16
Nov
07

A Little Bit of Life:

I went over to my friend Bob Taylor’s, yesterday, to return his sound blankets and to look over the progress on the new recording studio. It’s amazing how he has transformed, what was a little more than a shack of a house, into a great space.

We sat in the control room and talked, for the first hour, or so, then I helped him move in a couple of ‘comfy’ chairs and the sampling speakers. To inaugurate the speakers Bob played a Cd, that he co-created, with a couple of other writers, produced and performed, back in 1995. It was a commission, he told me with a smile on his face, for a cassette of “truck driver songs.”

Then he began telling me the story behind the creation of the compilation – a guy named Bub Tyler, a truck drive, and a list of supporting characters.

The Cd, on its own, was hysterically funny but, as each song played out, Bob – who was sitting in the comfy chair angled just to my left, was singing along in a very animated fashion. And to think… there was no alcohol involved.

My friendship with Bob has developed into a great one – one that I truly treasure. He keeps me well grounded in the side of myself that I tend to lose sight of, especially when I am deeply involved in these projects, such as “Changing Lives.” He reminds me to laugh with life.

10
Nov
07

Update:

I have been somewhat absent, from the road Trips blog, because the project has been on hold due to the demands of the Changing Lives project. I am thrilled to announce that posting should resume soon, as I begin work on a new project that fits well within the Road trips genre.

Until then….

09
Nov
07

Life in a Traffic Jam:

Earlier today, as I was en route to the jail and traveling south along Interstate 65, I encountered extremely heavy traffic: [as in an eleven mile backup], due to construction. As I inched along, in the fourth of five lanes, and closer to the left than right, I found myself passing the lengthy moments by observing my surroundings – those of the less stationary kind.

Most of my observations were of people, apparently even more frustrated than I was, many talking away on cell phones. Since my lane seemed to be moving more than the others to my right, my scenery continued to change in a slow but steady fashion.

As I came up on a minivan, stopped dead in the lane just to my right, I was intrigued by the large advertisement displayed across the entire back window. Large, white, bold letters spelled out something about insurance, along with a phone number. To the left of the text, and occupying at least one third of the window, was a photograph of the women, presumably, who was selling the advertised policies. The photograph was one of those ‘glamor’ shots – the ones done by the chain studios that you see in the malls. The pose, the slightly softened lighting, with key light and shimmer to accentuate the blond hair; it was all there. But then, as I slowly edged passed the minivan, there in the driver’s side window, in a pose that nearly match the one in the photograph, was the very same woman. The only difference was that now, she was sporting a cell phone held to her face. It was like the old Memorex commercials, with Ella Fitzgerald: Is it Real or is it Memorex? It was somewhat surreal, to say the least.

A few hundred yards, after passing the minivan, my lane came to an abrupt halt. Not a problem since this gave me complete freedom to glance around. Almost immediately a semi truck came upon me two lanes to my rights. As he passed I was stunned to see three large Chijuajuas standing on his lap – side by side – and gazing out the driver-side window, much as I had been doing.

If that weren’t enough, almost immediate following in the third lane to my right, and barely creeping along, was a man on a motorcycle – a Honda Goldwing, I think. On his gas tank, wearing a leather jacket and goggles, was a Poodle or a Cockapoo, riding backwards. It was at this point that I checked the floor for any empty bottles of alcohol that I may have unwittingly consumed.

immediately I reached for a camera, but the moment was gone. I tried to vye for position, by changing lanes, but it was futile. The opportunity was lost – except for an incredible visual memory.

What will tomorrow bring?  Only tomorrow will tell, but I am certainly looking forward to it!

Until next time…..

20
Oct
07

A Slice of Life:

I arrived just before noon as the crowd was beginning to filter in. The very large flatbed trailer – green with a steel-mesh bed surface, was host to a sparse display of homemade picnic fare. As teh crowd grew larger so did the array of food selections.

Off behind the flatbed trailer, about thirty yards, or so, was a large black barbecue cooker/smoker loaded with 240 pounds of butt, slow cooking to perfection.

Set just off the road was a large revival-style tent with open sides. Underneath were metal folding chairs, lined in rows. At the far end, from where I was standing, was another flatbed trailer – except this one was designed for carrying heavy equipment. On this day, however, it was being used as a stage for a lineup of music performers.

By noon the pastor had arrived and I made my way over to greet him. A glowing smile was a permanent fixture upon Sam’s face that exuded a genuine warmth and sincerity.

Moments later Lisa and Heidi arrived, [Sam’s daughter and granddaughter] and almost immediately we made our way to the, now covered, green flatbed trailer to begin eating. Two jumbo-size aluminum foil pans, filled with pulled pork were at the head of the table. From there, a variety of beans: hot and cold, barbecued, plain, and seasoned, potato salads, macaroni salads, cabbage salads, and so much more. Before I reached, even the middle of the table, my plate was brimming.

Performers had already taken the stage and, in the background, the motor had been started for the ice cream machine. A methodic chugging, with a well-timed, but intermittent spurt, almost like a backfire, spewed from the small chimney attached to the motor.
At the far end of the contraption stood a man filling a wooden tub with ice poured from large clear plastic bags. In the center of this wooden tub was a metal tub filled with the cream and other ingredients for a perfect butter-pecan ice cream.

As I stood, plate in hand, looking around at my surroundings I realized that this truly was a piece of great Americana. Originally I thought that this was to be a revival, but it wasn’t. Instead, it was a day of “Fellowship” as Pastor Sam so aptly put it as he said a blessing for the food. It was a day of people coming together. Most were members of the church: The Barren Plains Baptist Church, but people from various parishes, even people from no parish at all, filled in as those in attendance. Kids played and wandered around. A Saint Bernard wander about, allowing anyone who gestured an opportunity to pet him and rub his stomach.

The music was solely gospel. As one group of performers finished another was there to take their place. many sat under the tent while others sat on the peripheries and talked. It was, I thought to myself, the way America used to be. it was the way every small town in America was, no more than a couple of decade ago. It was a glimpse at a simpler kind of life, yet one rich in everything that is valuable and good. It was about family and community, not about “religion”.

I wonder where our society would be today, had we not lost this way of life? If we still had community. If we still had neighbors that we could count on. If we still maintained family.

I see, more and more, people who are desiring to return to such a life – myself included.

Perhaps the pendulum is swinging….

Until next time…..

21
Sep
07

Fresh Brewed Life:

For those of you that have been keeping up with my posts, over the years, you have undoubtedly learned of my frustrations at not having a good cafe, or coffee shop, close to the house. All that has changed.

Several weeks ago I made a wrong turn and, while trying to find my way, I came across a small coffee shop located on a corner lot in a nondescript looking building. The name on the sign was Talents, which I thought kind of odd. Hearing the call of fate I pulled into the lot, went inside, and asked for directions. Tim Anderson, the owner of the establishment, was friendly and genuine. I was so excited that, before the end of the day, I was back having a cup of coffee. That, as they say, was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Since that day I have revisited Talents many times. It has become a place of great comfort. The name, in case you are wondering, is because Talents is a place of wonderful, and diverse, music. During the week it is a great cafe, where one can relax in solitude, or engage in wonderful conversation. It is a community and an oasis, depending on your needs. On Saturday nights the place comes alive with live performances, from bluegrass, to blues – from local musicians to renowned veterans.

Soon Talents will be broadcasting their live performances and interviews with the artists, via a podcast channel, as well as a series of interviews with colorful locals who frequent the cafe. The link to this podcast, and more, can be found at their website: talentscoffeestudio.com

Life is truly good.

Until next time…..

26
Jun
07

A New Talent

I signed on to a new project today, one that is a huge departure for me. I will be shooting a documentary on an emerging artists: musician and songwriter, here in Nashville. Her name is Audrey Baker.

Beginning around mid-July I will be posting numerous posts, as well as links to Audrey’s blogs, podcasts and , eventually, mp3’s of her music.

I have no doubts that you will find her incredibly talented.

Until next time…..

14
Jun
07

Crying Preacher

About six months into my project, in southeastern, Kentucky, I was invited to photograph an Association Meeting. For those of you unfamiliar with this, let me explain. Each year, all of the churches from an association (which I liken to a region), get together for an annual conference – of sorts. This conference is comprised of meetings and a great deal of preaching and praying – the latter takes place under a huge tent.

This was a great opportunity for me. I had always heard references made to these “revivals” – although most references were quite derogatory. Now, I was able to witness first hand, the real deal.

Just prior to the start of a prayer session, I set up my strobes in the tent and my camera on a tripod, as I had no room to move around.

As the preaching began, I waited until I had a feel for things. There was no need to shoot quickly. I had been given time.

The first preacher approached the podium and began to speak to the congregation. I felt a bit disappointed, as it seemed to be not at all what I had expected. The preaching was inspiring, but lacked the intensity that I had envisioned.

As the preacher continued, I followed him through my lens. Suddenly, there was a shift – a major shift. The preacher’s eyes changed. Not size or color. It was a change that can’t be described adequately in words. It was subtle, yet profound. With that, the tempo of the preaching changed. I would find out later that the, “spirit had taken hold.”

I witnessed this transformation time after time, but I also learned later that it doesn’t always happen. There are times when, as they put it, “a preacher isn’t meant to preach just then, and spirit doesn’t take hold.”

Another preacher came, and I watched, as I had all of the others, and as with the others, the spirit took over. He began to move from one end of the stage to the other, jumping and bending, turning and stomping. His hands and arms flailed in all directions. People in the congregation became overwhelmed, as if this spirit was engulfing the entire tent.

Still following him though my lens, I tripped the shutter. At that very moment I happened to look up from the viewfinder to see the preacher standing not more than three feet from one of my flash heads and looking directly toward it. Five hundred watts of light blasted into his eyes in a split second. I cringed, but there was nothing I could do. It had happened. It was done.

Therein lays the true importance of this story. He never flinched. He never squinted. He continued to move with the same intensity. How he could see was completely beyond me. I have been in front of those lights when they fire, and never that close. In each instance, I was blinded by spots for thirty seconds to a minute. In short, I can’t see worth a lick.

When I had an opportunity to speak with him, just after the preaching was finished, I apologized profusely. He looked at me with bewilderment, as he was unaware that it had ever happened. Someone told me during dinner that this preacher had just recovered from a massive heart attack just a few months before. Truly amazing.