from the moving vehicle without regard for littering in any way.

 

We Were Lines on a Map

In 2000, I joined a Yahoo! group associated with my high school’s Class of 1981 20th reunion. I got really interested in it for a while. It was like a forum or chat room, only with people who, mostly, attended Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma with me. Like most Yahoo! groups, or anything else from the internet in 2000, it has long since died. It was unsuccessfully replaced for the 30th reunion by a Facebook page, and now is two Facebook pages, Eisenhower Class of 1980 and 1981 class reunion, and Ike 1981 40th reunion. Both sites appear to be hosting the same event.

(Note to self: blog later about the failure of social media to actually be social.)

Ann Kelley made this image of me at the Blue Ice Cream Social. The guy in the center of the frame is Dray, one of the few people who hung out with me in tenth grade. I have no idea who the woman is.
Ann Kelley made this image of me at the Blue Ice Cream Social. The guy in the center of the frame is Dray, one of the few people who hung out with me in tenth grade. I have no idea who the woman is.

In early July 2001, I attended that reunion. I admit that I really just wanted to see a few people, all women, and that the event was awkward and disappointing.

The only real thing I had in common with most of these people is that I lived within the same boundaries on a map as they did. We owed any “friendship” we had to school board members and the economics of home ownership.

You lived in that school district, so don’t fudge your Huggies because you were a Hokie or a Gamecock or a Trojan or a Tarheel or a Pug. It just happened to you.

Most of the people at my high school, and by extension my high school reunion, were complete strangers, and even the people I sort of knew back then turned out to be as boring and ordinary as I thought they would. Some were, just as they had been in high school, complete assholes.

The reunion was a two-day affair. On that Friday, I attended the Blue Ice Cream Social. It was named after a non-sanctioned event on football Friday nights, held at a different rich kid’s house each week, called Blue Ice Cream. It sometimes involved drinking, but always involved a pool party. Except for one time I was assigned to shoot it for the Talon yearbook, I never went to Blue Ice Cream, for both the fact that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, and that I was never invited.

With me on that Friday night in 2001 was Ann Kelley, who seemed to have a lot of fun making video from the affair. On the drive home to Ada, after an odd silence, she said, “Richard, I can’t believe someone as interesting as you went to school with those people.”

In all fairness, I am pretty sure none of them really care about me, either, and if they thought I was an ass in high school, they still thought of me as an ass. Except for their efforts to populate the 30th reunion, almost no one from the class has made any effort to maintain any kind of friendship with me. In fact, looking through my contacts list, I only find Anna and Michael, who were two of my closest friends in high school, and the only genuinely loyal ones.

This is a previously unpublished overview I shot on the patio at Eisenhower High School during the Blue Ice Cream Social in July 2001. I swear, I couldn't give you the first names of more than five people in this image.
This is a previously unpublished overview I shot on the patio at Eisenhower High School during the Blue Ice Cream Social in July 2001. I swear, I couldn’t give you the first names of more than five people in this image.

Goodbye Mac, Hello Mackenzee Ellen

Mackenzee Crosby and I visited and photographed the old Ada News building one day. I worked there for more than 30 years.
Mackenzee Crosby and I visited and photographed the old Ada News building one day. I worked there for more than 30 years.

Early in her internship, Mackenzee Ellen Crosby was using the moniker “Mac,” both personally, and on social media.

Mackenzee Crosby photographs some of her Polaroid images in a windowsill in an alley as she and I were on a "photo walk" on a rainy day in May.
Mackenzee Crosby photographs some of her Polaroid images in a windowsill in an alley as she and I were on a “photo walk” on a rainy day in May.

As she grew up, her identity matured and she felt more distance from who she had been as a child and as a young teenager, and she struggled with her identity. We all do that. My sister Nicole wanted to be called “Nicci” for a while. My friend Kaitlyn went by “Katy” for a year or so. One of the Ashford cousins used the last name “Smashford” for a while.

Mackenzee and I made this ghostly self-portrait in a puddle in downtown Ada.
Mackenzee and I made this ghostly self-portrait in a puddle in downtown Ada.

Then one day I told Mackenzee that I liked her name, especially when paired with her middle name, Ellen. In another conversation around that time, I brainstormed some title ideas for her column, and they included Eye Opener, Truth and Coffee, Dear Ellen, Something to Say, Inside Out, This Reclusive Silence, Between You and Me, Journal of Secrets, Thin as a Ghost, This Mortal Coil, Ellipses, A Woman Alone, Hide and Seek, Rough Draft, Morning Light, and Ellen in Grey.

She loved Ellen in Grey, and for the entire summer, that was the name of her column.

Also for the entire summer, she fell in love with journalism.

Mackenzee and Ashlynd Elizabeth "America" Huffman wear news t-shirts at the Oklahoma Press Association's annual convention in Oklahoma City in June.
Mackenzee and Ashlynd Elizabeth “America” Huffman wear news t-shirts at the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention in Oklahoma City in June.

Mackenzee and I seem to have connections. Photography and journalism are the obvious ones. The next layer is social and religious. At our cores are writing, expressing ourselves emotionally, and a sense that we are outcasts, that people see us as “weird.”

Mackenzee accepted an award for Sports Editor Jeff Cali at the Oklahoma Press Association's annual convention in June, do the "finger 'stache" gesture.
Mackenzee accepted an award for Sports Editor Jeff Cali at the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention in June, do the “finger ‘stache” gesture.

I read things she wrote in tenth grade, and they could have been my very words when I was in tenth grade.

On one of our first assignments together with Ashlynd, we stopped to photograph clouds I spotted through my sunroof, and that really made an impression on her. This image of Mackenzee photographing a fairy ring reminded me of that time.
On one of our first assignments together with Ashlynd, we stopped to photograph clouds I spotted through my sunroof, and that really made an impression on her. This image of Mackenzee photographing a fairy ring reminded me of that time.

Mackenzee says she’d love to work for us part time during the upcoming academic year, but wants to leave Ada when she graduates from college. I can’t say that I fault her for that; I despise my former hometown so much I actually don’t call it my home town any more.

I have discovered that Mackenzee is not a “hug”person. I have hugged her on three occasions, including when her internship ended, and they all just kind of bounced off. I have tons of “hug” friends in town, and we fall into each other’s arms like we never missed a beat.

I am far-sighted, and Mackenzee is near-sighted, so each of us always had to reset the diopter every time we traded cameras.

Mackenzee already had some impressive skills when she started her internship, but is so bright and easy-going that she soaked up journalism like a sponge. I feel like she grew a lot in the weeks we had her on staff.
Mackenzee already had some impressive skills when she started her internship, but is so bright and easy-going that she soaked up journalism like a sponge. I feel like she grew a lot in the weeks we had her on staff.

We had another great intern in 2019, Ashlynd, and she became one of my best friends. Ashlynd and Mackenzee became better friends this summer, especially after attending the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention, but it’s worth noting that they are quite different from each other:  Ashlynd is into journalism at the street level. She loves ambushing criminals getting arrested or going to house fires in the middle of the night. Mackenzee’s journalism, on the other hand, seems focused on social issues and injustices, although in her goodbye column she said, “Some of my favorite assignments to cover were spot news. I love the exhilaration and adrenaline from working a car accident or crime scene, even though they are often heartbreaking.”

When Ashlynd saw a photo of Mackenzee running across the street at the scene of a car crash with her camera, she told Mackenzee, “I feel this on a spiritual level.”

Mackenzee makes pictures at the scene of a car crash near Ada High School in June.
Mackenzee makes pictures at the scene of a car crash near Ada High School in June.

There are people in our lives who we are always glad to see, people with whom we have lifelong conversations that we can pick up after five minutes or six months without missing a step, and I hope Mackenzee and I have that kind of friendship.

“I will cherish the memories made alongside my friend and mentor, Richard Barron,” she wrote. I hope she and I continue to curate memories no matter where our lives, and our journalism, takes us.

Mackenzee and I pose for a selfie at Ada High School graduation in May. She graduated from Ada in 2017. Covering graduations were among the first assignments I did during my own internship in 1982.
Mackenzee and I pose for a selfie at Ada High School graduation in May. She graduated from Ada in 2017. Covering graduations were among the first assignments I did during my own internship in 1982.

A High School Graduate

A portion of this was my column this weekend. I added some less-palatable bits to this entry.

This is Jena Owrey during a football game in September 1980. She was always sweet to me, and we remained friends on social media for a long time, but she has now disappeared. Also of note: compare how skinny the football players look compared to current players.
This is Jena Owrey during a football game in September 1980. She was always sweet to me, and we remained friends on social media for a long time, but she has now disappeared. Also of note: compare how skinny the football players look compared to current players.

As I cover graduations this year, as I do every year, I think of when I walked the same walk.

I graduated from Lawton’s Eisenhower High School on May 31, 1981. If you subtract, yes, that is 40 years ago. Wow.

For some people, high school is a cherished part of their lives, and while I have some great memories from that time, I have to say that I didn’t remain connected to very many people from my graduating class, which, at about 640, was quite large compared to the graduations I cover in the Ada area.

On the day I graduated from high school, President Ronald Reagan was still recovering from an assassination attempt. I didn’t own a computer. Cell phones weren’t a thing yet. MTV had not yet been launched. The first space shuttle had just launched. CDC scientists reported the first five observed cases of AIDS.

It was, as they say, a different time.

I made this image of Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma in 2011, but it looked exactly like this in 1981.
I made this image of Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma in 2011, but it looked exactly like this in 1981.

From my perspective as a photographer, I can tell you that “different time” doesn’t begin to describe how much imaging has changed since that warm day in May 1981.
The 1980s saw a lot of important growth in photographic film. In black-and-white, Kodak’s Tri-X ruled at the start of that decade, but by 1987, Kodak reinvented black-and-white with this T-Max films, including T-Max P3200, which changed my world as a news photographer. In color, we saw 400-speed and 800-speed films go from exotic high-sensitivity film with sharpness-robbing grain to the films we reached for every day.

Photographing graduations themselves has changed tremendously as well. On the day I graduated, my parents might have shot five frames of my friends and me, and me in the unflattering powder blue cap and gown. As I walked across the stage, the photographer made exactly one direct-flash shot of me receiving my diploma.
Today’s world of digital imaging means a senior might be photographed hundreds of times at every event, including their walk across the stage.

To me, though, that photo of me isn’t particularly meaningful. Sure, it’s a moment in my life, but it is emotionless and unengaging. I have tried, as years have gone by, to make my photojournalistic efforts at covering graduations more emotional, more engaging, more memorable.

On this day I started the process of realizing how little I liked the people who attended school with me.
On this day I started the process of realizing how little I liked the people who attended school with me.

Here is the part I redacted: my posse in high school and I haven’t spoken a word to each other in decades. Part of that is because I was so hard to get along with, but a bigger part of it is that I went to high school with a bunch of turds.

I talked about this at greater length in an entry called We Were Lines on a Map (link.)

That's me on the left. When Abby saw this, she said, "You look about eight." I was 17, but about as mature as an eight year old. The other people in this image are Christy Parker, who I don't know, Allen Biehl, Jeff Glenn, and Carey "Chip" Johnson. I recognize now that I should have been keeping different company. No criticism of them is intended. We just weren't a good fit.
That’s me on the left. When Abby saw this, she said, “You look about eight.” I was 17, but about as mature as an eight year old. The other people in this image are Christy Parker, who I don’t know, Allen Biehl, Jeff Glenn, and Carey “Chip” Johnson. I recognize now that I should have been keeping different company. No criticism of them is intended. We just weren’t a good fit.

In 2001, I attended a high school reunion, mostly just to see one girl, and was very disappointed by who these people had become. I don’t expect to attend another one.

It’s pretty clear also that many of them are contemptuous of me as well, since they refuse to add me to their friends list on social media.

Here is another frames of my friends and me, acting like jackasses because we thought it made us look clever.
Here is another frames of my friends and me, acting like jackasses because we thought it made us look clever.

Internal Memo

This was my column two Saturdays ago, but I rewrote it a bit for the blog.

I am pleased to welcome my long-time friend Mackenzee E. Crosby as  the summer 2021 intern for The Ada News. I lobbied for her to get this position, and so far, she has delivered.

Mackenzee E. Crosby goes by "Mac" on social media and in public, but uses her full name in bylines. Her middle name is Ellen, and at my suggestion has begun writing a column for us called "Ellen in Grey," to reflect her imaging, including her love of shooting in black-and-white.
Mackenzee E. Crosby goes by “Mac” on social media and in public, but uses her full name in bylines. Her middle name is Ellen, and at my suggestion has begun writing a column for us called “Ellen in Grey,” to reflect her imaging, including her love of shooting in black-and-white.

I believe I first met her when her eighth grade class at Ada Junior High won a bet to collectively give over 100 units of blood products at blood drive, and was rewarded by being allowed to shave Luke Penrod’s head.

Mackenzee Crosby shaves the head of Ada Junior High science teacher Luke Penrod Thursday, March 8, 2012, as a reward for collectively giving over 100 units of blood products at the recent AJH blood drive. Assisting the seventh graders was beautician Kourtnie Rhodes.
Mackenzee Crosby shaves the head of Ada Junior High science teacher Luke Penrod Thursday, March 8, 2012, as a reward for collectively giving over 100 units of blood products at the recent AJH blood drive. Assisting the seventh graders was beautician Kourtnie Rhodes.

As the years have gone by, our paths crossed at events like Open Mic Nyte, graduations, and, in early 2020, Mackenzee interviewed my wife Abby and me for a college class assignment.

Mac photographed Abby and me for a class project just before the coronavirus crisis hit.
Mac photographed Abby and me for a class project just before the coronavirus crisis hit.

Mac comes to us with a rich history of imaging, especially for someone so young. Her images are fresh and innovative, yet have a “shoot from the hip” rawness about them that I find intriguing.

Mackenzee Crosby, right, photographs Malli Pingleton for The Cougar Call at Ada High School, April 11, 2017. It's absolutely amazing to see how different educational photojournalism has changed since the film era.
Mackenzee Crosby, right, photographs Malli Pingleton for The Cougar Call at Ada High School, April 11, 2017. It’s absolutely amazing to see how different educational photojournalism has changed since the film era.

Her work reminds me that I need to embrace that rawness in my own work, which can sometimes be too safe and habitual.

On a more personal note, which I didn’t include in my column, Mackenzee has endured some devastating tragedies, such as the debilitating traumatic brain injury to her good friend Avery Anderson in 2016, and the suicide of her father in 2018.

I told her recently that I find her a lot like I was when I was her age, especially when I read her personal writing; it is a lot like the things I wrote when I was 22.

Mackenzee is always a natural both in front of and behind the camera. I made this image at Open Mic Nyte a couple of years ago.
Mackenzee is always a natural both in front of and behind the camera. I made this image at Open Mic Nyte a couple of years ago.

I expect great things from Mac, and, in fact, have been very impressed with how quickly she caught on to the daily flow of news and newspaper. I think this summer is going to be a great learning experience for both of us.

Mac moved into a vacant desk in the newsroom and instantly made it hers. I think she's going to love real world journalism.
Mac moved into a vacant desk in the newsroom and instantly made it hers. I think she’s going to love real world journalism.

Picking Up Some Slack

I apologize for not posting more often. May is always like that – playoffs, proms, graduations – there’s lots of stuff to cover for my newspaper in a very short time.

But I am not dead or in a mental institution. I’m right here, and here are some images from what’s been going on.

A late frost hit the garden, but I was able to cover most of it with borrowed tarps. I was not able to cover my radishes, but apparently radishes don't care, because they are fine.
A late frost hit the garden, but I was able to cover most of it with borrowed tarps. I was not able to cover my radishes, but apparently radishes don’t care, because they are fine.
I grow radishes mostly because they are so fun to grow and so neat-looking.
I grow radishes mostly because they are so fun to grow and so neat-looking.
I addition to two large tarps and a couple of towels, I put a red heat lamp in the middle of the garden. It was a late-April frost, and a hard one.
I addition to two large tarps and a couple of towels, I put a red heat lamp in the middle of the garden. It was a late-April frost, and a hard one.
Mackenzee Crosby, who goes by Mac socially and Mackenzee E. Crosby in her bylines, starts her internship this week. She came in last week to find out where to put her stuff and how to log in to the server, and made this image of me while we talked.
Mackenzee Crosby, who goes by Mac socially and Mackenzee E. Crosby in her bylines, starts her internship this week. She came in last week to find out where to put her stuff and how to log in to the server, and made this image of me while we talked.
A long-time friend of mine, Kaitlyn Redman, spotted me as I covered ECU graduation Saturday, and waved me over, so I made this image of her. I have known her since she was just a kid, and am friends with her whole family.
A long-time friend of mine, Kaitlyn Redman, spotted me as I covered ECU graduation Saturday, and waved me over, so I made this image of her. I have known her since she was just a kid, and am friends with her whole family.
That's me in the middle, making a team photo of the Roff Tigers after they claimed another state baseball championship trophy Saturday.
That’s me in the middle, making a team photo of the Roff Tigers after they claimed another state baseball championship trophy Saturday.
As the Roff baseball game progressed, the mood became very jovial, so I snuck in with some of my young fan friends for a selfie.
As the Roff baseball game progressed, the mood became very jovial, so I snuck in with some of my young fan friends for a selfie.