Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Got Some Time

Time Flies


It appears I must be relaxed.  Today, I actually took the time to complete an online survey.  I thought to myself:  "Wow, what's up with that?"

This week, as the world appears to slow down for a few days before it revs up again, just might be the time to catch up on some old stuff.  You know I can take the time to get my personal stuff in order before the onslaught of must read emails hits me.

Just maybe I can find a way to just look at things differently.  It's been an extended sabbatical but I've been very productive and in the process have managed to lose weight and take care of myself.  Of course, I found new ways of expressing myself with both my camera and with the written word.  The glass was never half empty.  This year I will worry more about the contents of the glass rather than the degree of fullness.

The journey takes me by both familiar and unfamiliar places.  I want to be ready to receive both.  That's the joy of photography, my true passion, I can make time stand still for fractions of time.  If I feel I missed something, I can always go back and look at my images.  In a way, I can double my pleasure and satisfaction.  Its a process that doubles my capacity for pleasure.  I've got time yet to do and be;  my glass is fuller than I thought.



Sunday, December 26, 2010

Comfort & Joy

Comfort and Joy


It's Christmas time, a time filled with year end activities:  travel, parties, misguided gifts, check out lines, and lots of food.  This year during all the commotion spend some time with yourself and pause.  Ask, what truly brings you "comfort and joy"?

Family far and near provide me both. Watching my family interact with each other and their pets fills me with immense joy. I realize that no amount of money or electronic toys could surpass the warmth they make me feel.  Even the warmth of the fireplace places a distant third.


The smiles at Christmas are broad and the time spent together is short.  Packages are quickly unwrapped but the memories seem to linger.


Perhaps that's it; the real Christmas secret is to create the memories that provide both comfort and joy.  This season, I wish you both comfort and joy.  Create your memories not only during the season, but also make them all year long.


Someone once told me that true love is not love until its given a way.  To that extent, I wish you the ability to share your love so that you can truly experience it in your lives.  It will endure many things including the physical obstacles we encounter in our bodies and our emotional journey baggage, pain and suffering.  The thoughts of giving love away unconditionally, however, always provide both comfort and joy.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Christmas Flames


It's not easy selecting the right image for my Christmas cards.  This year I tried to interject color, travel, season, and spirit.  Without a doubt these Chinese Buddhist candles reflect all four sentiments perfectly and are clearly within the purview of Christmas sentiment.

This year, I worked on keeping my dreams and spirits alive.  There were days my spirits were low and I reached out to you to rekindle my flames.  As strong as I wish to be, I recognize that I shine brightest when I am next to you.  I recognize that together our lights can make a beacon to guide others through the journey of the night.

We must understand journeys of life are comprised of collections of days and nights.  At the onset of darkness there's always the hope of light and day.  Christmas is the season of sharing.  You may think that you have nothing to give or share, but think again, you have your light.  Share it with someone this season.  The beauty of candle light is that it can be shared with other unlit candles at any time.  

There are some that share how God has been great to "them" and they credit God for all kinds of personal victories.  I see this on facebook all the time.  They claim He has selected them and only blessed them with his abundance, as if they had just won the God lotto.  This disturbs me.  I can't think of anything that thousands of unemployed have done to alienate God.  Why would God forsake them?  Did God forget them this season?  There are many that deserve to win the God lotto.  No I believe that God blesses the poor and the poor in spirit.   According to Christian teachings they, not the lucky, will inherit the earth and his Kingdom.   If you really want to win, share your light with those:  the downtrodden, the beat up, the homeless, the sick, the victims, and the unemployed.   "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their's is the Kingdom of God."

Christmas is not about your blessings.  It's about the blessings that you can give others.  Count your blessings and share them with others.  Light the world with your deeds, empathy, and compassion not your smugness.  What a bright place this could be even in the darkest of nights. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't Forget Your Pets

Buckley,
Nipping at Your Heels


Justin & Charlie
My neighbor, Susan, was inseparable from her golden retriever mix dog, Hobo.  Wherever Susan went there was Hobo.  She was well taken care of and always loved.  There was nothing really special about the mutt but she was an attentive loving companion to a young girl with no brothers or sisters.

Raechel & Daisy
Susan doted on her "Hobo".  In her eyes, there was nothing ordinary about the pooch.  She groomed her all the time and bathed her as if she was a human being.  In some ways, Hobo was better.  She was not judgmental, she was always in great spirits, and eager to please regardless of the elements.

It been over half my life since Hobo lived.  Adolescence and adulthood have gone by.  In my middle age, I think about how she influenced my decisions with my children.  All three of course have their own pets now.  One of my daughters, Justin, never strayed far from the animals she loved.  She works at a veterinary clinic where she administers love to everyone's pets including her own, Charlie.

Aubrey & Ricky
This holiday,  Justin asked if I would take photos of she and her friends along with their extended pet families.  I thought back about Hobo and a little girl neighbor named Susan and I couldn't say no.   How could I say no to three young women and their pets!!!

So to Justin, Raechel, Aubrey and their dogs:  Charlie, Daisy, and Ricky, I would like to say, Merry Christmas.  You and your dogs were excellent models.  I am just glad that I was able to work fast enough to capture the moment for you.  Don't thank me, just thank that mutt named Hobo.







Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Early Christmas

Keller Christmas
Texas
2010


Between you and I, Christmas came early for me.  It came in a most unanticipated nearly year long sabbatical.  Before you roll your eyes and start thinking that I am being sarcastic, please go back through all of my archive blogs.  All of my posts are original musings and photographs.  Nearly 100% of the images were done this year!!  I couldn't have done it without the boot of my former employer.

So yes, my Christmas came early in many forms.  My presents were all wrapped in different wrappers and sizes,  some with bows and some with simply cards.  They came from ten different countries and over three hundred thirty different cities.  Places like:   Anchorage, Alaska; Escondido, California; Melbourne, Australia; Bisbee, Arizona; San Salvador, El Salvador; Dublin, Ireland; Edinburgh, Scotland; Sluis, Netherlands; Zonhoven, Belgium; Moscow, Russia; San Cristobal de la Laguna, Spain; and Mubai, India.

Old friends and new, you are the reason I write my prose exposés and submit my photographic glimpses of the world.  At times, I write about what I feel and think; other times, I write about what I see or even want to see.  My words and my photos are honest opinions of my journey.

You, the reader, are part of my journey.  You are part of my experience.  We are passengers and reluctant sojourners on a defined trajectory through a moving universe.  Voyagers and voyeurs all in one.

There is one more present that I would like.  If you have enjoyed my blogs, glimpses of my thoughts and feelings, please forward my blog link to people you love.  Share something good with them because there are still lots of things that are right with this world.  Share the journey with someone else.  Encourage them to subscribe, it's the best gift you could give them and possibly the best you could give me.

If you have enjoyed viewing the photos, please don't be shy.  I am a starving artist and would love to make you your own custom print.  Contact me via the blog or on facebook.  I can make custom cards or even print as large as 20"x 30".

Until we meet again...

Al

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cadillac Memories

Vintage Memories
Dallas, TX

At times I get an incredible amount of joy capturing the familiar in an unfamiliar way.  You might say that it appeals to my obsession with details and perfection.  Capturing the details forces me to engage in the reality of the moment.  I connect with the image and I think of all the possibilities the image actually has.  The creative process unharnesses the visual restoration.

Nothing has to be boring.  There is great complexity in simplicity.  Your perspective makes the mundane exciting.  Even in your suffering, you can turn things into pleasure by channeling your talents and drawing from  your imagination.  In the process, you might find a renewed sense of purpose.  You will never know until you try.

I found this shiny hood ornament extremely fascinating.  Before someone restored this 100 year old Cadillac to its original shape, they visualized the Cadillac in all its glory and luster.  It never would have been restored had someone not visualized its potential.  It could still be in a junk yard somewhere, a heap of tin and rust.  

If I could just learn to look past the rust.  I wonder how many opportunities I missed.  One more time, I pick up my camera.  I think and I look through the viewfinder knowing that I have to find my Cadillac.  Looking through the viewfinder is not enough, I've got to press the shutter release.  There's a vintage Cadillac waiting for me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

HO

Ho in Keller, TX

It's that time of the year again, where married men avoid their wives, while visions of sugar plums dance in their heads.  Yes it's hectic.  The amount of synchronized nesting activities spins the world slightly faster and shortens the days.

This has been an incredible year.  I've had an incredible roller coaster ride and made it to the ER only once!!!  The cool part is that as much as I hate roller coaster rides, I never threw up!!  I handled it all like a grown up, grimaced, and hung on for dear sweet life and not once did I soil or wet my pants.

The fact that my sense of humor remains in tact is a testament to all of my friends both, old and new, who dutifully provided me with their "comfort and joy".  Oh and lest I forget, my wife Kim, who visualizes things that I can't see.  Yes, folks, I have tunnel vision.  (It's very dark where my head is most of the time.)  With her "Moonstruck" gentleness, I am forced to "snap out of it."

While many of my posts have been introspective, I sincerely hope that I've been able to give you an opportunity to take pause and inventory all that is going on around you.  Those of you in proximity to my age, know that the song "Is That all There Is?" keeps playing over and over.

Friends, what it is all about is simply this:  friends, family, and fond memories.  It's all about living and the joy we receive each day from our creativity and from those around us.  Enjoy the season and slow it down.  Feather your nests and most of all love the ones you are with.  Tell them what you truly feel.  Open up your hearts, let go of the fears, and just be you.  You will be better for it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cascades

Cascade and Pool
Tannersville, NY


Nature provides an opportunity to renew and refresh.  It affords us the ability to latch on to its own continuum.  There seems to be no beginning and end just a constant flow.  It's a departure from the structure of spreadsheets and from the obsession of planning for the what if.

Going With the Flow
Tannersville, NY
As we observe the order of nature, we begin to comprehend that things will continue.  Time is only finite for our bodies.  We die but life continues.  It will continue all around where we are buried.  Nature and life will go on without us.

If we could learn to channel our energy and connect to its streams, we could in fact piggy back our journey more swiftly and effortlessly.  Instead of fighting the stream, we should learn to harness its energy and enjoy the currents it brings.  In so doing, we could reenergize our lives.

The message is so simple, but it requires a lifetime to comprehend.  Time flows by and the leaves of our lives get caught in the stream.  It would be so much easier for us, if we learned to ride the stream.  We could certainly prolong our journey and venture to places and experiences we might not have otherwise gotten to see or feel.  Letting go and letting the current take us seems so unfamiliar.  Yet it's what nature beckons us to do.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Keep It Simple

Old Barn Window
Near Claverack, NY


We have so much yet we are more stressed than probably any other time in our short history.  It's quite a contradiction.  How could abundance inflict such misery?  Some of the answers might very well lie in the simple constructions found along the New England and upstate New York country side.

'Tis The Gift To Be Simple
There's an inverse correlation between simple structures and complicated lives.  Simpler reduces our cost of living while elaborate structures demand sustainable standards of living.  One demands more than the other but does not necessarily guarantee a proportionate increase in coveted happiness.  In other words, we give up more than we gain. It extolls on the consumer a human property tax.

As I inventory my life, I think of the things that I would keep and what I could live without.  Yes some of my toys and hobbies are expensive, but I could do without lots of other things.  Quite frankly I don't have to consume as much to be happy.

It could very well be that is the reason that I am drawn to the details of simplicity.  My best work tends to reflect very unsophisticated objects.  I allow my eye and lens to focus on small details and I enjoy their simple stories.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In The Beginning There Was Mom...

Mom aka Doña Fina
Approaching 90

You might say that I've been "Moonstruck" by Mom's tenacity and will to live.  She continues to battle a terminal illness called "old age".  To her disbelief, she is approaching 90 in a few months; thanks in part to the incredible doting care my father gives her.

She Still Reigns
Mother is the reigning matriarch of the Rios clan.  She is the queen and very much in control of her home domain.  The kitchen and all the knick knacks she's acquired are all part of her legacy.  She loves to cook and what she can no longer do, she delegates and instructs my sister Lydia to do.

Her Majesty and Loyal Subjects
Before we arrived, my mother and father prepared the turkey in her traditional way.  A three day labor of love and torture for the already slain turkey.  Mother prepared her ingredients of salt, pepper, pimentos, olives, vinegar, and garlic; Dad inflicted more wounds and slits to the turkey.  Thawed and marinated the turkey was ready for a very slow lengthy roast at @ 250 degrees.  The meat simply fell off the bones.

The turkey was only the last step.  Prior to that, she directed and instructed my oldest sister and my father on how to make the pasteles (a Puerto Rican tamale, made of green bananas and stuffed with beef, potato, olives and other goodies all wrapped in either banana leaves or special paper).  Lydia and Dad made over 100 of these.  Each were earmarked for special friends and family.  From her wheel chair, my mother directed the action providing her instructions along the way.

When its my mothers turn to enjoy her final repose, I think I will put some measuring spoons and spices in her casket.  I want her to be happy and most of all I want her to know that I understand all the love that came out of her kitchen.  All in all the lady has done pretty good for someone who once burned oatmeal and didn't know how to cook.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mixed Metaphors

Cell Phone User and Scooters


China on an Escalator
China is a land of mixed metaphors.  It is undergoing a tremendous metamorphosis.  On the one hand are the old scooters and motorcycles, on the other are cars and cell phones.  There is change everywhere.  One only need to set foot inside a mall in Shanghai.

Tell me if you can truly see a difference between us in these frames.  All that I see is the West with Chinese lettering.  To me it is confusing as if something is missing.  What happened to the old China?  Where is it and is it gone forever.

Change is of course an inevitable part of life.  It is a certainty.  What perplexes me is the tradeoff.  What is actually sacrificed in exchange?  I think of places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico where remnants remain of a culture that dominated these islands.  What I am referring to is the tendency that western change makes everything homogenous.  Will China also look like the malls of the US?  If so, then that's a horrible price.

Ultra Modern Shanghai Mall
What distinguishes China is its uniqueness from the West.  In its haste to catch up, it may have just inherited all of our problems along with our debt and pollution.  I hope that the Chinese retain what makes them special.  Homogeneous is a very bland thing.  Trading Mao jackets for denim is not such a great thing.  There's nothing fantastic about losing thousands of years of heritage for the sake of electronic gizmos and hip hop wardrobe.



Monday, November 29, 2010

Prosperity at a Price

View from Hong Kong Airport



Unfortunately, I didn't have much of an opportunity to see much of the old China.  It seems that most of us may never have the opportunity as high rise apartments and industrial dormitories dot the skylines of the new China.  

Shenzen
Since Deng Xiaoping, the pace of prosperity has quickened.  It's been at a price as old structures have been torn down to give way to growth.   China has only 65 clean air days per year.   The air contamination alone will shorten the lives of the Chinese more than cigarette smoking.  The pollution was so severe that in the week I was there, I managed to only see a glimpse a partial blue sky for a half a day.  The Sunday we were in Shenzen started out as clear day but the pollution quickly moved in by the day's end.

Texting in China
The truth is that I really didn't see much that was different than I would have seen in any other major city.  Chinese young people are equally a part of the tech generation as their western counterparts.  They love fashion and music and are ready to consume all things branded, but real.  The knockoffs are for us.


Perhaps the next time I travel to China, I will find more photo opportunities then the ones I saw.  Then again, it might be already too late.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mao in the Rearview Mirror

Mao Tse Tung in Rearview Mirror
Shanghai, China

Before we even landed in Hong Kong, I had the distinct impression that we were being monitored.  The Chinese government knew exactly our travel destinations and our travel accommodations.  At any point in time, they could pinpoint exactly where we were.  I suppose you could say that it's not any different than the routine surveillance most corporations practice today on their unsuspecting employees.

This became more apparent to me as we headed further into China from Hong Kong.  As we prepared to take a ferry from the airport to the mainland from Hong Kong, we never saw our bags at customs but we were told that they would be waiting for us on the other side.  It was a huge leap of faith, but I had a feeling the government knew exactly that our bags would be well taken care of.  If you tend to be paranoid, then don't travel to China.

While I was able to access and publish to Facebook in my hotel in Dongguan, once I got to Shanghai (further inland) all bets were off.  It could have been because of the Asian Games going on the time, but it was quite an erie feeling.  The only way that I could access Facebook was via an expensive cell phone connection.  Facebook was blocked for the masses.

China has many bright points.  It is in the midst of an incredible industrial revolution.  It comes however at the expense of losing its architectural and cultural charm.  Most business people never get to see the old China, we get to see the miles and miles of factory dormitories and new apartments.  The proverbial Chinese dragon has been replaced by the tower crane.

As we drove from Suzhou to Shangai I happened to look at our driver's rearview mirror.  That's when I noticed a very familiar face and a reminder of where I really was;  it was the face Mao Tse Tung or Chairman Mao.  While this is a new China and capitalistic, the reminder remains that communism is the party of the land.  I wondered exactly who our driver was and who he worked for.

The new face of the old communist party could in fact be called China Inc.  It draws from the capitalism of the west and incorporates it into a uniquely Chinese spin to fund it's needed infrastructure and economic prosperity and stability for the masses.  The people are liberated to make money but the government dictates what you will hear and what you say.  We should not forget that there are some very basic freedoms that we enjoy as a result of our democracy.  Capitalism only provides economic freedom.  We should not confuse that with what democracy offers.  Deng Xiaoping believed that it didn't matter what color a cat was black or white as long as it could catch mice.  Deng was successful in transforming the China cat.

For several days, while we stayed in Suzhou, I could not be spontaneous and post on Facebook.  Now you know why.  By the way, we never could find mementos of the Asian Games, not even at the Shanghai Airport.  We couldn't find even one T-shirt commemorating the event.



Friday, November 26, 2010

Not Always Black or White

Rooftop Dragons
Hanshan Temple

All Smiles
Hanshan Temple
It was always been black or white for me in the world I grew up in.  For the most part, I was pretty rigid and intolerant of other people's belief's and ideas.  Yet inexplicably, I found quite a bit of tolerance amongst the infidels I was taught to shy away from.  True my values and my strict discipline kept me from the perils of alcohol and drug abuse and guided me to a higher education, but I lost touch with many friends with my isolation.

A door and a chapter closed abruptly in my life during my high school years.  A part of me died back then only to be awakened during this past year on my pilgrimage back home.  Life is not always black or white, perhaps it's the reason why I shoot mostly in vivid color.

Values are something that come from within you; beliefs typically are external to yourself and are taught.  If I had to choose, I would choose those values that come from within me rather than beliefs which I've been taught.  As a photographer, I know that even in a black and white world there are 256 shades of gray.

My world for nearly half a century has been pretty binary, I suppose.  It's ok for me to find the shades of gray and venture out into the world of color.  For the most part, I reckon, I don't have to be all black or white, and nothing says that I have to be all color.

It's better to choose depending on the context of the situation which you choose to be.



Chicklets on The Bridge

Hanshan Temple
Suzhou, China

My grandfather enjoyed telling stories and my father and my uncle Louie would frequently relate them to me.  That could very well be why I enjoy relating stories of what I see on my journey to you.  Story tellers tell.


Handsome Warrior
Suzhou, China


Some stories are like Chicklets on the bridge from Juarez to El Paso.  The bridge is full of children with dirty but smiling faces each carrying boxes of even smaller Chicklets to sell to bored motorist stuck in snaking lines waiting to cross the border.  The carnival atmosphere of children and adult vendors helps to pass the hour or so it takes to migrate back to the US side.


Passerby
Suzhou, China
Tourist at Hanshan
Suzhou, China
My blogs are no more than Chicklets on the bridge, bits and pieces of me. (I know these images are from China and not Juarez.  My Chicklet story still applies.)  Hopefully, they help you pass time on your wait across today's journey's bridge.  I choose to entertain you with both pictures and words, my voices.  They are my experiences and perceptions of my world.  The veracity of what I see is limited by my own experience and my distortions and filters.  It seems real to me but then again, I might be dreaming all of it.


I sell Chicklets.  Tiny flavorful morsels of what I see from places where I've ventured.  My Chicklets come in many flavors but some might not be for you.  If you don't like to chew gum then please don't buy my Chicklets.


Although I like to please with words and deeds, I also recognize how insurmountable a task it is.  A  wise person once told me:  "you can't draw milk from a dry cow."  Sometimes, I forget, but I do get it now.  Regardless of how hard I tug some cows just don't have it to give and I pray to God that I'm not tugging on a bull.  At times, it sure seems that way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Whatcha Afraid Of?

Hanshan Temple
Suzhou

I'm sitting here chilling in my media room sipping some red wine and listening to Michael Jackson's "This Is It".  I'm feeling both nostalgic and melancholic, but it's all good.  There's a thought racing through my mind and it has hit me several times this evening.  Look, I've not held back these past few months.  I've not withheld from you.  Here's my dark secret:  I've been more concerned about dyeing than I have concerned myself about living.

That's pretty odd.  It has taken me half a century to realize what so many have tried to teach me.  The events of this year have totally forced me to change how I think and to discard what I use to believe and practice.  My corporate religion changed this year.  I've been excommunicated from the corporate ranks and by my choice have joined the ranks of those that choose their own destiny.  I've allowed myself to feel again and I've chosen to shuck my fears so that I can live.

Two Thousand Years
Hanshan, Suzhou
If someone would have told me that I would journey to China this year, I would have thought they were crazy.  Not only did I go to China but I am ready (after some rest to go back and explore more).  I'm not afraid of living.  All of this is beginning to work out.  The adventure, my business, and my life.  There's  comfort now in ambiguity.  It provides the certainty that I've wanted.  Understanding and coming to grips with it is all part of my journey.

There are so many seconds to capture yet.  My journey is far from over.  There are many stories remaining for me to tell and share.  I've not given up and although my spirit has been trampled, I stand strong and defiant.  My will and my spirit are not broken.  I draw on the strength of my upbringing, my friends and my classmates that I left behind so many years ago.  This is for all of you.

Please don't give up.  Times are tough but we grew up in a tougher time, it was far from easy for us.  I'm a fighter, I simply had forgotten.

It's funny my fingers are flying over the keyboard....as I listen to the MJ tunes....can't help myself, but I'm energized once more.  Don't give up!!!!  I haven't and God knows there have been many times, I wanted to quit and stop chasing my dreams.  This has become very personal.  Nothing and no one will ever put me down again.  I choose to win, fight, and overcome my adversities.  Wherever this takes me, it will be fine.  I've got to let go of the string and let the kite fly.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hanshan Temple

Candles at Hanshan
Suzhou

Buddha
Suzhou
For those of you who really know me, you know that I would never pass up an opportunity to bring my camera.  Even though I was in China on business, I did bring with me both my iPhone and my SLR.  While most of my time was spent on business, I did have a few occasions to shoot.  We actually did a whirlwind tour of the Buddhist Handshan Temple in Suzhou.

Suzhou Prayerful Pilgrim
Carmen at Hanshan Temple
Suzhou, China
The temple was extremely crowded even during the middle of the week.  It happens to also be a favorite tourist destination for the Chinese.  The temple and its over two thousand year history appeal to many.  For some,  the lure was Disney like and yet for others it was a time of prayer and introspection.

"Carmen" our interpreter was willing to pose for me.  I captured her inside the temple with ambient light hitting her just right.  The camera captured both her contemplativeness and her inner beauty.  The mixture of light and environment only added to the composition.  There was nothing fancy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Real Dongguan

East Meets West
DongGuan

Let's just say I am a little jet lagged.  As tired as I feel, I do feel obligated to just jot a few thoughts.  China was beyond my wildest expectations in many way.  While I expected it to be very industrial, I had no grasp on the magnitude of their industrial revolution.  China has surpassed us all in a very short span.  It was just yesterday that Richard Nixon ventured into China.

Shenzhen Square
In a few short years, the western world has enabled China to produce more products than they are even allowed to consume.  China Inc.  thrives on producing for the rest of the world to finance its infrastructure projects and maintain economic and social stability at home.  It is a carefully run capitalistic venture.  

We should not confuse their passion for capitalism as a passion for freedom.  The party is still in charge.  Freedom is given but it is not a right.  The state decides what is best for their people.  It is a very well run economic enterprise.

China is now a place where Walmart thrives next to traditional black markets featuring knockoffs of every kind imaginable.  We buy their knock offs and when they shop in America, they seek and buy our name brands.  

My brain is a little fizzled but I promise you that I have both more words and narratives for you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Picking Up Peanuts With Chopsticks

Too Pretty to Eat

The jet lag has finally set in; I find my head bobbing at the dinner table as if the front of my head was laden with lead implants.  I don't want to miss anything but my body is neither able nor willing to cooperate.

This has been a primarily a business trip.  It truly is amazing how many things we learn as we observe.  I never thought we would conduct our business in slippers.  Our shoes are left behind us before we enter the plant.  

Our business lunch yesterday was pretty interesting.  Of course it's fun to watch them keep adding more food to the lazy Susan in the middle of the table.  We take turns spinning the food wheel of fortune.  We reach out and fill our plates using primarily chopsticks to shovel the food back onto to our plates.  I found it intriguing to try to eat salted peanuts with chopsticks.  It could possibly explain the  paucity of obese people in China.  After a while you simply give up or spend way too much energy trying to get the small stuff.  My focus shifts to shoveling rice into my mouth and trying to find either chicken or beef.  Vegetables are truly a great culinary prize.  They are definitely worth waiting for juicy and succulent to the palette.

If patience is a virtue then the Chinese have incredible amounts of virtue mastered at the dining table.  Good things are worth waiting for even if you have to pick them up with chopsticks.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

If Columbus Had to Fly....

Weary Business Sojourner

If Columbus had to fly to America, we would still be in Europe.  There's no way he would have subjected himself to airline seating.  It simply is an inhumane way to travel over long distances.  The leg from San Francisco to Hong Kong takes fourteen hours!!!  Imagine how wonderful it feels in cramped quarters with no leg or hip room.  It's nearly impossible to sleep and very difficult to get any work done unless you have an iPad.



The hardest part of any journey is simply getting there.  How you spend the time getting there is the difference between a great trip and a seemingly endless one.  If time is all we have then how we utilize time between our destinations along the journey is equally as important as getting there.

It is easy to forget that each minute and hour we have is as important as our destination.  We miss out on an essential part of our journey, if we choose to kill time.  Instead of killing time consider making the most of your time.  Make it meaningful.

When I was younger, I wished the time away.  I couldn’t wait until I graduated or I couldn’t wait until I got older.  Now I am older and I don’t want time to slip by.   As I notice that the days in front of me are less than the ones behind me;  I begin to comprehend the value of my remaining time.

No, I no longer wish to kill time.  I wish to absorb time and utilize each minute and hour as I head towards my final destination.  I recognize that it is equally as important to fill my life with great memories while I complete my journey.  

I am very tired so I won't pontificate this morning. The bed is calling me and I will try to catch some more sleep before I start my first full day in China.  Inspirations will follow, I am sure.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Off to China

I'm Off!!!

Today is a packing day and last minute catchup.  The lists keeps getting longer.  There are so many things I need to remember to pack:  preventative medicine, camera gear, clothes, electronic gadgets and chargers....  The list seems endless.

This trip will be brief and long at the same time.  Nearly a third of our time will be spent in getting there and back.  I am sure our business days will be be packed all day and evening.  Regardless, I hope to get away and at least have several opportunities to find something special that catches my eye.  It sure would make up for the discomfort of being away from my family and enduring the jet lag.  Twenty hours is a very long time for me to sit still.


My brain is whirring with all the possibilities that could result from this trip and opportunity.  I need to keep reminding myself of how fortunate I am; none of this would have happened if I had still been stuck at my old job.  My opportunities now range from east Texas to east China.  This is not bad for a Puerto Rican kid from Winsted, CT.  Some of my dreams are really coming true.  Now if only I could convert some of these dreams into financial realities.  


Financial realities can become nightmares.  You do have to be careful of what you wish for. You might make lots of money but have very little time left to spend it.  I would choose to make the money and buy more time.  There's so much left to see and learn and such little time.  For those near my age, stop waiting until you retire to do things.  The clock is ticking for all of us, it's just a matter of time;  a real life game of Russian roulette awaits us all.  There's no need to postpone things any longer.  Living awaits us all today.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This Side of China

Cascade at Winchester Lake
Winchester, CT

Cascade Curios
There's just a few days left before I leave for China.  I wont be digging my way there.   I will be letting the currents of change navigate the way.  This has been a tumultuous year with lots of surprises.  I might as well see where it takes me.

The only promise I've kept to myself is that I simply would go wherever the journey leads me.  Life is more interesting that way.  I've abandoned lots of my old structure and allowed myself the opportunity to just be. Old conventions and rules simply no longer work for me.  Armed with knowledge and curiosity, I've got to press on.  There's simply too much to experience and absorb before the journey ends.  I know there's nothing rational about it but what appeared to me to be sane for all these years now seems dreadfully insane.  

I'm not afraid of what lies on the other side of this cascade.  The water's motion entices me.  It's insane not to live.  It's even more insane not to try.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Needs Some Work

Needs Some Work
Mt. Pleasant, Tx


Last week, I spent some time working in East Texas. Things have a way of slowing down as accents change and I found myself slowing down as well.  

Although I had reminded myself that I was there for work, I did spot this old truck twice with the corner of my eye.  It sat in a field just a few yards from my last customer call of the day.  I couldn't just ignore it could I?  

In English literature there's a term when words are written like the sounds they represent:  smash, bang, crash, etc.  The term is called onomatopoeia.  (Yes, Mrs. Fortuna, I actually fooled you and was paying attention in class, not just daydreaming.)  I wish I could invent a photographic term for images that I captured that represent how I feel.  I think I will take a Sarah Palin moment and conjure my own vocabulary:  photo-essence.

As I studied the truck before I shot it, I developed my strategy to capture the beauty that was still in it.  I knew how the colors would appear as the late autumn sun cast it's glow on the subject and I knew how the shadows would lie.  There would be some warm tones to contend with for sure.  The image would be great with those tones coming through, I thought.

Yeah this old truck needs some work but you really have to look beyond that.  As beaten up as this truck is, it still has plenty of life and a great story to tell.  For now the truck resides in an East Texas field, but one day someone will find it and make something again with the relic.  In the meantime, the story remains untold.

Photo-essence, I like the term.  Yes that's me in the photograph out in the field.  I just need a little work and someone to appreciate what I have to offer.  Don't discard me yet.  There's a picture waiting to be made.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Autumn Daydream

High School Daydream
Winsted, CT

Some who remember me in high school thought of me as a serious student.  Few knew that I was a daydreamer.  Autumn brought it out most in me.  In fact, I was caught red handed staring at the hillside beneath our school by my English teacher, Elaine Fortuna.  She was merciful in her reproach and smiled the whole way while she brought my attention back to the subject of the day.

I am grateful that she didn't discourage my dreaming.  She knew I was enamored by the fall colors.  They were spectacular then and even more so in the dreams I have had since remembering them.  She caught a glimpse of my real nature.  She knew I was more artistic and creative than even I knew.  Instead of snuffing it, she let me bask in all the colors that I could view through my window perch.

That day the hillside was ablaze with color.  It's hard to write about something like this unless you've actually witnessed it.  She let me witness it.  Today, I write:  "the hillsides were ablaze with color.  It was a natural fire of color that only heavy winds, frost, and the onset of winter could extinguish."

My pilgrimage back to my home town afforded me the opportunity to reminisce and to enjoy what I've missed every year since I left.  Although it was thirty-six years ago, the memories are as real as yesterday.  The hillside remains ablaze in my mind.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Autumn Perspective

Countryside
Riverton, CT 


Heublein Trail
This time of the year, I miss the country hillsides of New England.  As a kid,  I enjoyed slipping into the countryside and hiking.  I found that the autumn countryside afforded a unique solace.  Floating colorful leaves and sweet smells filled these memories.  Things seemed to slow down and I used the added time to put things once again in perspective.


Each day, I remind myself to put it all in perspective.  I try to grasp that I am not the only one going through this journey, that there are other passengers.  Mine is not a unique sojourn only my experiences are uniquely mine.


Pond and Autumn Drizzle
There are so many things I still want to do.  I think back about my New England days and I meditate about the things that made me calm.  Somethings have changed but the person I am has not.  Today, I need to rely on my experiences and draw from the well.  Time to reflect on childhood autumns to refresh and renew.  The journey is long; it's good to take pause.