Returning Home

Trips to Columbus, Ohio are always confusing to me. I never know which direction should be referred to as “going home.” I once wrote that home is where your bed is. By that criteria, I guess Chattanooga is our home destination. However, having spent nearly 40 years living in Columbus, the paltry 3 we’ve lived in Chattanooga have not been enough to erase the feeling of returning home when we head North on 75.

This last trip North ended the longest stretch I’ve gone to date between trips to Columbus. It’s been long enough that I can’t actually remember when my last trip up was, but I know it wasn’t in this calendar year. With my remaining family all living elsewhere these days and many of my friends having moved away as well, it sometimes catches me off guard how much Columbus still feels like home. When I think about what makes it feel homey, here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. I know how to get to every place I want to go without using GPS. If one route has traffic, I know another route, also without GPS.
  2. I can come up with restaurants I want to eat at based on style of food, quality of adult beverages, particular favorite dishes, or outdoor ambience. (I confess, I did have to check with several restaurants on whether they allow dogs on their patio or not–Tisen came along on this trip.)
  3. I know where the “bad” parts of town are.
  4. I know where the best camera shops in town are and which ones carry Canon gear.
  5. I have a doctor and a dentist there.
  6. I know where to go for a safe pedicure without an appointment.
  7. Graeter’s Ice Cream is available just about everywhere–even Costco.
  8. The biggest problem is trying to fit everyone we want to see into a few days and realizing we’re not going to be able to get to see many of the people we’d love to catch up with.
  9. We have a place to stay where there is a room just for us and our dog is welcome (and offers from several other friends to stay with them)–I guess we do have a bed in Columbus.

This trip was timed around the Columbus Guitar Show. It was my first time working a show (although I’ve attended a couple before). Manning the booth and giving away T-shirts to people who participated in my marketing campaign turned out to be both fun and exhausting.

One of the best things about our timing was that we were in Chattanooga for the beginning and end of the Riverbend Festival, but missed the middle of the 9-day event. This means we didn’t get tired of the extra people and traffic in the downtown area. And, we were home in time for the fireworks–out of all the fireworks in Chattanooga, the Riverbend fireworks are by far the best and longest display.

The Small Things

Thursday night, I stayed up late getting my gear together for an early morning shoot. I hoped to sleep in until 6AM. But this was a shoot different from my normal fare. And when I’m shooting something new, I dream about it all night and, inevitably, wake up around 4AM. Half excited and half anxious–much like Christmas in childhood: the impatient anticipation of something new and the simultaneous fear of disappointment.

I eventually gave up on going back to sleep and got ready to go at a leisurely pace–after all, everything I needed was packed and ready to go.

Then, it was time to leave. Time to get there early and check out the place in person before anyone else arrived. Time to see if Google Earth was enough of a preview to make choosing a location from the internet possible. And then, it happened. The thing I am unable to learn. The thing I fail at nearly every single day and then turn around and fail at it once again, often even the same day.

My car key was no where to be found.

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time reading research on memory, working on improving memory, and observing people losing their memory (and I am not only referring to myself here). What I believe about memory is that:

  1. we are more likely to remember something when we are internally motivated to remember it.
  2. we remember repetitive things better than net-new things. For example, if I put my car key in a certain place every day for months and then stop remembering to put them there and put them in different places every day for a few days, I am going to remember the place I was putting them over and over again first. I will have to reconstruct history from other memories to get to where the latest place is I’ve left it.
  3. remembering to put something in a specific place when I’m done with it is more difficult than remembering where I left it. This is likely a difference in motivation. When I come home, I have no immediate need to use the car key, I just want it out of my pocket. When I am leaving home, I must find the car key or I will be searching for my bike lock key instead.

All of this leads me to question if perhaps I am agoraphobic at some deep, unconscious level. As soon as I get home, I forget that I will have the need to leave again. I misplace the means by which I can access transportation. Is the problem that I (someone who believes I love to travel, go out, socialize, be in the woods) deep down underneath my extroverted shell am terrified to step outside my home? This could put a major damper on going nomad in the future!

I did find my key and make it to the shoot, but I’m not ready to share any of those shots yet. Instead, I’ve shared a few shots of “small things” from an earlier shoot.

Jelly Bellies

Last Saturday, I ran errands–one of my least favorite activities.  I had a plan.  I needed to go to MacAuthority to get my broken iPhone replaced.  It’s on the other side of town, so I decided to go to the Target out there.

Target is a dangerous place for me–they carry 2 pound bags of Jelly Bellies.  I love Jelly Bellies.  I eat one piece at a time.  Each piece releases intense flavor that requires some thought to determine what it is.  One bite might be buttered popcorn.  The next might be toasted marshmallow.  Every once in a while, you get a less pleasant surprise in the form of coconut.  But then you go to the next one and it’s something like cafe-au-lait and it wipes away the less favorite flavor that proceeded it.  It’s just fun.

After collecting the list of things I could find, I wandered around the store looking for x-acto knife blades for my husband.  I checked the school supplies, the scrapbooking supplies, the hardware section.  No luck.  I got out my broken iPhone and risked getting glass shards in my finger tips to search on Target’s website.  Target doesn’t carry x-acto knife blades.

I headed to the cash register, put my collection of stuff on the belt, opened my purse, and discovered that while I had Tisen’s vet records, notes from a meeting, a USB drive, 2 gum wrappers, 3 lip glosses, a set of keys I didn’t recognize, and a pair of pliers in my purse, I did not have my wallet.

I made the 20 minute drive back home to get my wallet, getting lost only twice.  I made it straight back to the store and paid for my stuff.  Unfortunately, one bag of my stuff had erroneously been returned to the shelves.  So, I got to go shop a second time for the missing items.  How I hate to shop.

When I got to the car, I immediately opened the Jelly Bellies and set them on the center console for easy access.

The first turn sent my bag of Jelly Bellies flopping backwards, dumping a handful of joy into the back of the mini-van.  I repositioned the bag, cursing under my breath.  The next turn sent my Jelly Bellies forward, dumping another big handful in the front of the car, where they promptly rolled under my feet.  I kicked them out of the way with a grunt.

MacAuthority didn’t have a replacement phone in stock.

I returned to the car and decided I should pick up the Jelly Bellies before returning home.  There’s nothing I hate worse the wasting a good Jelly Belly.  I blew the dog hair off them and decided germs are a great way to build the immune system.

As I munched on my tainted Jelly Bellies, my frustration melted away as Very Cherry exploded in my mouth.  Were it not for Jelly Bellies, it would have been my head exploding.

The Plight of the Purple Monkey

Purple Monkey after his vibratorectomy

Purple Monkey after his vibratorectomy

The saga of Purple Monkey began last weekend.  I had to run errands–we ran out of trash bags.  This has never happened before.  This is the one aspect of running a household that I’m usually on top of.  It started with paranoia about running out of toilet paper, which goes back to a guy I dated when I was in college who was forever out of toilet paper.  The outages led to improvisation that led to clogged toilets.  Having a father who wrote a book about plumbing, this was sacrilege.  In the end, I came away with a compulsion to stockpile toilet paper.

Soon, my compulsion expanded to include other household supplies.  Trash bags, plastic wrap, toothpaste, dental floss, paper towels, hand soap, dish soap, laundry detergent, bath soap, and a variety of “daily needs” items are all well-stocked in my house.

My husband teases me that I think “we’re almost out” of toilet paper when we have less than 24 rolls in the house.  When the toilet paper supply dwindles, I take stock of anything else running low, make a dash to Target, and buy in bulk.  It’s a system that works for me.

The offending part

The offending part

However, one of the side effects of having a housekeeper is that she takes the trash out and we rarely use more than one kitchen trash bag a week, so I never see the level of the trash bag supply anymore.  I was caught completely off guard.

I made an emergency run to Target.  Tisen went with me and waited patiently in the car.  After, I took him into PetSmart to stock up on poop bags and, of course, let him pick out his own toy.

He chose Purple Monkey.  At least, I thought it was a monkey.  Whatever it is, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog, it has a bizarre vibrator inside of it that makes it jiggle.  Tisen didn’t like the vibration, so, for the first time since we’ve had him, he chewed on a toy–he broke the vibrator inside.  That wasn’t enough to satisfy him.

Purple Monkey's trap door

Purple Monkey’s trap door

Today, he decided the vibrator had to come out.  He pulled at it until he got it lose from the fabric it was glued to.  I finished the job for him, afraid he was going to hurt his teeth.  Tisen seemed relieved.

Purple Monkey has a flap on his backside held shut with velcro.  The flap was intended to allow for battery changes.  As I examine this toy, I have to wonder if the designer had every seen a dog at play in his/her life.  What dog would want a toy with a giant motor in it?

Tisen treats his toys more gently than any dog I’ve ever seen, yet even he couldn’t stand that stupid motor.  It was made by Toys-R-Us Pets.  I suspect it was considered a choking hazard for children so they relabeled as a pet toy, but maybe this is just my paranoia.

Tisen contentedly plays with his old friend, Jack, while I shoot Purple Monkey

Tisen contentedly plays with his old friend, Jack, while I shoot Purple Monkey

Night Lights

The light on our Time Capsule reflected in the top of the cable box it sits on

The light on our Time Capsule reflected in the top of the cable box it sits on

Have you ever noticed how many tiny little lights there are glowing away in our homes these days?  I had to banish all electronics (besides my iPhone, which is also my alarm clock) from our bedroom several years ago because of the lights.

The glowing apple is almost enough light to ready by

The glowing apple is almost enough light to ready by

After struggling with sleep issues, I was educated on ways to improve my sleep environment.  The first rule was to remove all light sources from the room, including my clock.  I had no idea how bright our room was until we started removing the lights.

Room darkening blinds, the removal of all electronics, and closing the interior doors revealed we had a bright light on an alarm panel permanently mounted on the bedroom wall.  I ended up using an old pair of biking shorts wrapped around the panel to cover the light (that was always a little awkward to explain on the rare occasions we showed our bedroom to a guest).  When we turned off the last light as we went to bed, we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces.  We both slept much better.

The only symbol I recognize is the power symbol.  I have no idea what the other two lights on our cable box mean.

The only symbol I recognize is the power symbol. I have no idea what the other two lights on our cable box mean.

Once I was used to sleeping in a totally dark room, I became hyper-sensitive to lights in hotel rooms.  I have to unplug alarm clocks and carefully position the light-blocking curtain, sometimes moving furniture to hold the curtain against the window to prevent light leakage.

Glow of a power button next to stray light coming through the vent

Glow of a power button next to stray light coming through the vent

Once, at a conference in Vegas, my hotel room, a ridiculously large suite, had a sunken seating area.  Because there were steps down to the seating area, lights were installed in the floor for safety.  Unfortunately, they didn’t turn off.  I’m sure the housekeeper wondered why I kept leaving a towel on the floor, but that was the only way I could get to sleep–cover the lights.  I couldn’t seem to remember to pick it up in the morning.

Laptop lights are deceptively bright--a sleeping laptop in the room is enough light to keep me up

Laptop lights are deceptively bright–a sleeping laptop in the room is enough light to keep me up

Tonight, looking around for a photographic subject after working past sunset, I noticed all the glowing lights in the office.  I found myself wondering what they would look like in photographs.

Perhaps they would be more interesting in a wide angle shot of a totally dark room with all these little lights glowing like a constellation in color?  It was fun to try shooting them, though.  I try to remind myself it’s about the journey and not the destination.  🙂

Our own, tiny traffic light is actually the lights on a surge protector

Our own, tiny traffic light is actually the lights on a surge protector

Tisen was not very interested in my photographic experiment.  He was more interested in playing with his newest toy.  I was surprised he picked this toy when we stopped at PetSmart the other day.  It doesn’t have a squeaker in it.  This is usually a show-stopper when it comes to Tisen’s selection of toys.

This one has a strange vibrating device in it.  When you squeeze its paw, it vibrates in a rather strange, R-rated sort of way.  Tisen doesn’t like when it vibrates while he has it in his mouth.  I finally realized he wasn’t playing with it, he was trying to get it to stop vibrating–permanently.  He succeeded.

Tisen puts an end to the vibration in this toy

Tisen puts an end to the vibration in this toy

Blind Star

Adjusted with brighter whites

Adjusted with brighter whites

Getting new blinds had an unintended consequence.  I walked into the living room and discovered a new star in view.  A giant street light across the way suddenly got a new look.  Through the sheer fabric of the blind, the light burst into a star pattern.

It’s actually quite dramatic looking in person.  However, it presented more of a photographic challenge than I expected.  Through the lens, the beams of light spreading from the center light were more muted than with the naked eye.  I tried shooting with the inside lights on to see if it helped.  It just made the blind more apparent.  I tried shooting with longer and shorter exposure times.  Nothing seemed to make the light beams stand out the way they do in real life.

I tried many adjustments.  Making the light brighter made the blind in the foreground brighter as well.  If I were really industrious, I would try using Photoshop Elements to select only the light beams and lighten them individually, but I suspect I would end up with bright spots in the blinds since they stand in front of the beams.

Adjusted slightly darker

Adjusted slightly darker

It’s somewhat ironic that the object that creates the effect I want to capture is also the object that stands in the way of capturing it.

This is much like life.  Take having a job.  Having an income is what allows us to do all the things we want to do in life since, let’s face it, it all costs money.  But having a job also takes the vast majority of our time, leaving us with portions of weekends and a few weeks vacation in which to jam all of those things we enjoy doing.

Or look at having a home.  We want a nice place to live where things are comfortable and maybe even aesthetically pleasing.  Yet, having a home takes work that takes time away from enjoying the home as well as more time away from doing things away from home.

There are not too many things in life that aren’t a trade-off.  I suppose it’s a reality that you can’t have your cake and eat it too.  When we embarked on our little adventure over a year and a half ago, we envisioned having very little in the way of worldly goods.  Just enough clothes for me to have something to wear to work events besides a few days worth of casual wear.  A handful of dishes–just enough for one meal at a time.  Our bikes.  Our camping gear.  The computer gear I need to work.  My camera gear.  And the open road.

We thought we were ready to give up on having a home at all.  But, here we are, with new blinds, accumulating the trappings that not so long ago we were getting rid of.  The truth is, I like the blinds.  But, I find myself with mixed feelings.  Are they a nice decorative touch or the final sign that we are not going anywhere?

Home Again

There's a Golden Eagle perched in the Sycamore, but it was only visible through a scope

There’s a Golden Eagle perched in the Sycamore, but it was only visible through a scope

Perhaps you didn’t notice, but I was out of town for the past 3 days.  It was a work thing.  So, yes, another post with photos from the Sandhill Crane Festival.  While I would like to have lots of cool pictures from the Atlanta Marquis Hotel (where I did not get to stay because it was full by the time travel approval came through, but I did spend at least 12 hours a day there), it just wasn’t a good time to be lugging around my giant camera and tripod.

Adult Bald Eagle

Adult Bald Eagle

In fact, it wasn’t a good time to do anything.  Had I not been staying 2 blocks away, I might not have seen daylight for 3 days.  Several of us commented that we felt like we were in Vegas–no sense of time, confined to a conference center all day, moving from room to room, meeting to meeting, session to session, the only things missing were gambling and booze.

I did get to go out to dinner with some of the folks I work with whom I rarely get to see in person, which was great fun.  But, of course, it was well after dark (and even after bedtime the second night) by the time we went to dinner.

Adult Bald Eagle a little closer

Adult Bald Eagle a little closer

If you have never been to the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, it’s worth seeing. In fact, I need to plan a weekend in Atlanta that includes shooting the lobby.  I shot the Marquis lobby many years ago with my old PowerShot G3 and no tripod.  I would love to see what I could get with my current camera on a tripod.  If you want to see what it looks like, here’s the post with the old photos.

The thing about going to work events is that it sounds like fun, and some of it is fun, but it’s really tiring.  Pat and Tisen delivered me to Atlanta on Monday night.  We stayed in a La Quinta hotel a few miles North of the Marquis.  This is because La Quinta allows dogs.  They don’t even charge extra.

Three cranes circling the refuge

Three cranes circling the refuge

However, La Quinta is not in the best of locations and they don’t have the most comfortable of beds.  So, I started my 3 days already tired and slept less and worse the next two nights alone in a hotel around the corner from the Marquis.   Between limited sleep, walking around all day, eating crap, and being on my best behavior from 7AM to 11PM for 3 days, I’m pretty darn beat.

I think it’s probably the being on my best behavior part that’s so darn tiring–it’s be so much easier to just be myself.

Clearing the tree

Clearing the tree

The saving grace was that I was only a 2-hour drive away and in the same time zone.  Given that many of my colleagues were there from Europe and a few from Asia, I didn’t really feel like I could complain.  I’m feeling ready to go to bed (and to perhaps stay there through the weekend) none-the-less.

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Looking across the lake

Cow Tipping and Sky Scrapers

As the holidays approach kick-off, I find myself searching through old photos more frequently.  I’m thankful for old photos–they remind me of where I’ve come from and refresh the memories I’ve taken with me.

These images are from a photography workshop I went to back in Columbus, Ohio (I have to add “Ohio” now because when you live in Chattanooga, they usually assume you mean Columbus, TN or Columbus, GA).

As I review the images and look at the metadata, I realize just how many mistakes I made.  That, too, is a reminder of where I’ve come from.  Sometimes it’s nice to realize I am learning even if the process seems slow.

I ponder why these images all seem to have been shot with a wide open aperture, resulting in out-of-focus foregrounds and/or backgrounds.  These days, I like to see the entire scene in focus in most landscape shots.  The difference between having lots of depth of field and the images in the gallery probably comes down to the want of a tripod and low light conditions.

But what jumps out at me as I peruse these photos is that in over 40 years of living there, I had never really seen downtown Columbus before this day.

I had walked the streets more times than I can count.  I’d been to theaters, restaurants, shops, meetings, museums, and even two courthouses.

But I walked the streets with purpose, my mind busy with the reason I was there or the things I needed to do, focused on what was ahead or behind and not on what was around me.

I wonder if I returned to my home town how I would see it differently.  I think back to vague memories of the Columbus skyline from my childhood.  There was one sky scraper then, the Lincoln LeVeque Tower.  It remains the most interesting of the tall buildings in the Columbus skyline even though its height has been eclipsed for many decades by its neighbor, the Rhodes State Office Tower.

As I look at these images and see blocks and blocks of big-city buildings, I realize how much the town and I grew up together.

My family arrived in 1970 when Columbus was still called Cow Town.  In fact, even when we left, there were still cows grazing on the OSU Agriculture campus pastures well within the city limits.  It would be hard to grow up in Columbus without knowing what cow-tipping was.

At the same time, Columbus invested in revitalizing some of its worst neighborhoods, developing its downtown riverfront, creating an awesome metro park system, and attracting large businesses that built up the Columbus skyline.  In retrospect, I realize that Columbus grew up without me noticing.  It turned into a real city with real attractions.

None of that makes me regret our decision to move to Chattanooga, however.  Perhaps a mid-western metropolitan lifestyle is less important to me than views of Lookout Mountain.

The Green-Eyed Cyclops

I find myself obsessed with a single green light.  It’s not a traffic light, a light on a boat, or a light on a dashboard.  No, this is a light on a smoke detector.  As some of you may recall, this is not the first time I’ve had a gripe with a smoke detector.  However, this time, it’s personal.

We live on a busy street near downtown Chattanooga.  The noise and the light at night are the only things I don’t like about where we live.

To combat this (short of moving), I’ve taken to sleeping with ear plugs.  I also recently found inexpensive curtains that block light, dampen noise, and provide insulation all in one.

I was so excited to hang those curtains.  When the curtain rod arrived chipped on both finials, I was too impatient to send it back.  We colored the chips in with a sharpie and hung the rod with the chips facing the wall.  No one will ever know (well, except you).

The curtains did a beautiful job blocking the light.  The room went from dusk to could-be-in-a-cave in moments.

But then, as my eyes adjusted when I laid down the first night, there, staring down at me was the green-eyed monster.  What was just another part of the ambient light in the room before the curtains is now a giant, glaring green sun beaming straight into my eyes.  I try covering my head with a pillow.  This works until I run out of oxygen.  I try sleeping on one side.  When I roll to my back in my sleep, I am rudely awakened by the green spotlight in my eyes.

Pat, apparently suffering from more eye damage than I, barely notices.  In this case, however, I can’t get angry at him for not doing anything about it because we can’t reach the thing.  I would call maintenance, but I’m sure they will tell me they have some legal obligation to keep me awake all night.

I suggest we buy one of those suction dart guns and shoot at the light until we get one to stick, covering it up.  Pat, being more practical, suggests we use a pole to stick some opaque double-sided tape over the light.  We realize we don’t have a pole.  I wonder if we could get an opaque balloon and get it to float up to the smoke detector.  Or perhaps throw a rope over the truss and pull up an open umbrella to cast a shadow over the bed.  Maybe we should get a bed with a canopy?

At this point, I don’t care if we shoot the smoke detector with a real gun–I want that green light out!  This time, I am not alone.  Tisen, too, fears the green-eyed monster.  He can’t settle down until he finds a place to hide his head.

Tonight may be the night we figure out how to put out the eye of the cyclops!

Don’t Want to Miss This Syndrome

Once again, I find myself shooting the sunset.  Every time I sit down to process photos of the sunset taken from our building, I promise myself I will find a new perspective and not create yet another 100 shots that look like the thousands I’ve taken before.  But then, I look out the window, see amazing things, and grab my camera.

There are several problems with this.  For one thing, I tend to get a very busy foreground with a lot of crap in it I’d really like to get out of my pictures.  I can’t crop the crap out because I would lose much of the sky, which is the whole reason I wanted to shoot in the first place.

The choices that must be made when shooting!  Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just arrange the buildings and landscape with a remote control to best fit my vision?  More realistically, I keep thinking I will run across the street and up the mound so I can shoot over the trees.  But do I ever do that?  No.  I panic when I see the sky and don’t want to miss the perfect color even though I almost always end up deleting the first 10 minutes worth of shots because the color gets better as the sun disappears.

I believe I suffer from “Don’t Want to Miss This” syndrome.  Besides shooting sunsets from bad view points, I also find myself eating foods that no human should ever touch, attending events that are of no interest to me, and taking unreasonable risks (ask me how I once ended up in an ultralight crash).  I wonder if I were in a flock of sheep I would follow them over a cliff just to find out what that was like?

Restraining myself to the subject of photography for the purposes of this post, I find the “Don’t Want to Miss This” syndrome causes an all or nothing kind of pursuit of photos.  It just depends on whether my phobia of missing a shot is outweighing my phobia of missing an experience because I’m too wrapped up in camera gear to participate.  What I need is balance.

The thing about sunsets is that it’s easy enough to find out what time the sun will set.  And, I’m getting pretty good at predicting when we’ll have a great one (which is pretty much about 75% of the time), so seems like I should be able to just plan to go across the street at the right time and shoot.  Perhaps scheduling shoots a few times a week would help balance out the equation?  While I might still grab shots when I notice a sunset, at least I wouldn’t always be shooting from the same place.

Is it too late to change my New Year’s resolutions?