May 29, 2008


I ran into Darren and Penny. They have matching scooters, Yamaha Vinos, I was on my bike. I know Darren from the marina, where he works, and where I sometimes shoot. He's modeled some shots...

"We're going to the yacht club for some nachos," he said.
"That's where I'm going," I said.

We met up about fifteen minutes later, me ten minutes behind. Darren and I talked about scooters until Penny was bored to tears. Their Vinos get almost 100 mpg. I'm seriously thinking about trading my motorcycle in for one. Scooter sales are booming.

I rode my motorcycle most when I was shooting for the newspaper. Photographers are the one news gathering element that must be physically on the scene of the story; unlike a reporter, you can't get your story from a phone call, though the proliferation of digital cameras and high speed connections are beginning to change that. But staff photogs are out all day. You're given a mileage allowance of course, but I didn't want to put that kind of tread, seventy miles a day or more, on the pony. The GZ 250 is a small bike, but with a top speed of 90 it had no trouble keeping up with local traffic. So I'd rod around, pulling up to crime scenes and fried chicken fundraisers on Dragonfly.

I wiped out once, on the fourth of July. I had the weekend beat, covering the fireworks. I'd parked the bike on the street and knocked on the front door of a house on the river overlooking the show. They were having a party and asked me in, offered me a drink, (declined), and let me use the dock to do the shoot... anything I wanted. When I went back to the street I found a bike with the key in the ignition and the headlight down to a flicker. I would have to run start the bike. I'd done it before, but this time it started unexpectedly and took me with it. The next thing I knew I was on the asphalt with my jeans ripped and a slice taken off my calf - as if you'd taken a cheese slicer and stripped off a slice. It was numb, but I knew that wouldn't last. I got the photos into the system somehow that night, late that night. The edit stations at the newspaper were empty, production had gone home. The numbness was starting to wear off... Back home, I took a shower and debrided the wound as best I could with a bar of soap. The pain was excruciating. The burn resembled the profile of Brazil, still does, 4" x 6" down the right side of my calf. It took three months to completely heal. The doctor prescribed an exotic antibiotic ointment that cost $65. for a tube the size of a lip balm. I think he was concerned about MERSA. I took a week off. That was three, four years ago. I told the editor that Monday that I'd slipped off a ladder at the condo. I didn't want the paper to ban my ride.

But I'm in way less of a hurry now. And dragonfly is a bit of a handful for the kind of too-far-for-a-bike trip I'm likely to take these days. So... I like the Honda Ruckus. . .

a muscley little scooter, bare bones and minimal storage. But it's only 49 cc and good for backstreets or the bike lane. It's $2k and change; I could probably get a third off that in a trade at the dealer.

I ran into Darren yesterday at the marina. He was tooling around in a golf cart. The trees at the restaurant were in flower. I had wanted to see if I could make the trip by bike, and how long it would take. Now that I was there, I was taking pictures of the trees in bloom. Darren had business at the dock. I stopped for a cappucino and headed back, into a warm breeze.

May 27, 2008


My ride has become a quest for shady streets, for the shady side of the streets, for the shortest streets with no shade. My old summer routes seek out my bike wheels. Byways beckon, some of which the old routes acquire, others I'll never see again. Meandering, I loop through shaded parking lots, edge shadow-cooled walks: a drift toward peripheries.

I spotted Gill's beloved frangipani on a recent ride; that means it's in bloom all over the city. I set out this afternoon to see if I could find any nice ones in the neighborhooky.

They smell like they look, only better - an intensely fragrant citrusy jasmine, carried on a wave of sugar's volatile smile. They're the flowers in Hawaiian leis.

There's a rose variety; the aroma is a bit spicier than its lemon meringue cousin.

Frangipani is one of the few tropicals, at least around here, that is deciduous. It sheds its leaves in the winter, leaving behind a decorative sketch of itself through Christmas.

Here's a tree that I see on my ride. I don't know what it's called. It blossoms lavishly.

The blossoms form large globules over fern-like foliage. Within the clusters, individual flowers are quite pretty, a spotted lip accesorizing slender pistils. It's reminiscent of alstromeria (peruvian lily) that is popular in super market boquets.

Since I was on my bike, I thought it prudent to swing by the market for some groceries...

May 21, 2008

May 16, 2008

Shoes, shirt, silver

I bought a pair of deck shoes, liked them, and bought another pair thinking I'd 
wear one for kicking around in and the other for more respectable outings. They 
sit next to one another under the sideboard by the front door, ready to fulfill their 
individual daily destinies. I don't always honor their designated missions, however, 
and over time they've gotten harder to tell apart. Seems I will soon have two pair 
of kick-around deck shoes. It doesn't work in reverse.

I have a T shirt that fits so well that I never wear it. I'm saving it. On the rare 
occasions that rise to its sartorial splendor, I forget that I even own it, let alone 
can wear it. I noticed it on the rack in the closet yesterday and put it on. It still 
fits... well, to a T. I wore it to Home Depot. (My life is a breathless social whirl.) 
When I was walking back to my car, a guy drove by in a pickup and yelled out the 
window, I kid you not, "I want that T shirt!"

Bobby is back from North Carolina, or South Carolina, whichever is the mecca 
whence decorators go to buy furniture, and keep an eye on each other. After 
dinner, spaghetti, at his house, we went to a bar where a girl was selling silver 
jewelry at a table. He treated himself to a ring and a bracelet. Admiring his new 
cache, arm extended, fingers spread, he said "Clients expect me to look good."

May 14, 2008

A purple of my own

Patrick and Greg have been celebrating purple. Violets, pansies, lilacs, wisteria, lavender... I was starting to wonder if I was purple deprived. Purple poor. A purple pauper.

But no, I was pleased to be reminded, I never was. On my morning walk I came across these heliotrope-hued sprites grown athwart a painted wall. The invisibility of the familiar had blinded me to the obvious... I'd had purple all along.

Let us now praise purple
of royal robes and darling blooms
of lilac wine and sanguine song
in noble veins, and dusky rooms

Majestic hue, your haunting scent
in tender violet, lilac dreams
steeps our springs and haunts our nights
with solferino memories

May 13, 2008

Like water for rice pudding

I awoke to rain. There wasn't enough, it turned out, to quench the brushfire 
hazard, which has now entered the dreaded red zone. It was enough to delight 
the birds. Even the big ugly warty-faced muscovy ducks were flapping triumphantly 
over wafer-thin puddles.

A man in Fort Myers was charged yesterday with killing his old dog with a blow to 
the head, and burying it in a grave on his property. I suppose he should have 
turned it over to some shelter where it would have sat in a cell while waiting to be 
killed by strangers. Norman Mailer wrote that a man has a responsibility, when the 
time comes, to kill his own dog. It's a burden of love. My friend Walter used to say 
that we're no longer allowed to be poor, even if we want to be. I wonder if we're 
no longer allowed, in some fundamental ways, to be responsible.

We confuse love and sentimentality. Jesus, love incarnate, seems to me often 
edgily unsentimental. I suspect that a lot of folks who prattle on about their love 
of the Lord, wouldn't have liked him very much. Remember that catch phrase that 
was going around a few years ago... "I love you, even if I don't like you." What a 
pious saw that is. I think only a mother, or a savior, can say it authentically. Most 
of the time, I'd rather be liked. Tastes more like love. And isn't nearly the wildfire 

There are watering restrictions in effect, limiting sprinkling to certain days and 
hours. Not that it matters; our sprinkler system is broken. I almost singlehandedly 
persuaded the board, in the interest of water conservation, to not have it 
repaired, and let nature take its course. Sometimes going brown is a way to be 
'green.' We're allowed to hand-water though, any time, for ten minutes. This is a 
set-aside in the restrictions that I sometimes indulge, late in the day. There is 
something relaxing about just standing there, waving a gurgling hose over 
parched and grateful grass. My neighbor Sara, an avid gardener, will join me in 
conversation, telling me about her newly planted mango sapling, while watching 
the rivulets at our feet slither minutely away. She'll bring me something from her 
kitchen. She turned up a couple days ago with a scoop of rice pudding in a teacup. 
She likes me.

May 8, 2008

Window on Sanibel

It was a routine shoot on Sanibel, that would take all of forty minutes. Nevertheless, I decided to stay overnight on the island, blowing probably half of what I would stand to earn.

I crashed at my old favorite cottage, nothing fancy, a sentiment indulged, a few blocks from the beach. The driver's side window of my car refused to close. "You're not the only one who wants fresh air," it said. Cheeky-ass pony. At least it never rained.

The day didn't start out fresh. The smoke from a towering brush fire at lake Okeechobee hitched a ride on the high air currents all the way down here. I awoke to what smelled like somebody's burnt morning coffee. By the time I made my own, the smell had turned acrid. But once on the island, a half-hour drive from here, the cool night air had lifted, taking the ashen visitor with it.

Architecture is photographed in the morning or late afternoon, when the shadows are elegant gestures, instead of stubby underscores. I drove in to town to look at the object, its face angled to the southeast. It would be a morning shoot. That left the rest of the day for fun and games, and acquiring a tanline upgrade.

On the way home next day, I tried the window a few more times. It was resolutely agape. How much was this trip going to cost? I pulled into the parking lot at the condo, gathered up my trip stuff, and in a routine, semi-conscious gesture pressed the rocker button and the window murmered. I pressed it again, and it slid all the way up, home again home.

May 5, 2008

White lady

Gardenia greet our May. The shrub in the front is in bloom, a bit sparsely this drier than average year. Gardenias are in what I call my jasminoides tribe. This is based on an alliance of scents that I believe they share... the jasmines, orange blossoms, stephanotis, tuberosa, and the incomparable freesia, said by some the exude the finest fragrance of any flower.

The gardenia will bloom for about three weeks. A couple of blossoms are enough to perfume a room.

I'm off to Sanibel for a sleepover. Take time to smell whatever you're smelling these days.