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Friday, September 30, 2011

All of God's Children, Large and Small, Along the Road of Life

OK, so maybe a John Deere combine isn't precisely a child of God -- more like a giant created by the children of God. I came across this one yesterday during a lunchtime nature walk -- yeah, those still exist -- in Southview Park. It's harvest season, so the combine is clearly the "Large" in today's tale of contrasts. A large creation deserves large type, my giant Treybooshays.
Same walk, same park, another child of God along the road of life. It must be grasshopper season at the moment in Southview. Maybe they feel cold weather coming and are hoppin' around is search of shelter.  This little feller hopped in the middle of the path and stayed there as I took three or four quiet steps to get closer ... slowly I turned, step by step. I got within maybe three feet and was kind of hoping he'd spring up and I'd get a shot in mid-air, but he either liked the attention, was too scared to move or was playing that nature game -- if I don't move maybe he'll think I'm dead. I think this is the first time I can say I made eye contact with a creature that small. My little Treybushkas, have a hoppin' fine weekend.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Heaven or Hell Is Just a Commute Away, a Commute Away

As a commuter-voyeur, there's only so much you can do at a stop light -- especially in the dark. A moment before I took this, the hellish commuter in front of me was puffing up his hair or something. He only looks hellish because of the brake and tail lights of the vehicle in front of him. There's nothing unusual about drivers performing all kinds morning primpin' in the car. Sometimes I use my rear-view mirror to play I Spy -- I spy a woman putting on lip liner, I spy a man with a phone cradled between his shoulder and ear, I spy almost everyone drinking or eating something. It's what we 'mericans do, my dahlink Treybooshkas. We stay busy, for good cause and not.
But all was not lost this morning. After the rise and decline to Missouri City and the flat farmland that flows from it, I saw these clouds nestling around silos, out buildings and electric lines. The pastel hue gives the scene a warmth and cotton-ball softness that was rarely featured in my commutes through the grit, grime and siren time of my commutes in previous lifetimes. Not to get all feely-huggy here, but the commute to Ray County has been a transformational experience that never seems to get old. So my Treybooshays, tune in next time for more magic from the found highway.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pie in the sky, tow truck in the sky, ah whatever ... another silhouette along that long 'n' windin' Magic Commute

After sitting through two hours of a Richmond City Council meeting, I was tired, but not so tired that I couldn't pull my trusty Olympus 510 from the holster, twirl it a few times around my trigger finger and shoot the dickens out of the sunset silhouette above. As you might've noticed, I prefer silhouettes, sunsets, sunrises and beauty in general to reality. You gotta like them puffy clouds.
Carmichael's in a tow service and repair shop in Richmond that I've passed at least 600 to 700 times since I started working in the Mushroom Capitol of the World. But the orange and black photo represents the first time I've thought twice about their kitschy sign. I returned to the scene of the shooting today and took a daylight shot for quirk's sake. The words on the sign might add a bit (say the phone number), but the image of the truck says it all for me. So my petite wee Trey Boo Shays, now you know more than you might've wanted about a tow truck, a sunset and a Magic Commute.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Music to my eyes, ears, nose and throat, my little Trey Boo Shays. Well maybe not my throat, unless you count the allergies.

An important facet of The Magic Commute is lunch hour, when I rely on my resources, ingenuity and a healthy dose of dumb luck for a place to go, nap, play guitar or take in the countryside. One of my favorite places is Ray County Lake, and not just because it has two public restrooms, a must considering my age and immoderate intake of beverages, all caffeinated. By the time I could get my camera out and get situated, I got just a few shots of that funny looking goose (see large photo below) -- actually a blue heron -- chillin' with his peers before looking for a better fishing spot out of camera range. The heron's got such a wide wingspan that it reminds me of Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose plane or Jimmy Doolittle's B-25s taking off from an aircraft carrier in WW II (lumbering is the word that comes to mind). I haven't quite figured out how to take consistent nature closeups, but I did come back with photos of some blooms at the edge of the lake and berries on a tree a couple hundred feet from shore. Anyone know what the flowers or tree are? I love nature, but the science and names escape me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunrise in Elkhorn, imperfect reflection and an explanation

Shot this almost angry sunrise in Elkhorn, Mo. after stopping to get a photo of the sun reflected in the globe below. I'd seen the globe often while driving through this small community, but didn't know there were imperfections in the glass until actually taking the photo. It turned out that the sunrise was the more pleasing photo.
For the time being, I'm going to limit myself to posting photos as often as possible with a brief description in the caption. I'm feeling too much of an obligation to write in detail about the photos, which I think should stand on their own if they're any good. I also prefer to save creative energy for writing lyrics to my songs, which I've found difficult recently. I suppose there's only so much water in the well. That's it for now my leetle Trey Boo Shays.

Monday, September 19, 2011

River bottom and what it means to The Magic Commuter

My little Trey-Boo-Shays:

      I've taken hundreds of photos since starting my Magic Commute to Richmond in December 2009. Many were shot along Highway 210, which runs through the fertile river bottom on the north side of the Missouri River.

     The shot above was taken in rural Clay County, less than a half-mile before 210 begins the long climb through the Nebo Hill area that connects the edge of Liberty with Missouri City. The fog was heavy that morning and the sun was rising, a nice combination that produced an orange hue and some reflection off the railroad tracks.

     The river bottom is devoted almost exclusively to crops, almost exclusively corn, soybeans and hay, no wonder since the dirt is so fertile and the land so flat.

     I shot the power lines the same morning in the flatland that extends from the other edge of the hilly area at Missouri City and continues all the way to Orrick, the next community on 210. You can still see some fog at the back end of the photo, but the sun had begun to burn off much of what was present on the other side of the hill.

     The river bottom has offered many beautiful moments, some of which I've been able to photograph. There are times when I just take it all in, leaving the camera on the seat next to me.

     But flatland has also inspired some music, including a song I performed at a small folk festival Saturday at Watkins Mill, a state historic area. The lyrics are my way of saying thanks for the beauty and power the commute has provided me. I've been exposed to many new things on the way to and from Richmond, both on 210 and my other main route, the more inland, rolling-hill area along Highway 10. 

     I don't have the song recorded yet, but that my not matter since the meaning is so personal. It wasn't written long after I started the commute, but the flatland beauty in its infinite variety hasn't waned. If anything, it continues to grow.

River Bottom Rhapsody         2009

Flat as a pancake
Far as the eye can see
Ground so rich
You could grow money trees
Every time I see it
It opens these eyes of mine
Every time I feel it
It helps this city boy unwind
Got me singin' that
River bottom rhapsody

Could be an ocean
Stretchin' from shore to shore
Could be a prairie
Startin' right at your door
Could be a desert
This little pleasure of mine
An angel from heaven
Gave it to me at Christmas time
Got me singin' that
River bottom rhapsody
       Leave all the traffic behind
       Climb that hill a mile at a time
       Look to my left
       Look to my right
       Stretches on forever
       ‘cause it’s paradise
       Got me singin' that
       River bottom rhapsody
      Got me singin'
      That river bottom rhapsody

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A fine example of cross-marketeering ... if I had a couple of co-conspirators, we'd be The Three Cross-Marketeers

     If you took this Chevrolet Fleetline to Kansas, found a long hill (good luck on both counts) and rolled down it, you might achieve a mileage personal best. Then again, maybe not. Of course, the real secret to high mileage is to keep your speed down, not accelerating out of turns and ... the kicker ... read my column in The Kansas City Star (there's a link below). Let's just say everyone needs a hobby, you know, one that's sustainable and fosters, as they say in Tennessee, Quality Growth.

     This Chevy sits (as we say in the country, "sets") in front of this little fixer-upper of a house east of Missouri City off Highway 210. It's actually a pretty aerodynamic design for a car, if a little on a large side. Better check the pressure in the tires, however, if you want good MPGs. But that visor ain't too shabby!

     Finally, if World Class Mileage is your goal, we might suggest old Festus here. He's a little on the ornery side, but if you give him an apple or two he'll go all day on a single tank of intestinal gas.

     Have a good one my little Trey-Boo-Shays ...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My apologies, I've been blogged down with non-blog responsibilities

     I think this may be the longest I've gone without posting something. You know how it goes when a) actual responsibilities get in the way; and b) motivation comes in an distant second to that comfy recliner, a guitar, a good book, Law and Order, a bag of microwave popcorn and other respites from the working life.

     This is the approach to Richmond, Mo., from Business 10 on a well-lit early morning this week. It's what I saw when I drove here to interview for a job at the Richmond News (then the Richmond Daily News). It was a cold December day (some might say a cold day in hell, but not me) and I parked in front of a collectibles store (go figure), the second building on the right. That was before I figured out what in the heck the newspaper's address -- West North Main -- meant or, in fact, if it was simply word play.

     That's the Farris Theatre on your immediate the right, the city's 100-year-old restored performance hall. Every place needs a pride and joy, and this is Richmond's. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sung there and Cole Younger, the outlaw who rode with the James Gang, once ate dinner with the owner.

     I played music at the Farris early this year and have been booked to play a show there (The Songwriters) as part of the Farris Concert Series in April 2012. It's more than six months away and I've already been mulling over what to play, what to say, which musicians to have with me and what to wear. I got the "wear" part down. I'm thinking of wearing nothing but clothes I've bought at Richmond Salvation Army (not including underwear or socks).  If there's a program maybe it could say "Mr. Knopf's wardrobe provided by the Salvation Army".

     I've made some real finds there, including soft leather cowboy boots, a pristine Earnest Tubb Record Store baseball hat and more than enough Western shirts to clothe a posse. 

     Six months probably wouldn't be long enough to grow a beard like this feller's. I'm posting his photo here because a) I took him walking up the same hill I took the Farris from yesterday and b) that beard is a natural wonder, ZZ Top quality. It would do the Ozarks or Kentuck' proud.

   Over and Out, my little Trey-Boo-Shays.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

No egrets at sunrise, but I'm bailed out by silhouetted sunflowers next to a cornfield

      This morning's target photo was of egrets feeding in a drainage culvert west of Orrick. It was still pretty dark, so I cranked the camera to 1,600 ASA and hoped for the best.

     Thanks to a combination of mechanical difficulties and my own limited tech skills, the egrets -- tall, skinny birds like the one in the stock photo here -- were well enough lit, but poorly focused. 

     This was unfortunate (i.e. stupid), because the birds have been hunting fish on backwater from Fishing River (apparently the water way is well-named) for more than two months during this summer's Missouri River reservoir releases and flooding. I did take some photos of a flock of egrets earlier, but what I wanted was a shot of a single bird at sunrise/sunset with its shadow reflected in the water.

     Waiting's past full, the milk's spoiled and the cow split before I could close the barn door, if you know what I mean.

     But I'm obsessive, so I figure I'll keep trying. A few minutes after my egrettable experience (sorry, I'm tired from napping excessively over the three-day weekend), I drove past the corn field in the photo below to pull into a convenience store for my morning artificial energy (i.e. Diet Pepsi). It was there I saw the sunflowers below silhouetted in front of the crops.

     If I were an an art reviewer for the Orrick Flood Plains Gazette-Times and Oracle, I might say that the photo has "a certain graphic, two-dimensional quality, evoking a hint of autumn and Halloween, with trick-or-treaters swarming through the neighborhood like a bunch of locust on a sugar high."

      But I'll go with something simpler: After the egret disappointment, I was glad to have spotted this. When the photo God closes the door, he opens a little window (thanks, Kinky F.).

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Is it better to pursue a dream or let it dangle just out of reach?

    I spotted this VW camper, I'd guess circa late 1970s, parked outside a repair shop in Richmond. Seeing a VW bus any where's a thrill for me, seeing one in Richmond is especially unusual.  I didn't bite on it (asked who owned it, what condition it was in etc.), but it's not because the worm wasn't a-wigglin' and the spinner wasn't a-spinnin'

     I've been hung up on these things since the late 1960s (when else?), when I briefly owned a white bus. If I recall, it was a '60 or '61. It was air-cooled, had zero power (36 HP if it was a '60, 40 if a '61). A couple of us college freaks took a brief road trip in the bus from Worcester, Mass. to somewhere in Connecticut when the VW said "I will putt-putt no more" and went, as we said so crudely at the time, "tits up". I left the bus there and that was all she wrote.

     Kind of. I've been fixated on them ever since, wanting, scheming, dreaming, plotting, fantasizing, daydreaming etc., wishing a) I had lots of money and could afford to maintain one; b) was mechanical enough to fix it myself; c) had less common sense than my wife says I already don't have (that's a wing-ding of a double negative, but you get the idea).

     I used to like the buses, but I've since transitioned to the campers. In a nutshell, the idea is that I take care of another lingering longing/curiosity and head out (no doubt, the moment the clock strikes "retirement") in the VW with the essentials -- guitars, tip jar and a dog, possibly named Blue (old Byrds fans will understand, but it's a good name for a loyal dog nevertheless). I'd travel, most likely to the South and Southwest, playing music whenever and wherever I felt like it (or needed money). Since I wouldn't need a place to stay, the tips would be for gas, food, showers and other necessities.
     I should note that there are very few places (restaurants, bars, coffee houses) that won't feed you and let you play for tips if you ask. You can also sell CDs, so this Financial Plan isn't completely screwball, just mostly. What would make it interesting is planning well enough to know how much you need to earn to make it to the next stop. I don't think AAA has a Trip Tik dedicated to the meandering songwriter.

     This detailed fantasy begs a philosophical question, possibly the first philosophical question I've asked since leaving Clark U. with a philosophy degree in 1970. Is it better to have a fantasy but not act on it or act on it and a) risk disillusionment and b) lose the dream force of having a fantasy in the first place?

     After all, dreams are psychic ethanol.

     I'd have to say I side with the go-for-it faction, but something holds me back. Clearly, there's caution and fear, but there's also common sense. What happens if the VW breaks down and the repair calls for more than a duct tape and a G chord? Even if the camper is rebuilt and in good condition, one serious breakdown and Mr. Travelin' Man's in deep dog-do, ol' Blue notwithstanding.

     For now, I'd say the excursion isn't very likely. Clearly, I have the dice and haven't rolled them.

     But it's been 40-plus years since I owned my bus and around 38 since I thought about going on the road as a musician but didn't. You'd think time would cause those things to dissolve, maybe be replaced, but it hasn't happened. When I see or think of a VW  (Google, eBay, You Tube have made dreaming that much easier), the package deal comes roaring back, cautious nature or not.

     A couple of weeks ago I set up to play music outside a restaurant on the square in Liberty, Mo. It was kind of a no-risk, single slice of local VW bus excursion, minus the VW. I made $8 in tips, was given free coffee and could've eaten for free had I'd asked. While I was there, there was a bearded, skinny, road-worn guy in a cowboy hat who sat outside, talking to people and listening. He asked me if I knew such-and-such a song, and I said no, I didn't do any covers. 

     He asked me what kind of a harmonica I was using because he kept a Hohner in his pocket for the occasional musical emergency. I figured he would ask to sit in or just play along, which I can tolerate if it's in the right key. But he didn't.

     I saw the guy leave later with a double-tall backpack weighing him down. The people behind the counter told me he was a drifter, a term (like rounder) that doesn't carry the negative connotation of a homeless person or hobo.

     It occurred to me that here was someone who took some sort of a leap and was doing it -- whether "it" was a dream, penance, an escape act or simply following the lead of low-level mental illness. He'd paid for his coffee (but stuck around for several hours getting refills), the employees said, so he'd come across some money somewhere.

     I didn't envy him, although maybe I did admire his courage -- not knowing where he'd go next, would sleep or where his next meal would come from. Who knows, maybe he had a VISA Gold Card and unlimited cell minutes. JK.

     What it brought home was that, while I fantasize about the great unknown, I apparently like my security and routines. And I understand my limitations. What I can't predict, though, is what I'll feel the next time one of those VW campers goes putt-putting by.

    Like this one:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Between You, Me and the Fence Post

     Come closer so I can tell you a secret ... promise you won't tell anyone? The early-morning sun is to the color orange as Bridget Bardot was to 1960s sex symbols: A bit on the overachieving side, if you know what I mean.

     I took this photo today on Route EE, a curvy, paved road through pasture, horse farms and hilly terrain. The road connects Route H (the locals call it H Highway, which is also what I tend to call it, except when I'm writing in Newspaperese) with Highway 210  to the south.

     When I'm saddled up and ridin' hard behind the keyboard, I'm sworn to uphold and protect the tenets of the Associated Press Stylebook, which has very definite ways to write everything.

     Normal people, i.e. people who haven't come under the spell of AP style, refer to Highway 210 as 210 Highway or, simply, 210. In AP-speak, Highways are numbered roads and Routes are those interesting curvy roads with letters for names. 

     When the roads get really small, as in the case of EE, they get two letters; when they get downright tiny, they're called county roads (for example, CR 287). Beyond that, gravel roads might have names or might not, but no one knows what they are or uses them. It's as if the roads were named just for Google's benefit. 

     I was exposed to this when I was wandering around south of Orrick, looking for a low-lying area of river bottom where members of the levee district were working to reinforce levees. I'd ask someone where such and such a road was, and the typical response would be something like "it's just over that hill by Wollard's, up a bit from the old Teegarden place."

      You know, up in there. And that's if you can see anything with six-foot-tall corn growing everywhere.

     It all makes perfect sense if you live and work "up in there" and only go "into town" for, you know, "stuff". Ford F-150s and Dodge Ram pickups with diesel engines have replaced pack horses and wagons, but that's about it for big changes here in God's Country. 

     In this part of the world, the only real status symbols are a new John Deere combine or having a paved road in front of your place; that, and maybe an autographed photo of Bridget Bardot that the wife hasn't thrown out.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fingers of the Sun over Business 10

     I was fortunate with this one. I noticed the fingers of diffused sunlight coming through the clouds, but couldn't find a safe place to stop. At one point, I hoped to hook a turn up a gravel road (Todd's Chapel for you locals), but there was a motorcycle bearing down on me and it was a sharp cut-back turn. So I continued on, camera in my lap.

     Once I reached the turnoff from the highway to Business 10 (a business loop through Richmond for you non-local readers out there in Blogland) I stopped and took a few shots. I'm pretty surprised that the "fingers" remained intact that long. With sunrise photos, the mantra is "it's now or never". Today, "now" lasted a little longer.

In blogging we trust! I know you're out there. Leave a comment so I know who's reading and which photos/commentary you like.