Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanks For The Memories

On this day of thanks it occurred to me that almost everything I have to be thankful for is connected to a memory. Every morning I pause and give thanks for my blessings, of which there are many. They say it's good to write things down, and I believe that to be true. So I thought I would take just a moment to list a few things I am thankful for ---

MY PARENTS.  I had a wonderful childhood. We didn't always have everything we wanted. But we always had everything we needed.

MY WIFE AND SON. For ... well ... everything.

VOLUNTEERS.  My dad taught me how to fish, but it was Boy Scout leaders who taught me how to make fire, pitch a tent and put a pebble in my mouth on long hikes to stimulate saliva and lessen my thirst, which helped to conserve the water in my canteen. Thanks Ernie, Ronnie and Roger for giving your time, experience and knowledge.

FAMILY VACATIONS.  Just up the road a ways, or a thousand miles. Quality time.

SUMMER OF 1972.  The best of times.

WINTER OF 2004.  The worst of times.

DOCTORS AND NURSES WHO WORK NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS.  Saved my life in the winter of 2004.

EDWIN LAND.  Your Polaroid cameras have given me much joy for many years and an outlet for my creative energy. Even still today.

THE IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT.  For stepping in and making instant film when Polaroid stopped.

JOHN DENVER.  You wrote my life.

JOE KOPP.  For giving me my first break in radio. And for not firing me when I played The Ballad of John and Yoko.


MY OTHER BEST FRIEND.  The miles between us have not drawn us any further apart. 

FRENCH ONION SOUP.  It's pretty much the only thing French I like.

MY HOME TOWN.  It has changed, and mostly not in a good way, but some of my best memories are here.

MUSIC.  Can't sing, can't play a note. But I love music.

GOD AND THE UNIVERSE.  There but for the grace of you go I.

There is so much more. But this seems like a good place to stop.

I wish you all the best for a great life and good fortune. Be nice to each other. Pray for peace.

  Roger O'Dea     11/27/2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nobody's Right If Everybody's Wrong

The election is over. It's been over for days. But the amount of silly, sarcastic, bitter, and sometimes even mean and hateful comments and images being posted on social media is really quite astounding. I shouldn't be surprised. It was expected to a certain degree. But people go too far, as evidenced in this political cartoon -
Does anyone truly believe that any segment of business or society wants dirty air and polluted water? Or that the president actually wants this country to fail? Seriously. Who is so delusional or twisted to go to that extreme in their thinking? Sure we have problems. That's a fact. But to lay the blame all on one political party or one person or a particular group of people is just ridiculous. 
If you blame the Republicans for the Iraq war and for getting us into Afghanistan, then remember it was a Democratic administration that was responsible for escalating the Vietnam War. And a Republican ended it... in a very tragic and messy way.
If it was Republican financial policies that led to the economic slump and bailouts during Bush's (the younger) administration, then remember it was during the Democrat Carter's term that mortgage rates hit 19% and gas rationing was enacted.
There have been good times and not so good times. Most have, and will have, nothing to do with which political party is in power. Sometimes it's just about bad people doing bad things. And those bad people can come from all races, religions, political organizations, cultures, societies... anywhere. And at any time. That's why it's important to have leaders. True leaders who have earned our trust and have a sincere honest desire to do the right thing. We don't have that now. We have partisans. We have egomaniacs. Or occasionally we elect someone who is simply not qualified. They don't have the experience, temperament, compassion or common sense to handle or even understand the tasks which they have been given. In other words - they are in way over their heads.  A sad side note to this is that we keep putting them back in!  It's madness.
I had lunch the other day with a friend who is older and wiser than me. He said something rather profound, in my opinion. He said, "I remember when there were Republicans and Democrats, and they tried to work together for the overall good. Now it's liberals and conservatives. They can't find any common ground and there's no compromise."  I agree with his observation. This is what we've come to. And it's kind of sad.
Maybe we should hope that somehow we can get back to simpler times when campaigns weren't filled with hollow promises. A time when fewer words were spoken but they had more meaning. A time of action. Maybe we need more people like Senator Stephens -

He does things. Simple. To the point. My kind of guy. I'd vote for him. How about you?

Roger O'Dea       11/8/2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Heart In New York - A Photo Essay

New York, like a scene from all those movies
But you're real enough to me
There's a heart
A heart that lives in New York   (Sung by Art Garfunkel - Written by Benny Gallagher/Graham Lyle)

Going Underground

The Sadness of the Chelsea Hotel

I Did Suzanne and Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Nobody Even Seems Interested

"Skyscraper National Park"  - Kurt Vonnegut

Double Shot Of Love

Poets, Artists, Writers...and Folk Singers on Bleeker Street

A Cure For the Mean Reds

Street "Art"

 People Live There Too

Street Commerce

The Object Is the Subject

                                                       Roger O'Dea     10/24/2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Not Over Until I Say It's Over

This is probably the longest I've gone without posting an update on this blog. I guess it's just because I haven't been inspired lately. I seem to have lost my muse. I was tired. Weather was bad. The sun got in my eyes. I forgot. There are any number of excuses I can come up with, but that's what they would be - excuses. The truth is I have been cramming every last bit of activity and adventure I can think up into these last fleeting days of summer. Between work and the normal every day requirements of life on this planet, it's been a struggle to fit it all in. It's difficult to concentrate. To focus. To commit to a project and finish it. All summer I have been wanting to get a collection of photographs organized for a show. I really want to do it, but there is something holding me back. I keep bouncing around from one idea or theme to another. One day it's Polaroids, the next it's black and white film. One day it's landscapes, the next it's candid portraits. Several times I've said, "ok, this is it. This will be my project." Then, the sun comes out, it's 80 degrees and some single track trail in the Black Hills beckons me or a two lane blacktop highway calls to me and I'm off.  I'm getting closer, though. As the weather gets cooler and the season begins to change there is less I can do outdoors. Soon I will be forced inside and maybe then I can decide on what variation of a theme I want to work on...and actually do it. Judging from a recent tantrum from Mother Nature it may not be much longer.  I was shocked the other morning when I went into our back yard and was greeted with this scene ...

... our maple leaves prematurely turning red amid the shadows of a cloudy sky that already produced a heavy wet snow and icy rain. Too early for this. Way too early. And I wish people would stop saying that summer is over. I don't want to hear it. The first day of autumn isn't until September 23rd. Summer is not over. It's not over until I say it's over! 
Sorry about that little outburst. It may be that I am in denial. I know winter is coming. I can't just wish it away. All I can do is get the most out of what's left of the nice weather. And that's exactly what I intend to do. Even if it's just doing something totally ridiculous, out of my comfort zone, completely selfish, or something that does not contribute to society in any way. Yeah, that's it. I may be on to something. Let's see where this goes. Anyone want to come along for the ride?

Roger O'Dea    9/13/2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Great Summer Swindle

I will begin with an apology to all kids in the Belle Fourche school system. The apology is for being an adult. Although I am not one of the adults involved with the decision to start school this year on August 20th, I still feel a responsibility to apologize for those adults directly involved in that decision as I don't believe any one of them will be forthcoming in saying they are sorry for this outrage.
August 20th! Really? Every student in this town has been robbed of twelve days of summer. Days they will never get back. Days that have been taken from them as surely as if they were stolen by a master thief.  When I questioned this terrible decision by obviously confused and misguided school officials I was told the early start was due in part to the 4 day school week put into place previously, and that students and parents are quite willing to accept the trade off. Sorry. Not buying it. A few parents maybe. But students? I can't imagine anyone, other than possibly a few seniors, being happy about losing what could turn out to be a wonderfully stupendous summer day spent outside wearing ragged shorts and a baggy t-shirt to a structured mundane school day sitting at a desk being checked off a list compiled to make sure everyone is present. "Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?"
Mid August is summer. When did it become part of the school year? Has this happened before? Why am I just finding out about it now? And...why do I care?  I don't have kids in school. It's no skin off my knee. I guess it's the principal of the thing. By the way, who is the principal and why did he or she allow this to happen under their watch? Shameful is what it is. It's still summer for crying out loud!  And summer is not for sitting blurry eyed in some classroom. Summer is for this -

In summer the sky is higher and a much deeper blue. At night the stars are much closer and the moon is brighter. This might not be science, but it's the truth. Every single day of summer should be cherished as a precious moment. A crime is committed every time one of those days is taken away too soon. August 20th. Preposterous. Ridiculous. Outrageous. A colossal swindle perpetrated on the young people of our town.
But, alas, nothing can be done about it now. Not this year anyway. So, I will end on a positive note. We must always look for a bright side. The brightest side I can think of right now comes from our old friend, Dr. Seuss, who gives us what is perhaps the best lesson we can learn in such a short summer. A lesson we all should remember -

Roger O'Dea   8/14/2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

When The Sun Goes Down

A warm summer night. Kris was busy with her French lessons. Seemed like a perfect time to go for a night ride. So I fired up the old F6 and took to the road. If you don't ride, it's difficult to describe how your senses, all of them, just come alive when you're "in the wind." Maybe even more so at night. The sun hadn't quite disappeared over the western horizon as I put the first few miles behind me. Ahead were the Black Hills, which were blacker than usual this particular evening. On nights like this it's obvious how they got their name.
One thing I just love about my rides is that my mind wanders and I have time to think about a lot of things. I wonder about what the future might bring, try to be completely aware of the present, and remember the past. The past was a recurring theme on this ride, with the wheels of my memory starting to turn faster as I rode past the Spearfish Water Park.  It was closed, but looked very inviting. I wondered if anyone ever tries to sneak in after hours. Probably not, because it's well lit and close to the road.  Not like the swimming pools we raided when we were kids.  One of our main targets was a private pool behind a house in my hometown that had easy access by way of the railroad tracks that ran right by it on one side or from the alley on another side. Under the cover of darkness we would scale the wood fence for a quick dip before making a clean getaway. The other popular spot was the pool at the golf course.  I will never forget one night when I was a freshman in high school, probably 14 or 15 years old. Some friends and I decided a midnight swim would be fun. So we tramped on out to the golf course and were in for quite a surprise when we arrived. A group of girls was already in the pool wearing only their bras and underwear. They were senior girls! And they didn't even care when we jumped in with them. That was probably the best night ever for me up to that point in my life.  Me and couple of friends in the pool at midnight with a bunch of senior girls. How cool were we? As I look back now I'm pretty sure there were some adults in the club house smoking cigarettes and drinking Old Grand Dad bourbon who knew we were out there. I would like to say "thank you" for letting us have some fun. You were some pretty cool cats yourselves. 
Now - back to current events and my night ride. Since I was already close I decided to go on up Spearfish Canyon a mile or two. I stopped at the Corn Flake Bowl, named by a friend many years ago as a group of us sat there looking at the stars and having the impression we were in just such a bowl. 
Things look different there at night -

I could have used a flash, but this is a more accurate illustration of what I'm talking about. 

And the stars. So many stars. I arrived just as the transition from dusk to dark was complete. I looked up to see dozens of stars overhead. Then I turned around to look at the sky behind me and suddenly there were hundreds of stars. I turned again and there were thousands. Then millions! It was good medicine. Medicine for the spirit. Medicine for the soul. If you've never just stood quietly in the forest looking at a clear bright night sky, you don't know what you've missed. Really. Do it. Even if it's not in a forest but just in your own back yard. You will be better off for it.  
I didn't stay long. It wasn't necessary. I had gotten what I came for. It was time to go home. But the star gazing didn't stop for the night.  We both went outside to watch a little bit more of the show. We saw satellites, airplanes and even a shooting star. So it turned out to be everything a perfect summer night should be. Well, almost. The only thing missing was falling asleep on a blanket on the ground.  But that will happen before summer is over. I'm pretty sure of it.

Roger O'Dea    7-25-14

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bumpin, Buglin, Mangy and Crazy

Three day weekend! I don't get many of those, so I like to make them count. This one over the 4th of July holiday weekend was great!  It started off with the huge parade that is part of the Black Hills Roundup celebration in Belle Fourche. It's fun to see all the class reunion floats, the dignitaries, bands...including a bagpipe group and even a couple of banjo players this year...and a lot of cool old cars. But even more fun for me than the parade itself is observing the people who line the streets to view this once a year extravaganza.
No matter what is going on in the parade, there's always someone watching the parade who is just as interesting.  Like this guy -
"Goonies Forever."  Classic.

Then it was off to the Black Hills. There's nothing like the Black Hills of South Dakota in summer. Any season really, but especially summer for me. We would be staying at a campground in Hill City, and no trip to Hill City is complete without a stop at the Bumpin' Buffalo. It's across the street from the Mangy Moose, which also looks like a fun place, but the rooftop patio at the BB is pretty cool. It's even better when there's a hard rain beating out a rhythm on the tin roof. It made for a very pleasant evening, which included us and a couple of friends around the campfire after the rain stopped; talking about the events of the day and plans for tomorrow.
We enjoyed a nice bicycle ride Saturday morning under a bright sunny sky that was so blue it was almost purple -

In the afternoon we traveled on to Custer to see what all the excitement was about regarding a popular burger joint. And, by popular, I mean lines out the door and around the corner. No way we were going to wait in a line like that to get in to what looked like a very small and unexceptional cafe. Good thing we didn't wait, because we found another place close by called the Buglin' Bull (what's with these names?) that also had rooftop seating ... and the best nachos I've had in quiet a long time.  
We decided we would visit the Crazy Horse Memorial that night and see the laser light show. We had heard mixed reviews about it, but had never been there ourselves so we decided it was time. I have always been suspicious of this place and my visit confirmed my suspicions. I was extremely disappointed. The laser show appeared to be very low tech, something that you may have seen in 1995. The first image projected onto the mountain at the beginning of the show was...wait for it...a logo for U.S. Smokeless Tobacco. Other corporate sponsors followed.  "This program to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians is brought to you by EconoLodge."
Okay, I know they need money to keep the memorial open, but I believe they've gone too far. Other examples of the excess in solicitations are the donation boxes everywhere and the raffle ticket displays in the main exhibit halls.

And as far as their proud claim of not accepting any federal or state government funding, could it be that it's because then they would have to finish it? That would mean the donation angle would be diminished and they would be forced to depend on admission ticket sales for their income. There has been very little progress made in the last decade. I would think that a project begun 65 years ago would be completed by now.  Mount Rushmore was carved in less than 15 years.  And that was over 70 years ago.  Construction methods, tools and technology have greatly improved since then. It simply shouldn't take this long.
Despite the fact that it is not anywhere near being completed it still is a beautiful sight to view at night when the mountain is bathed in light. 

And even though the museum and cultural center is not much larger than the gift shop, it is very interesting to see the artifacts and historical photos, as well as the Native American and Western art.
But, as far as the sculpture itself on the big mountain in the heart of the Black Hills - get to work and finish it! 

Roger O'Dea     07/08/2014