Getting Real

There's nothing amazing about the fact that I'm planning to see the entire United States coast to coast back roads only in the next 5 days. What is amazing is that I was able to navigate the streets of Lubbock, Texas without a phone or GPS and come back with a delicious sack of Cane's Chicken Fingers, thanks to the kind recommend of the gentlemen at the front desk of the Hampton Inn. We are so used to putting our lives in the hands of a piece of technology. What fear I felt getting lost between the east and southbound 289 loops without my iPhone to get me home. What joy I took putting my dinner in the hands of a kid named Henang. The chicken was delicious. Sometimes it's good to deal with humans. 

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That said, I haven't seen a whole lot of them since getting off the road at Las Cruces. When you go up into the mountains of southern New Mexico it is like a national park, pristine green trees etched against a brilliant blue sky. As the road descends from 9,000 to 2,500 feet you blend into gentle waving grasslands. Then within a matter of moments the smell of petroleum hits you. Eastern New Mexico industry blends with West Texas oil and the cattle enter the picture. There is nothing unusual about seeing an oil rig pumping next to the water hole where the cows have come to roost.

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In Artesia, NM I was the last person at the lunch buffet at La Fiesta. Patty, the owner's daughter, has never been to New York. She works too many hours covering for her parents to take the time and business is not reliable enough to hire others, she said. We talked about the hard work of roasting sack after sack of green chilis from Reza's farm a few miles up the road while cooking and serving shifts and raising her children. La Fiesta has been there for 40 years. I asked her what people do in Artesia. She said not much. But it's a good place to raise a family. We laughed a lot about our sports-obsessed sons and she refused to let me pay for lunch. I left her ten bucks. It was nice to chat with someone over green chili stew. America was feeling pretty darned good to me. 

I'm making this drive because I wanted to feel the wheels beneath my feet and see real things and meet real people. No need to recount the day's bad news.  I'm heading into day 3 of my journey and no one has spoken a word of politics. I've seen a cowboy pulling barbed wire on the side of a Texas farm road and driven through a town called Hope that was completely boarded up. 

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Outside of Denver City, Texas I laid my Rand McNally on the hood of the car to map out my route for the last few hours of the day to Lubbock. The warm sun beat down on my head. A man in an old minivan full of young kids paused before he climbed in. "I haven't seen one of those in years," he said staring at my atlas.

"Yeah, I'm just kinda picking my way across the country," I said.

He scratched his chin and cocked his head at me. "A road map. Man!" he said. "Well y'all have a good trip." 

"I will," I said. "I am."

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The Snowy Day

Perhaps it goes back to my love of the Ezra Jack Keats classic, which I read over and over as a child, and then as an adult reading to my children. I have always loved snow. I moved back from L.A. to New York in my 30s because I grew weary of getting depressed watching east coast blizzards on the west coast evening news. In fact, I keep my emotional barometer calibrated to three constants that have persisted all my life. Airplanes. Spaghetti. And snow! Update:  I'm feeling pretty darned toasty, today. 

 Berkeley Place. Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Berkeley Place. Park Slope, Brooklyn.

 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn.

Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn.

 Q train to Manhattan.

Q train to Manhattan.

 Shake Shack open for business. 

Shake Shack open for business. 

 Broadway and 25th.

Broadway and 25th.

 Madison Square Park.

Madison Square Park.

And then of course, after all the talk and build-up and excitement that comprises a New York "snow event," the sky lifts, nightfall comes, the temperature drops, and it's over. By the next morning, New Yorkers will be going about their business. "Cyclonic bomb?" What bomb? It was just...a snowy day.

 Why not an artsy foreign film?

Why not an artsy foreign film?

 Back home in Brooklyn.

Back home in Brooklyn.

Vichy at Daybreak

Hard to imagine the last time I tended to this was in a snowstorm in Nebraska. Fast forward to a beautiful morning in July. My wife is sound asleep at dawn. I stroll out on the skinny verandah of our hotel, five floors above the city of Vichy. A smeared line of sunrise paints itself across the morning clouds. I stare for the longest moment, throw on my jeans and climb into the tiny lift that cranks itself down to floor zed. It seems like so many years ago I used to take to the street with two cameras strung around my neck (one for black and white film, one for color). It's easier to capture images today. So why does it sometimes feel so hard. 

Nebraska

A week ago Saturday I marched with 400,000 people down Fifth Avenue in New York. Sunday morning, while enjoying a stroll through weather.gov, I saw a nice storm system brewing out over the Rockies and picking up speed heading east. Thanks to a large number of frequent flyer miles and a twelve-dollar-a-day rental car, I was able to get to Denver to go experience a two-lane highway I had traveled once before, and promised myself I'd re-visit someday in a blizzard.

The images below are as surreal and otherworldly as they seem. I returned to New York to learn that we were closing our door to strangers. Over the course of my journey, I experienced nothing but kindness. We pushed one another's cars out of snow banks, made buckets of chicken noodle soup in the Quality Inn when all the restaurants closed, and shared whisky, stories and laughter as the storm blew through. No one closed any doors. There didn't seem to be much need to "make America great, again." We were doing just fine.

Two Philosophies

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more."
–Howard Beale, from Network

"Can't we all just get along."
–Rodney King

So much came out of Saturday, I'm surprised we didn't break the Internet. (Can you do that?) I decided to post just a few pictures because we were there – my wife and younger son and I – and I loved that Matty felt like he was a part of history. I think everyone did. But even more hopeful, so many issues got voiced that it felt like we were witnessing a beginning, not just a moment in time. Now I find myself wondering where we go next. I am glad I am not alone.  

Two Weeks, 11,000 miles

It is by pure happenstance that so much has happened since the boys and I moved out of our apartment (which in answer to the question many have asked – yes! – we are staying in Brooklyn. Just looking for a smaller place since Ben is off to college.)

I have driven 2,000 miles around America and then, on the eve of the election, jumped on a plane and flew about as far as you can fly. Sitting here on my last day in Capetown, I decided the juxtaposition of a few images might be in order.

Read into these images what you may. I am chockful of opinions. It seems plenty of folks these days are. So in the spirit of peace, love & understanding, I figured I'd close with one lasting shot that I suspect will leave everyone with at least a smile from a very tempestuous fall. (Mea culpa Cleveland fans.) I'm heading home.