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Monday, October 31, 2011

Make no bones about it, it's Saturday in Orrick, Mo., and time for Bonnie and Clyde and a dog named Boo

     Drove to Orrick, Mo., on Saturday for the annual car show, and who shows up but Bonnie and Clyde and their driver, C.W. Moss. Clyde told me (no kidding) that he jokingly tried the door to the Bank of Orrick and it was unlocked. Easy pickins. Rob that place and at least there'd be no breaking-and-entering charge. And let's face it, response time in Orrick has been known to be a day, day and a half.
     The witch here was a little green in the face, but not because she traded in her broom for a sweet Mustang. It's fast -- maybe not as quick as a broom -- but you stay dry in the rain and can keep your hair from getting all stringy looking.
     Finally, my favorite, Tank the pomeranian-chihuahua mix. He has his paw on the steering wheel of a '72 Chevelle. Tank (very light armored division) was sharing the car with his brother Boo, and I'm not making that up.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

With yard work, time is of the essence, but there's always a free moment to pause for natural beauty

I'm pretty much a reluctant homeowner, so it didn't take a whole lot for me to put down the leaf blower and go inside for my camera. I'd already finished blowing leaves out of the garage and was headed to clean the basement (yes, with a leaf blower) when I noticed these moths on my wife's brilliant bed of mums by the side of the house. The light was good, the moths were out and hey, my ADD was in full bloom, so why not?

I don't know what this feller's called, but he's the second closeup I've gotten of a moth that's colored in a way I've never seen before. Anyone know what it's called? I could go to and find out, but what fun is that?

This looks a bit like a wasp, but I don't think it is. I've never seen a wash with orange/red head and when he flew away it didn't hover the way wasps do.
When I brought my digital SLR, I initially second-guessed the decision, thinking I should've used the money for recording. I've nearly worn the thing out in discovering a new avenue of self-expression, as if I really needed one. I express myself when I sweat, when I drive, when I do yard work. Time is of the essence, so the primary goal is to do what I have to do, but get it done as quickly as possible. That explains the weed blower in the basement, my curious Trebuchistas. Don't worry, it's an electric model.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I had to wonder at the zoo who's looking at who?

This is my wife Marieta, the parrot whisperer. Actually, this may not be a parrot but you get the basic gist. Each year she likes to go to the zoo for her birthday, or maybe walk a nature trail, and what with our busy weekend soccer schedules, school, my music and work, the heat, the cold, my overarching grumpiness, etc., we usually wind up celebrating this aspect of her birthday several months late (her birthday's in June and we went to the Kansas City Zoo in October). This is how my wife looks when she's happy. We had fun and enjoyed the animals, including the miniature Hipster below. I personally thought he looked like a wee Bluesman, kind of a mini-Blue, what with the shades and cabbie hat, but my wife spotted his "yo, yo,yo" hand gesture so I am going with the Mini Hipster label.

I am more of an animal-in-nature guy than a zoo lover, but frankly the crop of chimps in Ray County is very thin this year what with the early summer flooding, the July-August heat, mountain lions and the fact that everyone's too busy trying to make a living to go for this kind of monkey business. The handsome lad above (left) is Isaac, our son ... aka The Boy Wonder ... with his new friend Mugsy. Actually, Mr. Mugs was right outside the window and TBW's sitting against the glass. I like chimps because all their actions seem intended as parodies of human behavior, kind of like a hairy Curly Howard of The Three Stooges. My two favorite things at the zoo (not including the hamburgers and topping bar near the Carousel) are the boat ride on Lake Whatchamadingy and the newest attraction, the aerial ride. For two bucks you get to ride more than halfway across the zoo. How cool is that? I had a car to myself (not that unusual, given my Magical Lone Commuter posture), but I turned around several times to get a shot of Marieta and Isaac. Below is the only one where Marieta isn't grimacing out of fear that The Clumsy One would drop his camera. No fear, my dear; had the strap around my neck.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A little blue flower is a terrible thing to waste

With the completion of a new bridge on Highway 10, my second base route to work is again open. This is the road that connects Richmond with Excelsior Springs, aka 'Selser. I went to check on how the bridge was coming along yesterday, and -- despite a state Web site saying it was closed -- found the orange cones off to the side and the bridge open to traffic. This is good news because I'm prone to boredom and, despite my best back-road experimentation, I'd gotten a little tired of the Highway 210 commute. To reach the bridge site, I took Route EE, a beautiful, curvy route through the foothills to the Ray County Ozarks (see the photo below). The photo answers a question from a friend back in Massachusetts: Is everything there flat? No, we've got some beautiful hilly terrain to go along with our equally breathtaking (at least to me) river-bottom flat land. At the crest of the hill, I stopped for photos and found these blue flowers. Most were past their peak, but there were still some unopened buds waiting on a few more warm days. If you know the name of this wildflower, let me know. I did take the liberty of naming the growth below "Thistleflitter and Poppycock," which sounds like either a Joe Cocker album title or a pub in north London. My Treybooshkins, the Poppycock may also refer to my total lack of botanical knowledge.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brick house: Not what the Commodores had in mind, but in a pinch it'll do

I was in Hardin, Mo., Saturday morning to play music at Welcome Home, a fall festival. During breaks, I walked around to stretch out and get some photos for the newspaper. Brick textures and colors have always fascinated photographers and artists, but the birds who live in these holes liked the shelter, not the aesthetics. Not to mix my animal metaphors, but the birds played a cat and mouse game with me before I could finally get a few shots. They'd flit, fly away or duck inside, and on the first go-around I came up empty. "Vern, if we hop inside, that idiot with the camera won't get a photo," Marla Jean, his significant other, said. However, When the gig was over, the jig was up. I'd parked on a grassy lot next to the wall, so I sat in the car and waited for one of the winged fellers to return. This one did and wondered what the hay-ell I was staring at. My little feathered treybooshka, fear not. I shoot with digital bullets.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Grasshopper has sideline as grassscootin' booger

I was walking across the bridge over Crooked River on Route J, outside of Hardin, Mo. to get a newspaper photo, when I spotted this little feller where the wall meets the sidewalk at a right angle. The challenge is always to get near enough to a creature for a good closeup without spooking him. I used my stereotypical "Tonto walk". Once I got within several feet, every time I took a stealthy tip-toe toward him, he'd scoot -- not hop -- to his right. Incredible springiness is the forte of a grasshopper, but there was no springing in this movement -- just earthbound scooting on all six legs. You might call the scoot a shuffle or a scramble, but all word choice aside, there was no hoppin' involved. I stepped off the sidewalk and got around to his other side to get the straight-on photo below. By then, he'd changed position and was no longer at 90 degrees to the bridge bed. But not to put all escape routes in one basket, he still had a leg up on the wall.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What, you might ask, does this have to do with commuting, let alone magical commuting?

It's late, and I'm going to make this short (insert cheering from the cheap seats). Pictured is the cast of "The Zombie," a Richmond High School play being performed this weekend at the Farris Theatre. In one of my usual mad dashes to finish my work and get to one of my son's high school soccer games, I had to stop briefly to get a cast photo for the paper. All the kids took their places on and around the couch, and after I nearly fell off the stage (I can see the headline: "News photographer topples from stage, bruising ego, destroying beloved camera"), we were ready to shoot. I set the camera/flash the right way, but noticed that the shutter speed was much too slow. Basically, you could go "one one thousand, two one thousand" before the shutter would open and close. A fellow in the back (third from the right) wasn't just a thespian but a keen observer of human dorkiness. "Sir," he said, in that respectful Ray County manner I've come to admire. "I think the flash is hitting your hat." He was right. The flash was popping up, hitting the brim of my ball cap and not firing. Since I tend to embarrass myself frequently, I've gotten pretty good at rolling with the punches. I thanked the actor for his perceptiveness, got a decent photo and ran it in the paper the next day. I may be physically clumsy, but I am adroit at amusing myself with word play, especially headlines with music references. The headline for the play photo: Time of the season for 'The Zombies'                        " 

Of What the Heck, Fence Me In. I Could Have It Much Worse.

I've actually made eye contact with this impressive specimen on a previous trip up Garner Street to Ray County Lake, but on this occasion he probably wouldn't have looked over had I stood on top of the car and sung "Don't Fence Me In". I'm not sure if this guy is kept as an expensive pet, a stud or to be fattened up for the unthinkable, but from a cow's perspective he actually has it pretty good. He shares a good-sized pasture with three or four horses, has plenty to eat and drink and can watch the world go by. From time to time he might wonder when he gets to visit his favorite lady friend, but all in all it's not a bad life. For one thing, the average cow couldn't give a hoot if something's spelled wrong. Take the street sign below, for example, which is just a couple hundred feet from where the cow was positioned. The sign at 120th Street says "Gardner" rather than Garner. It's one of two signs in the Richmond area I know of that are misspelled. The other's on Royle Street, which in one location is spelled Royal. Who proofreads these things, anyhow? If you know of another misspelled street sign, either send me the location or take a photo of it yourself. We don't want those GPSes and Google Maps gettin' all confused, now do we? Got to sashay, my Treybooshays. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A new font is discovered: Canadian Non-Specific Futuristic Choo-Choo

Technically, graffiti artists who decorate freight trains are desecrating private property. They work clandestinely and in the dark of night, and there's no telling what those fumes are doing to their downtrodden, inner-city lungs. But frankly, I see plenty of extremely long freight trains in Ray County (this one was technically just over the line in Clay) and you know what, they're extremely repetitive and, I'll guess, not all that loving to the environment. If you've seen one coal tender loaded to the gills with fossil fuel, you've seen them all. You've seen one freight stacked to an elephant's eye with containerized Chinese and Korean chotchkas and you've seen them all. I don't want to go all Occupy Wall Street on you and turn The Magic Commute into The Magic Manifesto, but I'd rather see a little art on the side of a train than a bunch of disposable crap headed for Walmart and Target and, ultimately, the landfill. There's some conformity to the graffiti-painter style, but at least when I look at it I see beauty not dollar signs and waste.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

When a small town backs its football team even the funeral home gets into the act

Richmond's a football town, especially since the Spartans won the Class 3 Missouri State Championship a year ago. Businesses around the mostly deserted square -- retail once flourished there but has since been Walmartized and moved to the highway -- all display Spartan banners, posters and memorabilia wishing the team well. The spirit has even infected the normally staid Polley Funeral Home, one of two send-off parlors in town. No one expects much hoo-ha from a funeral home, but now mourners who file in for services in their Sunday finest can experience an uplifting moment thanks to the Spartan Pride banner at the door. I figure you have to go sometime; no reason your last words can't be "We're No. 1, baby!" The Spartans are 7-1 this year -- their one loss was by four points -- and are looking to return to the state playoffs. The momentum won't fade any time soon, either, thanks to a well-organized, popular youth football program. The kids dream of being a Spartan someday, and God knows a goal can be inspirational rocket fuel.
A recent Younger Division Super Bowl game provided fans with thrills and a 6-0 win for the team in gold.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lightnin' quick squirrel, a daredevil, gets his nuts in a row

This lightnin'-quick feller lives in our backyard. He was out Saturday morning collecting nuts for the winter and showing world-class sprinters, jumpers, leapers and trapeze artists exactly how it's done. If there's a more athletic animal in his division, I haven't seen it. Squirrels are naturally a bit on the nervous side, so I don't know if this guy went berserk because he knew I tiptoed onto the deck and was watching him. Maybe it was my boxer shorts that threw him off. At any rate, he put on a fearless display of climbing, scampering, accelerating, stopping and branch-leaping that amazed me. Do squirrels actually know where they're headed when they leap or do they just figure they'll deal with it when they get there? Humans blessed with athletic prowess sometimes believe they're invincible and become cocky as a result. Either Mr. Squirrel falls into that category or the little lady read him the riot act that morning. "Mister, now get your furry butt out there and get us some nuts for the winter or there's no more ESPN for you," she said.
Mr. Squirrel stops momentarily and takes a little taste of the profits.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Looking for soybeans, finding a butterfly

As is often the case, I go in looking for one thing and come out having found another. Yesterday, I pulled the car over to take some photos of a combine harvesting soybeans along Wellington Street in Richmond. Walking in to get closer to action, I came across these wildflowers -- in full bloom and nice lighting. Where there are flowers, there are bees, wasps, mosquitoes and, in this case, a beautiful butterfly. He moved around quite a bit, spreading his wings (above) to reveal vivid colors. In another photo (below, right) he seems to be precariously clinging to a flower while enjoying the fruits of his labor. At left, like the grasshopper that seemed to make eye contact with me last week, the butterfly is looking me right in the eye. I'm working at being quiet and not threatening, as invisible as a large treybooshographer can be.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Found, but not exactly art, in our parking lot in the Mushroom Capital

This, my friends, is the latest Richmond News Parking Lot Not-Art Find of the Week. We can only assume that the person who wolfed these down wasn't watching his good and bad cholesterol. I've never been a White Castle fan, but I remember being curious about the one near the end of the 7th Avenue Subway line at 244th Street and Broadway, near where I lived in Riverdale, N.Y. from 7th grade through high school. There's a Maid-Rite hamburger place in Lexington, Mo. across the river from Richmond that I've heard is similar, but I haven't tried it. The burgers there are steamed, a friend says, and are more crumbly than in patty form. Steamed or not, the place does appeal to me because there's a counter and you can watch the cooks work, kind of like Waffle House or Town Topic in Kansas City. These spots all have a certain charm for me, but the best of all is Ron's Hamburgers in Tulsa, Okla. The original Ron's counter-only hole in the wall can be seen in the small photo below. I'll make myself crazy with hunger (at 9:35 a.m.), but at Ron's it was always a Mexican Steak (grill-cooked hamburger steak served on bed of chili covered with green chilis, pepper jack cheese and jalapeno slices), a side of the best finely chopped, sweet cole slaw I've had and a frosty mug of root beer. Those were the days my drooling Treybooshkas!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

See Sunrise, See Windmill, Find Trees and Forget the Full Moon

There was a full moon last night, and I figured it might be something I could shoot since I had to be to work by 7 this morning. I took one of my back-road diagonals to get to the Mushroom Capital and drove past this windmill. It's on Route EE, the one in Clay County, not Ray, near Liberty Hills Country Club. I've taken photos of it before, including once when there was also a full moon. I chanced upon the moon that time, just because I happened to turn my back on the windmill. There it was, big as Wichita. The moon itself can be a pretty boring subject, unless you happen to have a long telephoto lens, a tripod and can use a bit of time exposure to get the features of the surface (not including the American flag planted there in the Sixties by Neil Armstrong). As a shoot-from-the-hip photo hobbyist, I depend more on circumstance, instinct and luck (the real biggee). That other time (you know, that one), I shot the moon with leafless brush in front of it and used a flash (the shot's above). It was a fun result (for me, the fun is when you come across something by chance and have some luck with the tech end. This time, I ignored the moon (sorry, big guy), but came up with some burnin'-hot shots of the sunrise behind my friend the windmill and silhouetted trees. That was pretty much the real color. The only manipulation I did was to hit auto contrast in Photoshop and lighten the photo just enough so I could see the windmill blades a bit better. FYI, Those little dark things walking up the hill are cattle. The shot of the trees alone was also taken this morning -- just a tighter focus. Enough of the Treybooshography explanations. It's time to de-blog, play some guitar and read. Another day at the ink factory tomorrow, my treybooshkas, so I need my beauty sleep (getting a little late for that, right?)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

At Maurice Roberts Park, a nap, a walk and pictures where form, at least momentarily, trumps function

Lunch hour can be a dilemma. When my eyes get heavy and I know I need to be rejuvenated, do I nap in my car, walk or both (not necessarily at the same time)? Now that it's cooled off, finding a shady spot is no longer a priority. I can pretty much nap anywhere I pull over. I took a brief snooze at Maurice Roberts Park in Richmond recently, then walked the perimeter of the park with my camera. It was a wake-up two-fer, a rejuvenator supreme. There were a couple of parents with children on the playground, so I was concerned not to make eye contact. An adult male with a camera in a park can arouse suspicion these days, so I felt it was wise to avoid even looking in their direction. I came across these colorful berries (not even sure that's what they are) and shot a couple of photos. I thought the colors, especially the purple stems, were unusual. If you know what kind of a shrub this is and what the green "berries" are, I'd like to know. I've never seen anything like them. They are very small and shape-wise are a cross between a (very) miniature pumpkin and a flattened tomato. So much for my powers of description. On the way out of the park, I found a nicely landscaped mailbox. I've been collecting photos of unusual mailboxes; not sure what for, but sometimes form rises above the demands of function. Enjoy your day and remember my motto (at least for the next 20 seconds): "Treybooshkas today, tomorrow Quatrebooshkas."

Monday, October 10, 2011

The judge from Belamoos gave Elsie Creamenova a 5.5 on her floor routine, saying she was heavy on her hooves and udderly lacked imagination

Not a whole lot goes on along the back roads I prefer, so when I stop for photos of animals their curiosity often equals mine. The cow I pictured as a demanding Olympic judge is actually sporting livestock identification tags. I came across Judge Belamoos on 120th Street, not far from Ray County Lake. Not all cows are as tough on gymnasts as she is, and not all animals give equal attention to me when I pull over for a shot. The chestnut horse below, for example, could've cared less that their morning graze was being interrupted by a photographer. His white companion, however, couldn't take her eyes off me. As an old friend once said, "give me a bag of popcorn and I'll watch anything." The horses were pastured along H Highway, one of my favorite routes between Liberty and Excelsior Springs (when I have time for a less direct route). It's a curvy road with several near-right-angle turns, so I limit my curiosity to the straightaways. Time now to get ready for work, my curious Treybooshkas. Have a good week.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Of a morning, playing catch-up, getting things done with eyes on the prize -- absolutely nothing I have to do this afternoon

I'm obsessed with a lot of things (to put it in numerical terms, 144 of them), one of which is the little, weathered garage at the intersection of Highway 210 and Route N. I've taken pictures there several times, usually at sunrise, which just happens to be when I drive to work. It's a magical time of day, easily my favorite. There were some nice orange lines in the sky around where the sun was about to come up (maybe five minutes before these photos were taken), but by the time I pulled over, got my camera adjusted and crossed the highway, the lines had dissolved or done whatever it is that disappearing lines do. 
I walked through the field of cut corn -- you trip, you get speared, you die a lonely death in rural America -- to see what was going on around back. In the time it took to get there, the sun had poked up and created some unanticipated shots. I tried different things -- focusing and metering on the sky, the sun, the garage and the silos (see the other photo below) -- and got different effects each time. 

Being a silhouette aficionado (in part because I can spell "silhouette" and get a kick out of saying "aficionado"), I settled on these. I could get into all that composition stuff -- the lines, the textures, the blah blah blah -- but I hate that pompous crap. See the picture, shoot the picture and get the heck back in the car, that's my philosophy. As I was heading back across the field, a bozo on a low-rider Harley-Davidson passed by heading toward Richmond. He yelled something, obviously a bit on the hostile side. Being paranoid in addition to compulsive, obsessive and prone to wordiness, I figured it was the land owner yelling at me for trespassing, which technically I was ("But, sir, I was Magically Commuting!"). He turned left on Route N, which further fueled my paranoia. But then he gunned it, hit that Harley rumble that I find so pleasing and was gone. So was I, minus a real-life Easy Rider experience.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Just when you thought everything along the Magic Commute was beautiful up steps the Royal Wash & Dry

A little different approach today to things seen through the windshield along the Magic Commute. For the sake of fairness and the occasional cry of "Oh my God!", it should be reported that not everything I see is a beautiful sunrise, a row of brilliantly colored berries or a grasshopper in its green glory staring back at me. Above, for example, you'll find the mysterious empty bottle of Listerine that's been littering our parking lot at work for several weeks. Why, I wonder, would anyone drop this economy-sized empty in a parking lot? In route to an especially hot date, perhaps, or an important interview? Guzzling for its possible alcohol content? Been swilling a few at The Depot and trying to cover up before going home to the wife? We'll never know, but I gathered a few other parking-lot specimens and grouped them for a photo. The purple bottle is some kind of diet potion and the newspaper is the Excelsior Springs Standard newspaper, which some have cruelly dubbed the Low Standard. Below is a wash-and-dry establishment on Royle Street in Richmond. The photo's been "posterized," which is a feature of Photoshop I clicked out of curiosity and stuck with. Truth be told, the business (no longer operating as far as I can tell) doesn't look much different in the non-posterized version. As you can see, at the time Richmond had a fairly permissive sign code. Another point of note is that the street name is spelled Royle. At least one street sign in town misspells it "Royal," and I'm only guessing that the laundry entrepreneur followed suit. If you've ever seen people stirring their wash with a stick the size of an axe handle, this would be the place.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

With launch pad and pyramids, the little village of River Bend, Mo., really has it going on. All it needs is the Queen Elizabeth and Ripley's Believe It or Not to rival Las Vegas for glitz and glamor

River Bend, Mo., is a small, fiercely independent community south of Liberty. Judging from the sand-dredging operations going on on both sides of Missouri 291, it must have some of the finest sand in Northwest Missouri (It is river bottom, less than a mile from the Missouri River). That's a sand or gravel mound above, not a pyramid as imagined by yours truly, the Magic Commuter with the over-developed visual imagination. (Nor is the tower below to be confused with the Kennedy Space Center, although it does look like Cape Canaveral preparing for a sunrise launch.) The sand biz apparently is the hottest commercial gig in town, aside from a convenience store that I drop in on periodically and the Back Door Lounge, a bar in the same building that's connected by a door not far from the pop dispenser. Like most good rural, blue-collar convenience stores, this one will cook you breakfast and make sandwiches for lunch. I once considered offering my musical services to the Back Door Lounge, but thought twice about it. It was a good decision, apparently, considering Scott M. of Kansas City's review on (see below). That's it for now, my treybooshays, from River Bend and the long and circuitous route taken by the Magic Commute. 
"This is a tiny dive bar on the back side of a gas station at 291 & 210 Hwys. Access is from a small unlighted intersection about 500 feet east of the interchange. The bar is eclectically decorated -- several types of stringed musical instruments, a wooden Indian, bee hives, cattle horns, etc.  There's a jukebox, a dart board, and a pool table.  The clientele is skews a little older, but a few younger people pop in from time to time.   Draft beer is served in mugs -- some with high school logos on them. We were greeted by an extremely intoxicated mechanic who couldn't even say his own name when introducing himself and found setting a book of matches on the bar to be a rather challenging task. River Bend -- a village incporporated several years ago by residents who wanted to stay free of the encroaching restrictions of (ironically)  Liberty and Independence -- has no smoking ordinance. Therefore smoking is allowed in this bar."

Monday, October 3, 2011

During a 64-0 game, looking for beauty off the ball is a defensible approach to keeping oneself occupied

When the highpoint of a game is the losing team's ability to recover one of its own fumbles (above), it's no crime to look away from the field to see what's going on elsewhere. Like the arrival of fall, for example. That was the case Saturday, as the gold team (above) was dropping a 64-0 nail-biter (it was 30-0 late in the first quarter) to the blue team in Richmond Youth Football. You had to feel for the boys on the losing team, who were simply outmatched by the faster, harder-hitting winners. While this was transpiring (I was covering the game for the paper), I distracted myself by spotting a nice fall scene "off the ball," as well as a young swinger (shame on you, not that kind of swinger) trying to go airborne on the playground. We've all been there -- getting thumped by superior talent, changing colors as time marches on and trying to overcome an immovable force like gravity. It's all part of the greater scheme of things, right? That, and a good cup of coffee in the morning, my little treybooshkas.