31 October 2013


Evel Knievel would like to wish you a Happy Halloween before he leaps over 30 cars on his motorcycle.


Ages ago my stepmom asked that I send her photos of all of the crazy things we've done to Gracie for The Great Pupkin, Fort Greene's very own insane, indulgently creative dog costume contest.  This year Gracie took a break from the festivities as I was away and, ahem, she won last year anyway. 

So here's a recap of Pupkins past...

It started innocently enough.  A little spray-on hair dye and some cardboard and voila - Oscar The Grouch. She won 2nd Place.

The next time quickly spiraled into an elaborate, time consuming and very "meta" getup. People who got it loved it, but no prizes.  I thought it was hilarious.

I may have overdone it on this one.  Queen Elizabeth.  No prizes either.

Then the kids came along and Gracie got a reprieve.  Here's Roan dressed as Mario Batalli with a meat cleaver.   It was so cold that night Lula never made it into her costume, which was a giant squid.

 The infamous "Beets No More"  costume.

Lula got so many compliment for this!

Not to be outdone,  Sam threw this together in 5 minutes and Gracie won first runner up.

And of course, last years "Where the Wild Things Are" ensemble.

Gracie rocking her First Place ribbon.  A proud moment for a dog.

29 October 2013


This is an absolutely beautiful, amazing photo essay that photographer Timothy Archibald has done on his son Elijah.  I think these images capture the universal confusion and curiosity of childhood as well as a peek into the world as viewed through Elijah's lens of autism.  

In this article, a quote from Archibald I think captures not only his attitude towards his sons special needs but also probably explains his incredible skill at capturing the world through Elija's perspective:

"I never wanted [Eli] to think that he was normal. I wanted him to be aware of how different he was and see that as an asset."

18 October 2013


The croft is, if nothing else, an exercise in subsistence living.  Yes, there is a store in the town of Tongue twenty minutes away, but it's goods are extremely limited (was astonished to find a melon there this summer) and, among it's other quirks, it's open for exactly 1 hour on Sundays after church. The best way to get your food is to catch, pick, or trap it yourself. Then clean it and cook it yourself.  And then eat it yourself.  

This pretty much takes up at least half of your waking hours every day but I swear food doesn't taste any better than when you do it this way. It's a group effort and everyone has their skill set. Neil and Cicely are aces at catching Mackerel and Pollock, Jos makes the world's best smoked mackerel pate, fish cakes, and mussels in garlic and white wine, and Roan can now gut fish. As usual, Sam is good at everything.  

This year we got especially ambitious about foraging. Into the usual mix of fish, crab, lobster, and mussels, we added winkles, which look like little sea snails, and seaweed.  Sam was SO excited about a book that was gifted to the croft on foraging in Scotland.  He harvested and dried several different kinds of seaweed.  He tried salting it, cooking with it, and eventually even grinding it into a powder and putting it on ice cream.

We didn't catch any lobster (we caught a conger eel, which was a giant slimy black snake-like looking thing that we quickly returned to the sea) so Neil had to buy those from Sinclair, the local lobster man.  The cost? £5 per lobster, about the same price as the melon.

Getting ready to fish aboard the Lady Anne

Mackerel fishing

I think this is a Pollock

A good size one

The slip in Skerray Harbour

Dinner is served!

Lobster pots

Harbour skat


Dissecting the lobster

Shells and guts

Off to catch winkles

Winkle hunting



With butter and garlic


It was a lot of work to scoop the winkles out of their shells

Seaweed before harvesting

Seaweed dried, ground,and sprinkled over vanilla ice cream (looks better than it tasted)

On the way to Slettle for mussels.  We were told to watch out for the bull that was loose in the field.

Rocks in Slettle

Very few mussels this year but we managed to find some

So delicious!

Off again to fish!

Um, we did not eat this guy.  We used him for bait.

Cicely had a great catch this day

Roan tried to re-catch the catch

That's a healthy Mackerel

Roan is not even remotely squeamish

Kedgerie made with smoked mackerel


07 October 2013


I had one of those wonderful encounters on Friday that makes even running errands seem poetic.

I had a list of things to do in Manhattan and a plan to get them all done in the morning and be back in Brooklyn with plenty of time before I had to pick up Roan from school.  The first stop was Adorama where I was finally bringing a bunch of great but unused photo equipment that had been left to me by June, a family friend, when she died.  It was all 35mm Nikon stuff and since I've hardly touched any camera other than my point and shoot or my iPhone in over 3 years, I decided to trade it in for a new digital point and shoot.  Trading took ages because the guy handed me a scrap of receipt paper with numbers scribbled all over it that I had to decipher in order to figure out what he was willing to give me for everything.  Then I waffled over which camera to buy for ages.  I got the Fujifilm x20. So far so good.

Since I had to drive in to the city and knew I would be forking over $50 in parking I decided to make a quick trip to the Container Store, which, if you are a bit OCD like me is a veritable Pandora's box of potential storage scenarios.  I don't even know how long I was there but when I emerged I had less than 2 hours to finish up and make it back to Brooklyn.  Fine, I had one more stop to pick up a new coffee table downtown and had to grab lunch. No problem. 

Then suddenly, on the side street of Bed Bath and Beyond, sat a man holding a Graflex Speed Graphic camera with two flashes. Both he and his camera were of an equal classic vintage that one cannot simply pass by.  

I asked him about the camera and why the two flashes.  He told me that one, a blue bulb with a crinkled silver foil inside could only fire off one shot per bulb and that they didn't make the bulbs any more so he had the other one as back up.  "How do you decide who is worthy of one of those bulbs?" I asked, and he said "whenever the mood strikes me". He took a wallet out of his breast pocket and out of it pulled a card with this photo on it:

Jacqueline Bouvier (pre Kennedy), the "Inquiring Photographer Girl" for the Washington Times-Herald

My man on the street then said that his name was Louis Mendes and that he had taken this photo with that same camera in 1952 before she met JFK.  "Google me!" he said. I told him that I used to shoot with a 4x5 in college but that I had just hocked all of this old equipment to buy a digital point and shoot.  It sounded more like a confession than a statement, as though this was the end of my steady technical decline into an abyss of convenience over artistry.  He asked if I was a photographer.  

I always hedge at the moment people ask me that and I don't  know why.  I've been shooting since I was about 13 (with a Zeiss that June gave me, no less)  regardless of where I was, who I was with, or whether or not anyone was paying me to do so  (mostly not).  If I am not a photographer then I don't know what I am, but somehow my inability to properly monetize my talents has made me sheepish about talking about myself as such.  I sort of waffled and said I still shoot but I'm a mom, I'm raising my son, etc, and he said "So?  Lots of women do both nowadays".  Sigh. I didn't want to engage in a debate about the value of working vs. stay at home moms, the costs of childcare, health insurance, the current state of affairs in publishing etc. "Can I take your picture?" I asked instead, and he said "sure". So I did. With my iPhone.

Louis Mendes

He then offered to take a picture of me with his camera for $20.  I said I would pay if I could take a picture of him with his camera.  It's very funny because we were doing the same tap dance that street photographers do when we are trying to sweet talk a stranger into becoming a subject.  He agreed and then produced another Polaroid camera from his briefcase so he could hold his signature camera in the portrait.  I guessed this was not the first time he had become the subject of his own photograph.

He set me up with the camera, set the aperture and the shutter speed, cocked the trigger, focused the camera and handed it to me.  The shot came out a blur.  Hmm.  He set up another shot .  Even more blurry.  He looked perplexed.  Then he realized he had forgotten to lock the bellows, which was heartening to me as the man has been shooting for over 50 years.  I shot another and handed the camera back to him.  He looked at me with a smile; the camera was out of film. We both burst into laughter.

"OK this one is going to work, I've got a feeling", and indeed it did.  He took out a little envelope and slid the Polaroid into a mat and signed it. This is his schtick but it's a wonderful schtick.  I was so much happier to pay $20 for this than the $50 I was about to pay for parking my damn car in midtown.  My encounter with Mr. Mendes put me square in the middle of Friday afternoon traffic on Canal Street and the rest of the day tumbled into chaos but I was too excited about my little street memento to be bothered. 

The front of the envelope is a classic!

The inside, signed, with my Polaroid
I Googled him when I got home.  The math was a little iffy (he would have been 12 years old when he took that pic of Jackie O if the internet dates I found are correct) but he is apparently a street photography legend in NYC.  The NY Times did this piece on him.
I love that he has been doing this for so long.  I am sure it's not really about the camera, although it does lure the customers.  For him, like for me, it's about the interaction, the moment of familiarity and companionship with a total stranger on the street and the willingness of people to believe, even in a city full of hustlers, that one person's vision of another is worth something.

06 October 2013


NB:  I'm playing catch up on my blog posts so I'll be jumping around time-wise.  Today we are back in Prague!

In addition to being nightmares in transit I'm afraid that three-year-olds also make lousy tourists.  Not for lack of trying, but no matter what we did or where went in Europe this summer with Roan our experience was always colored by the fickle whims of Roan.  

We did get to see the old town in Prague but mostly just the outsides of buildings while in hot pursuit of a sprinting toddler.  We couldn't go anywhere that required waiting in line, staying still, or silence.  Luckily the weather was stellar and there were plenty of street performers and public art to keep us entertained.

Guard outside of Prague Castle. Holy shit it was SO hot I don't know how this guy stood there all day.
That says "Traditional Czech Toys and Souvenirs".  I'm sorry but that thing looks creepy.
Yep, this pretty much sums it up
I love photographing tourists photographing themselves
This is why the world hates American tourists. Blech.

Prague is a town full of bizarre curiosities and a love of the macabre.  I remember my sister telling me about St. Nicolas day which is like Christmas meets Halloween. This video illustrates it perfectly ( and hilariously)   St. Nicolas Day in the Czech Republic

There are dudes like this all over the place
Ceci n'est pas une Pipe
A public bench
Very creative, but I'm not sure how useful this fire hydrant would be in the event of fire.

My god it is beautiful, though.

View from Caitlin's apartment (after about 50 flights of stairs)
Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter
Vineyards right in the middle of the city
Swans are a big thing in Prague
View from Petrin Hill

There was a proliferation of public and interactive street art and street performers. It all felt very young and vibrant, a nice balance for such an old city.

A "Before I die" wall
Not exactly public art but very interactive and great to have on a hot day
A girl fell in love with Roan on the street and gave him her watermelon ukelele to try
The John Lennon Wall
The signature song in the Ladybug class at the Coop School last year was "Yellow Submarine" so Roan just had to request it.  While eating a giant sausage.

We tried to get him to play it himself back at Caity's apartment