Sunday, August 11, 2013

It's Greater In Decatur: August 11, 2013

Several years ago I was driving with a friend from Australia.  A colorful street sign boldly welcomed us as we entered downtown Decatur, Georgia.  When she saw the sign she announced, "oh, so we're in "'Deck-a-tour'."  I chuckled and responded, it's not Deck-a-tour it's "Da-cate-er."  She looked completely disappointed and simply said, "that's so peasant."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

We Want Justice: July 21, 2013

Shortly after the first speaker began addressing the large crowd gathered at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building in downtown Atlanta, the rain started.  As the rally for Trayvon Martin moved forward, the rain got heavier and heavier.  But the rain did not deter the crowd in demanding justice for Trayvon.  There were so many poignant images in the crowd, including one particular sign.  The sign was soaked from the pounding rain.  Although the green, gold and silver letters were peeling off the sign, the raindrops decorated the letters of Trayvon’s name like shiny, valuable jewels.  Yes, the sign was battered, but the message was still perfectly clear.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon's Wedding: July 14, 2013

The chairs are lined up perfectly.  The grass is freshly cut and beautiful.  The decorations are impeccable.  It’s time for Trayvon’s wedding.  But there’s no Trayvon.  There’s no bride.  There’s no best man; just rows of empty white chairs on the green grass with no one to fill them.      

For Trayvon’s family, there will be no proms, no graduations, and no wedding because a grown man with a gun thought Trayvon was a punk who wasn’t going to get away this time.  That grown man followed him and fired a bullet into his chest that brought the teenager’s life to a screeching halt.  Does it really matter what happened between the following and the shooting?  Does it matter who threw the first punch, or whose screams were on the recording?  Trayvon did not create the situation that led to his death (unless buying Skittles and a drink is so punishable).  And if he did defend himself, wouldn’t we all have done the same thing if we were being followed on a dark rainy night by an angry silhouette with a gun?

Though the shooter was tragically mistaken, the “good” news was that we could take solace in knowing that the criminal justice system would surely bring Trayvon’s killer to justice, right?  WRONG!  Instead, the killer’s actions were somehow deemed justified because the situation that he created caused to him “fear” for his own life.  I will admit that I did not watch every minute of the trial and I’m not familiar with every piece of evidence.  But I don’t have to know all of the evidence to believe that there is something wrong with a system that allowed the killer to walk out of the courthouse a free man.   

I can’t say with certainty that Trayvon Martin would have someday put on a Tuxedo with his parents on the front row beaming like parents do at a son’s wedding.  But didn’t he deserve the choice? And didn’t his parents deserve more than being tortured by the images of their son’s lifeless body lying in the grass in that Florida subdivision.  Instead of front row wedding seats, Trayvon’s parents were presented with prime seats to the Seminole County Courthouse so that the injustice could play out in right front of their eyes.  Thank God they were smart enough to pass on those seats when the verdict was rendered.               

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I Don't Normally Do This....

We’ve all heard those words at one time or another, right?  Check out what happened to me a couple of years ago.  

 I had gotten a ticket for having window tint that was too dark.  Since it was an equipment violation I had to get it removed or replaced before going to court.  I went to a local tint shop to get a quote.  A nicely-dressed gentleman in his 60’s came out to greet me and gave me what seemed like a pretty reasonable price.  I told him I’d probably come back later and get it done.  Before I could get in the car he motioned for me to come closer.  I hesitantly moved toward him and said he understood if I didn’t want to spend that much.  He moved even closer and looked around as if to make sure that no one else was listening, and mumbled under his breath, “I don’t normally do this, after all, I am a pastor, but if you got 20 bucks I’ll give you a receipt so you can tell the judge you got the tint taken out.”  I looked him like he was crazy and got the hell out of there.

Lessons:  (1) When someone tells you that they don’t normally do something, they probably do it all the time, and (2) I’m glad I don’t go to his church!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Welcome to the World: June 30, 2013

Few things are as exciting as welcoming a new baby into the family.  As I watched my precious little cousin sleep yesterday, I couldn't help but wonder what the future will be like for someone born in 2013.  When he is my age, what gadgets will he take for granted that don't even exist today?  What diseases will be cured? What will be the impact of climate change?  What will race relations be like?  After so many thoughts of the future raced through my head, I shifted gears and began to think back to my childhood, fondly recalling the days of playing outside all day with my friends and cousins.  I'd get on my bike in the morning and ride from house to house to house, often not returning until it was time for dinner.  We didn't have a lot of money or the newest toys, but we had a close family and a strong sense of community.  I hope I can have a positive impact on my cousin's life like so many people impacted mine. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

It's Summer, Now Get Out of the House!: June 23, 2013

It was August 2011.  I had a ton of things to do but my desire to get out of the house and take a drive was much stronger than my desire to stay home and check things off my to-do list.  I needed to hit the road.  After convincing a friend to come along for the ride, we headed north on Georgia 400 without a particular destination in mind.  We ended up in a small town called Dahlonega, which happens to be the site of the first major gold rush in the United States.  After a nice lunch in the quaint town square we stopped by the Chamber of Commerce for some guidance on the next stop on this spontaneous Saturday outing.  We started leafing through the maze of travel pamphlets when one of them caught my eye.  Amicalola Falls.  I'd never heard of it, but it was close and offered a nice hike, beautiful scenery, and the tallest cascading waterfall in the southeast.  

Amicalola Falls State Park was a short drive from Dahlonega.  Visitors can choose different paths to reach the falls, each with its own degree of difficulty.  Of course we chose the more challenging trail with staircases that scale the Georgia mountainside and end at the fall.  Tackling the trail and those stairs on an August afternoon was not for the meek; so much for it being cooler in the mountains.  We passed several people along the way who either decided to turn around, or just needed a short breather.  Although my legs were on fire and my shirt was drenched, there was no way we were stopping.  After tackling what seemed like nature's version of the StairMaster, there it was - 729 feet of mesmerizing cascading water known as Amicalola Falls.  Sure, there are more majestic waterfalls and more scenic trails in the world, but on this Saturday afternoon Amicalola Falls provided me with everything I needed.  As I watched and listened to the sounds of this natural wonder, I couldn't help but think that sometimes you've just got to get out of the house and do something!  As summer begins, I challenge you to create your own adventure.  Oh, and please be sure tell me all about it!          

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Imaginary Hurdle: June 9, 2013

Have you ever had a vision for something but just couldn't get it to come together despite your best efforts?  That's how I felt about this photo.  I knew that I wanted to capture the runner in mid-air but the "pose" had to be perfect; the arms, the legs, the hair and the face all had to be just right .  Even if the runner did her part, there was the small matter of  my timing with the camera, which also had to be perfect.  Well, it turned out that it was very difficult to get all of these elements to come together to create the perfect image.  So I shot and shot and shot, at least 15 or 20 times.  And then finally, I got it! When I looked at the photo, I couldn't help but feel the sense of triumph represented by the hurdling runner.  I started to  imagine  her in a different setting, perhaps as a hurdler in the Olympics.  Then I thought, yes, she appears to be hurdling but there is no actual hurdle behind her, under her, or in front of her.  I got a little irritated with myself for creating a hurdle, albeit imaginary, when there was nothing facing her but green grass and blue skies.  That thought led to a question: how often in life do we fail to take action because of imaginary hurdles that we put between ourselves and our goals? 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Stars and Stripes: May 26, 2013

With Memorial Day upon us, I thought I would find my best photo of a flag to commemorate the holiday.  I found one close-up photo of a large flag blowing in the wind just outside the Washington Monument.  It could have been a post card.  But tomorrow is Memorial Day, NOT the 4th of July.  On this occasion, no shiny and bright wind-blown flag from grounds of the Washington Monument could compare to this faded and tattered flag that unpretentiously  honors the grave of one of our brave veterans who gave his life for our country.          

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Legacy of a Best Friend: May 19, 2013

Most weeks when I choose my photo of the week, I have a pretty good idea what I'm looking for before I even start scanning the external hard drive.   This week I was looking for something bold and dramatic.   Somehow I ended up on this photo.  I couldn't move past it.  It's so simple and so powerful.  Two young girls walking along a path holding hands.  No games, no toys, no cell phones; just two best friends.  It made me think of my best friends from childhood.  Some I still talk to, while others have faded into the mystery of time.  In retrospect, a funny thing happens when we go through different stages of life.  We gain new friends and, sometimes, new "best friends."   We might have a best friend from high school, another from college, one from our first job, and another from our first neighborhood, etc.  Sometimes that means that the pool of "best friends" grows, but more often we end up losing some along the way through disagreement, relocation, life changes, or, sadly, even death.

When I think about my best friends, I realize that many of them have left a "best friend legacy," i.e., some lasting impact on my everyday day life, whether they introduced me to a favorite restaurant, encouraged me to try a different food, or taught me a new sport, skill or favorite expression.  One of my best friends from college and I used to complain about the long wait and high prices at the barbershop.  We thought our problem was solved when we learned that a classmate was a barber who would come to your room to cut your hair!  Perfect, except our classmate proved to be a little too busy and unreliable, so we decided to buy our own clippers and cut our own hair.  The only problem was that he didn't trust me to cut his hair and I didn't trust him to cut mine, so we each cut our own.  Initially, it was a little scary learning how to hold the mirror, adjust the guards, and get a straight edge, but eventually I got the hang of it, and I never went to a barber again.  Not only that, but every time I cut my hair (or, now, shave my head), I always think of him and how much money and time he has saved me over the years.

So I will leave you with a question: what are some of your best friend legacies?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Opposite Directions: May 5, 2013

Last week a close friend moved to the west coast.  She had been living there for a few months, but now the move was official.  As I reflected on our friendship, my eyes became fixed on a photo hanging in my office.  In the photo, which I took in Santa Monica, a man and woman are riding bicycles on the same path, but going in opposite directions.  I looked at the photo again and wondered if the path is a circle that would allow the riders to meet again, or if the path is a straight line that will have them riding in opposite directions for the rest of time.      

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jefferson: April 28, 2013

Washington, DC has so many great memorials, museums and other places of interest.  My favorite DC landmark is the Jefferson Memorial.  I love sitting on the steps facing the Tidal Basin and watching the excitement on the faces of the tourists.  You never know what language or culture you will experience on any given day.  I could sit all day and soak it all in.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Blowing Rock: April 21, 2013

I miss Blowing Rock.  When I lived in North Carolina, Blowing Rock was my getaway spot. The town was close enough to make a last-minute weekend trip, or even a day trip.  I loved the scenic, twisting, turning journey to get there.  The town offers incredible vistas, unique shops and galleries, bed-and-breakfast inns, plentiful restaurants and even an outlet mall.  But I did not go to Blowing Rock to shop.  The lure of Blowing Rock was the peace and serenity attached to the mountain views.  In addition to being the name of the town, there is also a legendary cliff known as The Blowing Rock, which lies thousands of feet above the beautiful Johns River Gorge.  The cliff is named The Blowing Rock because the walls of the gorge force the winds to sweep up with such force that light objects cast over the cliff are blown back to the cliff. This phenomena prompted a Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” cartoon about “the only place in the world where snow falls upside down.” The Blowing Rock is also the focus of  a legendary story about two Native American lovers.  The following is an account of the Legend of The Blowing Rock quoted from The Blowing Rock website.

It is said that a Chickasaw chieftan, fearful of a white man’s admiration for his lovely daughter, journeyed far from the plains to bring her to The Blowing Rock and the care of a squaw mother. One day the maiden, daydreaming on the craggy cliff, spied a Cherokee brave wandering in the wilderness far below and playfully shot an arrow in his direction. The flirtation worked because soon he appeared before her wigwam, courted her with songs of his land and they became lovers, wandering the pathless woodlands and along the crystal streams.

One day a strange reddening of the sky brought the brave and the maiden to The Blowing Rock. To him it was a sign of trouble commanding his return to his tribe in the plains. With the maiden’s entreaties not to leave her, the brave, torn by conflict of duty and heart, leaped from The Rock into the wilderness far below. The grief-stricken maiden prayed daily to the Great Spirit until one evening with a reddening sky, a gust of wind blew her lover back onto The Rock and into her arms. From that day a perpetual wind has blown up onto The Rock from the valley below. 

I have to concede that I have never tossed an object off The Blowing Rock to see if it would be blown back.  Nor have I seen the snow fall upside down.  It doesn't matter whether those things are true or not.  I like The Blowing Rock just the way it is.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seven Seas: April 14, 2013

No, I was not alive back in the the 50's, but I did take this photo.  I think the photographer's eye is trained to survey the environment and focus in on interesting scenes, patterns and colors.  This scene revealed itself as I drove in Coral Gables, Florida.  In the midst of the traffic, I was drawn to the colors of the Seven Seas restaurant.  The vintage automobile parked outside was the icing on the cake.  An quick (and probably illegal) u-turn landed me in the parking lot.  I walked around surveying different angles until I got just the shot I wanted.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Standing Out in the Crowd: April 7, 2013

In 2005 I invited a very talented artist from Australia to Atlanta to participate in the Atlantis Music Conference.  During the time that she was here, we went to visit the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Georgia. There was a lot of interesting memorabilia and many interesting displays.  One that caught my attention was a case full of guitars.  Visually I was struck by the beauty of the instruments and the patterns they created.  I loved the different textures as well as the intricate combination of wood and steel.  But what really caught my attention was the red guitar in the middle.  I immediately associated the guitars with people.  Each guitar had its own unique features, colors and textures, yet they all worked the same way to produce music, but only when they were carefully tuned and placed in the right hands.  And then there was the red one.  We all know a red guitar or two; those people who shine and stand out in the crowd no matter who's around them.  In fact, I was with a red guitar.  I looked at her and smiled, and moved to the next display.     

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Peace in a Field: March 31, 2013

This photo makes me think of cheeseburgers.  Let me explain.  Several years ago I was hanging out with a friend from the midwest who was craving a White Castle cheeseburger.  Even though there were no White Castles in Atlanta, I agreed to drive to the closest location so that she could satisfy her craving, and I could try one for the first time.  We got in the car and entered White Castle into the navigation system.  I held my breath waiting for the results.  The closest one was in Nashville, about four hours away.  Off we went; yes, four hours just to go to White Castle.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Fast forward to 2013 and I can barely remember what I thought about the food, but I do remember the adventure of the journey to get it.  We didn't do any sight-seeing in Nashville; we just ate and immediately headed back to Atlanta.  On the way back we stopped at a gas station in the-middle-of-nowhere-Tennessee.  As the gas flowed into my car, something told me to look across road, where I saw this incredibly calm and peaceful scene.  It was such a contrast to the randomness and energy of our road trip.  I stood there and soaked it in even after I'd finished pumping the gas.  Of course I had my camera so I was able to bring this little piece of peace back to Atlanta. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The End of the Tracks: March 24, 2013

Yesterday I was looking for a specific photo to send to a friend who wanted to use it for a product label. I knew I was in the right folder but I just kept hitting the right arrow button over and over again looking for the photo.  I quickly scrolled past these train tracks without paying much attention.  Although it wasn't the one I was looking for, I had to scroll back and take a second look.  As my eyes naturally flowed to the end of the tracks, I flashed back to the day several years ago when I took this photo.  I remember standing there on the bridge wondering what lied up ahead, beyond the trees.  Was there another bridge, a river, a mountain, a barrier, a small town?  As I stood there, an elderly man came walking by me.  He seemed friendly and I asked him if he knew what was up ahead.  He said he didn't, but suggested that I go see for myself, which I was curious enough to do.  When I got to the end of the bridge I climbed down the rocky hillside and started walking down the tracks.  As I  walked, I soon realized that I couldn't find the "end" that I'd seen from the bridge.  Just more tracks, more trees, and an old man standing on the bridge watching me learn that the end was not in sight.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Photo of the Day: March 17, 2013

Bored in a room.  That's how I found myself.  But then again, how can you ever be bored if you have a camera and something to shoot?  I was at a friend's house waiting for her to get ready.  As usual, it was taking forever.  At least it was until I noticed the way her candles were "floating" on the glass tabletop that was nestled up against the orange wall.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Photo of the Week: March 10, 2013

Several years ago I got kicked out of my own house by a friend who was hosting a baby shower.  Lucky for me, it was a beautiful spring day so I ventured out with my camera in search of some great shots.  This a shot of the Georgia State Capital.  On this particular day I found the tulips more interesting than the Gold Dome itself.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Photo of the Week: March 3, 2013

It's March.  By now I thought I'd be in a spring frame of mind.  Spring usually comes early in the deep south, but if this weekend is any indication, warm weather and blooming flowers are a long way away.  The cold air and snow flurries this weekend took me back the last time I experienced a real snowstorm.  It was in Maryland  in 2009.  It's funny how a fresh layer of snow can make anything beautiful, including this old tractor.      

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Photo of the Week: February 24, 2013

    Sunrises and sunsets are a daily blessing.  Each one is completely unique and beautiful in its own way.  It doesn't matter if you are at the beach or in the city; a great sunset can break out anywhere.  This one was taken in Solomons Island, MD.   

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Photo of the Week: February 10, 2013

The sky has always been one of my favorite subjects to shoot.  The beautiful thing about the sky is that it is constantly changing.  No two days are exactly alike.  It can also change very quickly, which was my fear on this particular day.  I was in downtown Decatur, GA, headed toward a friend's birthday gathering.  I had walked a couple of blocks when I looked up and saw this beautiful, heavenly sight.  I remembered that my camera was in my trunk so I raced back to the car, grabbed it, and snapped a few shots.  There's just something incredibly divine about those rays of light.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When Everybody Wins! Felt Like A Loss

I'm involved in a volunteer reading program called Everybody Wins! If it is available in your city I HIGHLY recommend it. I'm assigned to a 3rd grader. Reading days are Tuesday or Thursday during the student's lunch break. I usually read on Tuesdays but because of an ongoing scheduling conflict (more about that later), I have to switch to Thursdays. No big deal I thought; I'm just switching from one day to another. Well when I told him about the switch, I watched his expression go from excitement to confusion to sadness. I asked him what was wrong and he said, "now I'm going to have to wait so many days for you to come." Man, I was not prepared for that response. It really messed me up.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Photo of the Week: January 27, 2013

I will be the first to admit that it has taken too long for me to post in the new year. But yesterday I found some inspiration in the form of a comforter and some towels that hadn't quite made it upstairs. Instead they were resting happily on the couch. Throw in a kaleidoscope effect and this is the result.