Thursday, September 24, 2015

Feel The Change

The Autumnal Equinox has passed and days are getting shorter now. A change is in the air. I can feel it. It's time to face the stark reality that summer is over. Some people rejoice in that, but not me. Summer is my season. Winter is my adversary. It is a thief who steals my fun, even my health in some ways. And in the past I have not been terribly fond of fall. That is changing. I am beginning to see so much more beauty in this season, and learning to notice so many more details. As I become more mindful and aware I can see details and even hear sounds that escaped me previously. This leaf is an example -
I was on a walk during my semi-annual pilgrimage to Pathways Spiritual Sanctuary in the Black Hills (South Dakota) and happened to see it on the ground just off the trail. There was a time not too long ago when I'm sure I wouldn't have noticed it intermingled with so many other fallen leaves, pine cones and fairly thick brush. Or maybe I would have. It definitely stood out as one of a kind amidst the mostly pale yellow leaves covering the ground in that particular area. I'm just glad I saw it. The unusual and varied colors, lines, cracks and wrinkles make it unique, to say the least. It's tucked safely between the pages of a book at home now. Maybe I'll forget about it and many months or years from now I'll open that book to rediscover it and remember the day in September when it found me.

The Sanctuary is an amazing place. I make it a point to visit at least twice a year, generally in the  late spring and early fall. It's a special place. I always feel a certain energy from the moment I pass under the entrance sign and through the door.

It's a calming subdued energy. It is a place to be still. I am completely grounded there. Sometimes there are other visitors and sometimes I am the only one, as was the case on my most recent visit. Only me and Mother Nature. And we got along just fine.

Throughout the Black Hills this time of year you will see the wonderful colors of autumn. I stopped a few times on my way home to snap a picture of some scene that caught my eye, like this one -

I am learning to appreciate these scenes more. But there is still some sadness about summer being taken away from me. I wasn't done with it yet. So, once again, I turn to my old friend John Denver for some comfort... this time from Poems, Prayers and Promises. He seemed to share some of my same feelings about the subject. Funny how often music tends to make its way into these conversations -

Reflections on the water like shadows in my mind
Speak to me of passing days and nights and passing time
The falling leaves are whispering winter's on it's way
I close my eyes remembering the warmth of yesterday
It seems a shame to see September swallowed by the winter
And more than that it's oh so sad to see the summer end
And though the changing colors are a lovely thing to see
If it were mine to make the change I'd let it be

But I don't remember hearing anybody asking me

Roger O'Dea       9/24/2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

It's Not Over!

Why do people keep saying that summer is over? Yes, it's past Labor Day. And, yes, temperatures at night are now in the 40s rather than 50s or 60s...or 70s. It's true the sun is rising a little later. And setting a little earlier. Leaves on some trees are starting to turn a lighter shade of yellow. So what? It doesn't mean summer is over. It's not over! As Animal House's Bluto so enthusiastically said in his rallying speech to his Delta Chi brothers,
"Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!"
I know it wasn't the Germans, but that's not the point. The point is that there are still plenty of things that I fully intended to do this summer but was never quite able to complete the task.  Like...
1.  Finding a rock and cracking it open to discover the wonders of a Geode. I cracked a lot of rocks but, alas, no Geode.
2.  Mountain biking the Big Hill trails all the way down to Spearfish Canyon, then into town. Did that last year and was hoping to repeat it this year.  
3.  Motorcycling to Montana, then cutting across to Devils Tower in Wyoming and back home. Made a run to Devils tower, but it was the short cut. Had my Polaroid camera along -

4.  Drive or ride on a photo safari through the badlands. Didn't even get close to doing this.
5.  Hike around the Stratobowl in the Black Hills. No excuse for not doing this. So close.

I also didn't spend enough time with friends. I tried and failed with some. Succeeded with others, but even then it wasn't enough time. It's never enough. There are other things that weren't necessarily in the plans, but would have still been awesome if they actually happened. Like...
1.  Getting caught in the rain a long way from shelter. I was too careful.
2.  Camping out on Sand Creek, or up in Spearfish Canyon. Even if just for old time's sake. I know the right spots.
3.  Stopping at a flea market. Drove by one many times.
4.  Spending most of an entire day at an auction with lots of "miscellaneous items." Timing was never right.
5.  Going to a drive-in theatre. They're still around.

I suppose the list could go on. But why dwell on what might have been? It's time to get serious and make up some lost time before autumn hits and then...winter. There's still time. Because summer is not over. It's not over until I decide it's over! And once more I will look to Delta Chi for my inspiration. This time from Otter, "I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part."
And I'm just the guy to do it. Who's with me? Let's go!

Roger O'Dea        9/8/2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Polaroid Rally

This was a big one. The 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Hundreds of thousands (some say a million) motorcycle enthusiasts attended this year, making it quite possibly the largest event of this kind in the country. It was also an excellent opportunity to try out the new Impossible 2.0 black and white film for Polaroid 600 type instant cameras. So I loaded up my Polaroid Spirit 600 CL and headed out on my classic 1999 Valkyrie F6 to shoot whatever caught my eye and my interest in the normally sleepy little town of about 7,000 people which, including the surrounding campgrounds, had now grown to the single largest city in the entire state by population standards.
My first stop was the Rally headquarters of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. I stop there every year to pick up a t-shirt, coffee mug or some other souvenir for myself or that one person (there's always one) who says, "Get me something!" The old school Polaroid camera around my neck generated a lot of interest , as evidenced by the fact that I shot an entire pack of film there but only made it out with one to keep for myself. I didn't think it would be a good idea to refuse their requests to keep the pictures I took of them. I heard a lot of, "Take one of us!" And, "Can I get one, too?" What am I going to do, say "No?" Actually, they all seemed like good people. Just there to have some fun, sell some shirts and perhaps gain a few new recruits.

Of course there were girls everywhere attracting attention in one way or another. Girls selling shirts. Girls selling beer. Girls selling tattoos and body paint. Even selling guns.

And guys, too. Guys directing traffic. Guys handing out bibles. Guys staying sober. Even guys with beards sitting on a bench.

Kids. Couples. And workers on break.

And, of course, motorcycles. My favorites were the vintage bikes.

It's over now. Things are back to normal here in the Black Hills of Dakota. People are thinking about summer ending soon and back-to-school time, and about next year. The 76th annual. Probably not as big as this year. But likely to be just as fun. That is if you like this sort of thing. And I do.

Roger O'Dea    8/11/2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sturgis 75th - And So It Begins

Early projections said 500,000 were expected to attend this year's 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Then it went to 750,000. Now some are predicting a million. I don't think that's going to happen. One million is the entire population of Montana, and nearly twice that of Wyoming. The media hype is getting a little carried away with the numbers, but it is going to be big. There is no doubt about that. I've been around here for a lot of years and this is the most activity I've ever seen this soon. Earlier this week I visited Sturgis to check out the situation. It's a sure bet that rally time is near when the old familiar haunts start opening back up. This one in particular -

It's a dive bar in every sense, but that's part of what gives it personality. And it has plenty of that.

I was a little surprised by all of the vendors that have set up shop already. 

Looks like there will be no shortage of t-shirts or caps again this year. I got mine already. Not just "as is" off the rack, though. It's customized.  Every year for the past few years I've been buying a plain Dickies shirt with no graphics or brand logos. Especially no Harley Davidson logos. Way too much of that stuff. (Disclosure: I ride, but not a Harley). I then pick out a patch with a Sturgis logo on it for the current year and have them iron it on. Over the years I've acquired quite a collection. The logo this year is pretty cool. I like it. Looks good on my shirt.

It should be fun this year. A couple of rides are already planned with some friends. Also, I've been in contact with an international company in regards to a photo project collaboration. Details still haven't been completely worked out, but I can say that no digital cameras will be involved. We're going old school on this project. I hope it works out. 

So for those of you who don't like this time of year because of all the motorcycle traffic, the noise, or all those other things that come with at least half a million bikers invading your back yard, you'd better start stocking up on groceries and get ready to hunker down for the next two to three weeks.  And for those of you who love this time of year...Let's Ride!

Roger O'Dea      7/22/2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Room With A View (Back To The Poet's Table)

After six weeks I am finally inspired to write again. And it's no surprise that the source of my inspiration is that lovely place high up in the Black Hills called The Poet's Table.
I had been slogging through weeks of mostly rain and cool temperatures and had let the weather get to me. But I was resolved to get back out into my beloved Black Hills...rain or shine. It was rain. Didn't matter. I took off that morning with my backpack stuffed with a raincoat and extra insulation around my cameras. That turned out to be unnecessary as the universe answered my prayer for a good day. I wouldn't have even cared if I had to hike in the rain, as long as I was able to get to my destination. As it turned out, by the time I reached the trail head the rain was far behind me and the temperatures had warmed considerably.
Because of a wrong turn off of the main trail I ended up taking a longer, more strenuous route. That wasn't a bad thing, however, as I certainly can use the exercise. Seems I have gotten a little soft over this past long winter. But, as usually is the case with me, I tend to be in a little better shape than I look so the trek was not particularly taxing. I made it with only a couple of brief respites for rest and water. As I took the final steps around the rock wall and under the fallen tree a familiar feeling came over me.  It's a feeling I never get used to, and yet it's one I can't really describe. I just feel peaceful there. And thankful. Thankful for this day, this place, and this view.

I rummaged through some of the notebooks in the desk behind the table, which was nearly overflowing with papers and items...much more than I remember being there on my previous visit.

On that visit I had left a photo and a paperback copy of The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. Both were gone. That's okay. I hope whoever took them had a reason and are enjoying them still.

Nothing really piqued my interest so I just sat in silence for a while enjoying the moment. Then something caught my eye. It was a piece of weathered crumpled paper stuffed into a small crevice on the side of the rock.

I walked over, removed it, and began reading the story of Jenny and Jeremy. It was hand written on one sheet of paper, front and back. Jenny loved Jeremy but couldn't leave her boyfriend, who was not Jeremy.  Jeremy apparently said some mean things and at some point after that the relationship ended. There were a lot more details about time spent together, deep feelings, and what might have been. No need to go into it more here, but it was a very touching and heartfelt letter. In closing Jenny wrote that she hoped somehow Jeremy might find the note. I hope he does. It might be too late now. But maybe, just maybe, there is still a chance for Jenny and Jeremy.
It is truly a special place, this Poet's Table, hidden in a secret location in those beautiful and mysterious black mountain hills of Dakota. If you haven't already been, you should go there. I can't tell you exactly how to find it but I would be willing to offer up a couple of clues. Or, even better, I could take you there some day...if you are in the area and the timing is right. So go ahead and ask me.  And if the fates allow, we will make the journey together. I'm always ready to go back.

Roger O'Dea     6-17-2015

Sunday, May 3, 2015

East River

I've heard it said that South Dakota should be split into two separate states - East River and West River. On a recent trip from the Black Hills to Sioux Falls I saw some evidence to support that proposition. It really is a different vibe over there. Not better. Just different.
A Sunday evening dinner with old friends started the trip off on a fun and positive note. That followed a rather uneventful drive across the state...with one exception. I pulled into a rest area near the tiny town of Wasta, and as I merged back onto the interstate I was convinced I had taken the wrong ramp and was heading back west toward Rapid City. The compass in my vehicle told me I was going east. The road sign said "I-90 East." But it just didn't feel right. Have you ever been so sure of something that, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary, you just know you're right? That's how I felt. After about a mile or two, as I was considering pulling a U-turn through the median (Hey...I've seen cops do it),  I saw a sign that read "Wall Drug - 11 Miles." That was the overwhelming evidence I needed to realize that I was actually traveling in the right direction.
The further east you go the more farms you will see. Mostly large family or corporate operations. Nothing wrong with that. However, spending some quality time at Good Roots Farm and Gardens on Monday introduced me to the concept of Permaculture. Here's how a Wikipedia entry describes it -  A philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system. 
I saw some wonderful examples of pesticide-free farming, effective balanced conservation efforts, and even free range chickens guarded by llamas. Pretty cool. The property was also a delight visually -

This old barn had a lot of personality, and waiting for me inside was a delicious treat fresh from the ground -

Normally I have trouble eating carrots and radishes due to a throat injury years ago, but these looked too good to pass up and I accepted an offer to try one. I enjoyed it without incident, and it was marvelous! 
After some discussions about milkweed, Monarch butterflies, how nature balances itself out, and that the way to start a revolution is to change the culture, it was time to go. I would like to return later in the year to see the full fruits of their labor. 
But now it was time to get back to the city and do a different kind digging...for vinyl. I had heard of a record store called Total Drag. I didn't like the name. No record store I've ever visited has been what I would call a "drag." So, I was looking forward to checking it out and was anticipating finding some buried treasure. That was not going to happen, though, because it was closed. So it really was a total drag.

Just like Arlo Guthrie never heard of a dump being closed on Thanksgiving... remember Arlo Guthrie? We're going to get back to him in a minute... I had never heard of a record store being closed on Monday. So with tears in my eyes I drove off to find another place to look for records. Didn't find one. Until I came to Ernie November's, which is usually a dependable place for at least one score. And that's all I came away with. A compilation of performances from the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, including a Bob Dylan - Joan Baez duet and a couple Tom Paxton songs. Not a great find, but not bad.

Now, about Arlo. He is the original reason I made the trip. He was doing a show that night as part of the Alice's Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour. 50 years. That's a long time. I don't think many people realize what a career he's had, recording twenty five albums containing a number of hits. Most may be familiar with "City of New Orleans." (No...Willie Nelson's version was later). I figured this might be my last chance to see him. It was a good show in spite of the fact that at one point he forgot the words! He recovered nicely and the rest of the concert went on without a hitch. The crowd was somewhat different than I expected. I only observed a few obviously old hippies. You know - the ones with gray hair tied up in a pony tail. Otherwise there were a lot of hipsters, men over 50 in Tommy Bahama shirts and Dockers, ladies dressed up in the latest fashions, even a few suits. I was pleased, though, during the song "Coming Into Los Angeles" to see a thirty-something chick jump up and begin dancing in the aisle. She didn't start a movement, however, as nobody else joined her. So she sat back down before the song ended. It was a valiant effort appreciated by me and perhaps only me judging from a few whispers and furrowed brows that I observed. It was then I realized a lot of people who came out for the show were there for a social event and to be seen, rather than to see a music my mind anyway. At least I hope they appreciated his stories of growing up with a famous father and him being very thankful for his good fortune in being able to hang out with some very colorful characters in a very interesting time in American history. 
It was a good trip, but I always like coming back to my Black Hills. I say that for many reasons, including the fact that the record stores here are so much better than in that other state over there...the one we call East River.

Roger O'Dea     5/3/2015

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Alice's Garden (A True Story)


This is a story called Alice's Garden, and it's about me and my friend Alice. But Alice is not the name of my friend. That's just the name of the garden. I changed her real name to protect her innocence, and that's why I call this story Alice's Garden.

You can get anything you want at Alice's Garden
Walk right over it's easily found
Just a short stroll from the Round-Up Ground
You can get anything you want at Alice's Garden 

Now it all started over 40 years ago, it was over 40 years ago in the summer when my friend and I decided to start a garden in our town. But it wasn't actually in town, it was on the edge of town, by the river. So we took some shovels and rakes and other implements of destruction and put them in the back of a red 1963 Chevy Impala and went to work digging up the ground and planting vegetables. Well somebody saw us working in the garden and called the cops because they thought we were planting marijuana down there by the river, but we weren't. We were planting carrots. And peas. And radishes. Carrots and peas and radishes right there in that garden! But nobody got to enjoy the harvest because we had to abandon the garden due to the fact that the rumor spread and some people thought a couple of hippies were trying to grow an illegal substance in their little town.

But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about a wreck. It happened a couple of years later on New Year's Eve when a bunch of us were at a party and found out just a few minutes before midnight that some girls were at another party in another part of town and wanted to come to our party. So I volunteered to get in my car and go get them to bring them to our party. I raced across town, picked up the girls, and was racing to make it back before midnight when the car hit an ice patch, spun around and crashed head-on into a telephone pole in front of a church. Nobody was hurt, except the car. Somebody saw the accident and called the cops (again) and soon Officer Franke showed up. Officer Franke looked at the car. Then he looked at the telephone pole. Then he looked at the car again. Then he said, "What happened, Rog?" (He knew my name from some previous encounters).  I said, "Officer Franke, I cannot tell a lie, I swerved to miss a deer." He said, "You swerved to miss a midnight...on New Year's the middle of town?" I said, "Yes sir." He said, "Well, alright then, I'll call the tow truck and in the meantime can I take you all to where you were going?" So we all got in the police car and were dropped off at the party. A few of the cops would cut a kid some slack back then. No ticket required. None given.

So if you want to let kids be kids and encourage cops to give a break once in a while...all you have to do is walk up to a cop and sing You can get anything you want at Alice's Garden. If just one person does this they'll think he's sick and leave him alone. And if two people do it, in harmony, they might think it's an organization. And if 50 people walk up to a cop and sing one line of Alice's Garden...well friends, they may think it's a movement. And that's what it is, the Alice's Garden Anti-Massacree Movement. And all you got to do to join is just sing it anytime you get the feeling. Here comes the feeling -

You can get anything you want at Alice's Garden
Walk right over it's easily found
Just a short stroll from the Round-Up Ground
You can get anything you want at Alice's Garden 

Da da da da da da da dum

 Roger O'Dea   3-28-15

**Footnote - "Alice" is in this class reunion photo...but that's the only clue you get.