Archive for the 'day in the life' Category


Fastest Mailbox in the World

Fastest Mailbox in the World, originally uploaded by neocles.

I’ve been going back to Fresno every couple weekends to fix up my mom’s house and get it re-rented. Driving from the house to the hardware store I passed by this mailbox. Each time, I was in a hurry to get something and get back to work. But by the third time, I could not stand it anymore. I had to stop and snap some shots.

I can understand the flames. I can understand embellishing the mailbox. But I just can’t quite grasp the exhaust manifold. Wheels? That I could see. Wings? No problem there. Conning tower? OK, maybe. But exhaust manifold? I guess I’ll just chalk it up to another aspect of the Fresno aesthetic that makes it such a strangely alluring place.


Getting old is a bitch

They say, “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” That’s not true.

Actually, life’s a bitch, then you get where you can’t see or hear very well, then you get wrinkly, then you get batty, then you can’t walk very well and have hip ad knee replacements, then you take lots of drugs every day, then you get slower and more batty, then you can only walk with a walker, then you get more batty and start wearing diapers again, then you move to a depressing place with other people in the same sorry state and slug away a couple years, then you are broke, then your kids are broke, then you fall and break your hip, then you spend two weeks in the hospital and/or nursing facility, and then you die. But right before all that starts, you go through all it with your parents.

Fortunately, there’s cocktails, and, in particular, new and wonderful bourbons with which to make them. That’s what the NYTimes says, although they didn’t mention flora.


Flip-book Life

We recently took a trip to Seattle for our dear friend Jen Dixon’s birthday. Jen’s friends from all over the country came for this one, and so we saw a lot of people. We had a wonderful time, and it was actually rejuvenating. It just felt like we reconnected with our friends there in a much more significant way this time. I suppose that because it was a tough year marked by personal loss, and because we saw people we had not seen in years, and because we are all older, there was this pervasive sense that being with people you care for is what matters in life. It sounds corny, but I don’t know how else to describe it.

One of the really nice things we had a chance to do was take a drive up Aurora Ave to see Jen’s public art work installed on the Interurban Trail. I really loved the work. It has a playfulness and a sense of place. Yet the combination of the simple, colorful, unfolding content on a form usually reserved for the concise delivery of important information for travelers creates a semiotic mystery. “What does that sign mean? What is it telling me about what’s ahead?” I love that in a work.


Night Rambler 5

Night Rambler 5, originally uploaded by neocles.

It showed up one day earlier this week. It sat quietly over to the side minding its own business, not making a peep. I went by once and noticed it immediately, but I, too, didn’t say anything. Life is like that a lot these days. One makes mental notes and tries to find them later amid the clutter of scraps of paper, children’s toys, empty wine bottles, and job postings.

I went by again and the tug was more insistent; the mental note came floating down from the rafters, landed in plain view. For two days I shuffled it to the top of the stack of other mental notes.

Sarah had noticed it sitting there and said something to me about it. Tuesday night it was still there when I left the house to run the errand in another note. I threw my tripod in the car on my way to get milk.

On the way back home, i went by again. This time I stopped. I didn’t care that it was night. The moon was almost full. The golden convertible gleamed in the cocktail glow of moonlight and sodium vapor.

It was accidental at the time, brought about by the time constraints of modern suburban living. But these two great tastes taste great together: suburban neighborhood car photography, and night photography.


Small Town Centennial

Shock Waves

When we first moved to Albany, I thought of it as a decent, reasonably safe place in the east bay that’s close enough to SF, which is, of course, the center of the universe. There is plenty of stuff within walking distance, including Solano Ave shopping and dining. Berkeley culture is just a few blocks away. And I could garden to my heart’s content.

But after being here for a couple years, it came to seem a little too sleepy, a little too cool and foggy for kick-ass tomatoes (and other fruits), a bit too far away for genuinely impromptu trips into the City, and at the back end of the some of the worst traffic in the Bay Area. Not only that, but most of the shops and restaurants seemed a far cry from the hip joints found in neighborhoods like Rockridge, Elmwood, and even 4th St, much less places in the City. It seemed like a sort of overpriced suburb.

Maybe it just takes time, maybe it takes having a kid, or maybe it just takes a change of perspective, but I think I have come to see that the most valuable quality of this place is the sense of community, and in fact, the actual community. It sounds kinda hokey, but going to community events and seeing so many friendly faces really gives one a sense of place and stability. There is always something going on, like July 4th pancake breakfasts at the Veterans Memorial Building, parades of soccer kids and high school bands, Santa Claus visiting on a fire engine, a month of music in the park, and on and on. The latest event to bring everyone together was a dinner to celebrate Albany’s centennial. The entire town was invited to come down to Solano Ave for dinner, music and dancing in the street. It was an absolute blast. And there are not too many places around here where you can put a couple thousand people together in the street with loud music and alcohol and have it all come off without trouble.

Before it starts to sound too much like a Norman Rockwell cover, consider that many of the everyday folks who live here are recent transplants from the SF or other nearby cities looking for a safe place to raise their kids. The place is chock full of interesting people. So it turns out the likelihood of meeting a parent who is either a punk musician, artist, surgeon, web programmer, scientist, landscape architect, or [fill in the blank] ready to pound a few beers and dance in the street is really very high. A conversation ranges from avant garde music to research on climate change, to bluegrass, to growing apricots, and of course to progressive politics. So, I am loving my community. I am sorry I doubted you.

More photos of Albany events!


The Junked Edsel and the Biodiesel Carnival Bread Truck

Last Friday, May 30, while biking to work, I stopped to take some quick shots of this junked Edsel parked off Murray St. just west of 9th in Berkeley. I rode through the empty lot, which is essentially an old railroad right-of-way, and set my bike down against the curb. This was far enough back to not have it appear in the shots I was taking. Near the bike was a large white pickup truck parked at the curb.

I had taken just a few shots and had my back to my bike taking the shot above. That is when I heard a loud snapping and crunching sound. I turned around to see the big white pickup running over my bike!

The truck, from Berkeley Unified, pulled over, and the driver got out. He looked pretty surprised himself, saying, “Jesus, that scared the hell out of me.” He apologized and was generally nice about the whole thing, as was I. I was too stunned to be angry or to even take a picture of it, if you can believe that.

The driver said, “That’s the problem with these big diesels, you can’t see right down in front of you.” My bike was a ways out in front of him, so I am not quite sure how he missed seeing it. Maybe he did but misjudged the location as pulled away from the curb.

We exchanged numbers and he drove off, leaving me to assess the damage. Fortunately, he only got part of it, mostly the handle bars. Most of what’s up there was crushed to bits: bell, light, gear shift, brake handle The bars, gooseneck (do they still call them that) and the seat are pretty bent up too. Surprisingly, the rest of it was in good enough shape that I could slowly ride it to work and home again. A professional inspection will tell what shape the frame is in.

Hopefully, I will be able to get the issue settled and bike repaired so I can get back to saving fuel, money, and greenhouse gases. And shooting more commute shots from the safety of the sidewalk.


Love Seat Commute Diversion

Love Seat Diversion, originally uploaded by neocles.

Thursday is bike to work day, and that seems to be setting the tone for the week. My friend David wonders why anyone would live the automotive life after witnessing Seattle’s hellish cross-town traffic from the speediness, if not safety, of the bike lane.

I have been back in the saddle biking to work for a couple weeks now. I can definitively say the exercise has improved my disposition tremendously. But that’s not all. The opportunities for amusement are boundless, especially if you live in a place like Berkeley. This morning I found this enticing rest stop at one of Berkeley’s famously infuriating traffic diverters. Everybody I know hates these things designed to keep you on the slow crawl main arteries. But I love, I mean LOVE, riding through them on my bike.

I came across this a few minutes after coming across a medium-bad car accident just a couple blocks from my house, where a couple of Honda’s fought over the right-of-way through an intersection. (Sorry, no pics of that.) That’ll wreck your commute.

Of course, KQED’s morning news and traffic reports have been making much of how light the commute is becoming and attributing it to gas prices. I can certainly confirm the relative emptiness of the roads. It’s even making biking to work easier.