Sunday, March 30, 2014

Waiting For The Road To Open

It's been approximately 178 days now since I've gone on a motorcycle ride. Or teed up a golf ball. Or bicycled down a single track trail on the back side of Old Baldy. Or hiked to a secret place that only I and a relatively small band of ragtag fellow travelers know about. Of those 178 days, a majority of them have been cloudy, gray and terribly cold. Yes, it has been a long winter. According to the National Weather Service our area has experienced its snowiest winter ever, and 10th coldest winter on record. My senses have been dulled and my energy level is diminished. That's not good.
Yesterday was nice, though, in the 60s. But I was working so I missed most of it. I miss a lot by working Saturdays, but that's the cost of being in retail. Besides, somebody has to be there to keep America rolling and I don't mind (much) that it's me. As I write this it's about 50 degrees on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But it's cloudy and windy, so it doesn't feel all that nice. And this is the outlook for tonight and tomorrow -
 By the time most of you read this the storm will be in full force, or over. That's the good thing...storms never last. But, I want to be prepared so I'm already getting in to full storm prep mode by searching for videos to add to the queue, like highlights from the 1977 Duke Kahanamoko Surfing Championship which was won by Eddie Aikau.  That's probably not something you remember, but I remember watching it on ABC's Wide World of Sports and never missed a broadcast from 1969 through 1979. Not being a surfer myself, I can't explain my loyalty to the DK Classic. Just one of those things we get caught up in, I guess. Sort of like today's obsession by so many people with The Walking Dead. That phenomenon has just recently hit our household. I bailed on it fairly quickly, although when I am otherwise occupied I still occasionally hear zombie sounds coming from the TV in another room. Fortunately we are still fiercely resisting getting hooked on Breaking Bad. But I digress. Getting back to my storm prep - also on the list is the movie Almost Famous, with back-ups of Groundhog Day and possibly one of the original Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers. Books on stand-by include One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I've wanted to read for quite a while but the time has never seemed right up to this point. Or, Advise and Dissent - Memoirs Of An Ex-Senator by Jim Abourezk. I kind of remember reading this one when it was originally published about 25 years ago. I didn't have it in my library, though, and bought it about a month ago after discovering it in the cluttered aisles of a wonderful used book store in Rapid City. Although my days as a political activist are long over, Senator Abourezk is one of only two politicians (George McGovern being the other one) that I ever truly respected for standing firm on their principals as opposed to standing for whatever they think will get them re-elected.
So bring it on Storm! I'm ready for you this time, and can outlast you. It's almost April. There will be more cold days ahead, and even more snow. I understand that. However, I also know that soon brown and gray and white will give way to greens and blues and yellows and all the colors of summer. The roads will be open and clear, and it will be time to RIDE!

Roger O'Dea   3/30/2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

No More Bomb Throwing

To Whom It May Concern,
Stop it. Just stop it.  I am so tired of the acrimony, name calling and hatefulness from both sides of the so called marriage equality issue.  Using hurtful, offensive or angry words and displaying such malice in your comments and actions only hurts your cause.  I have seen examples lately in social media like this ---
"...take that all you self righteous, bible thumping, chest beating apes!"
Now, what did that accomplish? How did this comment do anything to further your position, belief or argument?  The other side is probably just as bad, although they are not quite as vocal around here about their position.  And it seems their opposition to marriage equality is largely based on religious beliefs.  That's fine.  I respect that. Both sides have every right to their beliefs, and the right to assemble, protest peacefully, lobby, debate and try to change the things they think need changing.  But, please, do it in a way that doesn't insult, demean or belittle others.  Is that so much to ask?

Personally, I don't understand the problem.  Love is an emotion. A feeling. You can't just make it go away.  Two people, any two people, who love each other should be able to get married.  Or not get married.  It should be their choice.  How does that decision affect the health or well being of anyone who is opposed to it?  This comment made by a friend of mine on a social media site seems to put it in perspective quite well ---
"Every person deserves equality in all their rights...regardless of who they love. Isn't that what we are here to do is love one another?? How can that be wrong or judged when it is in fact the most powerful and positive energy there is...regardless of who is loving who! Life is way too short to be anything but happy. Make your memories good ones. We are here to make it the most amazing journey we can for ourselves and others. Be Kind and Love One Another. Simple."

Then there's this from Ellen ---
"Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don't think we hurt anyone else's marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they're fine. - See more at:
"Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don't think we hurt anyone else's marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they're fine. - See more at:
"Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don't think we hurt anyone else's marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they're fine. - See more at:
“Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don’t think we hurt anyone else’s marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they’re fine.” 

Nothing like a little humor from Ellen to make a point.  I guess that's really what this essay is about ... there's a better way to make your point.  Be firm, but be kind.  Have conviction, but also have compassion.  And if you want to win friends and influence people - stop throwing bombs.  Please.

Roger O'Dea    3/6/2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Right Around Here

Tuesday afternoons never disappoint me.  Even though I usually have no particular place to go,  I still make it a point whenever I can to pack up my cameras and head out in search of something unusual, unique, odd, historic, nostalgic, or just the occasional random irregularity.  You know...things that just seem to be out of place or don't go together.  Like, oh, say for example, a bright blue bath tub sitting outside surrounded by a group of pink Flamingos.  Now there's something you don't see every day.

Sometimes I want to go knock on somebody's door and ask them about some of the sights I come across, "Hey buddy, what's up with the bathtub and pink Flamingos?"  But then, maybe there are some things that are better off being left to the imagination.  
I decided to drive (I can't wait for warmer weather when that word drive becomes ride) to some very small towns in the area.  It's the smallest towns that sometimes offer the biggest surprises.  I didn't have to go far to discover a castle sitting atop a little hill on the edge of the first town where I stopped.  Just turned down a side street and there it was.
A tiny castle, and not one that would hold off the barbarian invaders from the great white north, but still a castle.  It was located in someone's back yard so I didn't investigate further, but it was another one of those,  "Hey buddy, what's up with the castle?" moments. 
On a large lot in this same town was a building with a sign out front identifying it as the Art Ranch.  It was hard to tell if it is still in use.  I would like to think that it is.
I would also like to think that it is a place for art. Not a place owned by a guy named Art.
About thirty minutes away and a mile off the main highway, in the same town as the above mentioned bathtub/Flamingo spectacle, I saw a Gremlin.  A real Gremlin.  Ok, show of hands - who had or had a chance to ride in a Gremlin back in the day?  Pretty much a deathtrap and a money pit, but that doesn't change the fact that they're a pretty cool car.  Probably more so now than then.  I broke out the old Polaroid instant camera for this shot.  I just seemed right to take a picture of a Gremlin with a camera that might have been sitting right there on the seat when this car was new and roaming the streets of Any Town USA.

Another few miles down the road is what was once known as the sheep capital of the country.  I remember there being a sign many years ago proclaiming as much, but it's gone now.  Apparently they moved a lot of sheep through that town during more prosperous times.  But, like a lot of small towns these days, there isn't much going on.  They still have rooms for rent, though -

This might have been a boarding house at one time.  It's always nice to see old buildings like this in good repair and still functional.
Last stop was what is left of another once active small town.  Not so much any more.  I imagine this was a busy store at one time.  The sign on the door is still in good condition, unlike the rest of the building. It reads "Reach for Sunbeam Bread." I bet it was good bread.  With a name like Sunbeam, it has to be good. Right?  

Notice the reflections in the windows.  They really make this photo pop when you see it up close.  I wish I could make it larger here so you could see the details. It really was an impressive scene.  Hopefully you get the effect.
Then it was time to head back home, to another small town that has changed quite a bit over the years.  I won't say it has changed for the worse, however.  There are still a lot of good people here, and it's still home. That means a lot. After all, isn't that where the heart is?

                                                          Roger O'Dea     2/19/2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

All The World's A Stage

I can't stop thinking about the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.  When I start thinking about something too much it usually means that I need to write about it.  That always seems to help me put to rest whatever it is I'm thinking about too much.  One reason I'm thinking more about the death of this particular person is the way it happened.  Alone in his $10,000 a month apartment with heroin scattered around the room and a needle stuck in his arm.  So tragic for someone so talented and for someone who seemed to have shrugged off his fame and lived what some who knew him called an "unassuming life" and said that he was just a "regular guy."  But regular guys don't shoot heroin.  It's all just so sad.  The other reason for my reflection has to do with the connection I felt to the characters he played in certain movies.  Some of his roles were familiar to me in both time period and subject matter.  Almost Famous, set in the year 1973, is a good example.  So many scenes and conversations in that movie took me back to that year in my own life.  Scenes like this one, which is pretty accurate right down to the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer on the table and the shag carpet.

There is also a scene in this movie in which Lester Bangs, played by Hoffman, as the editor of a music magazine called Creem, is having a conversation with William Miller, a young kid, played by Patrick Fugit, who is trying to break into the business as a music writer/reporter.  Following a long lecture about how corrupt the music business is, Bangs suddenly pauses, then says, "I can give you 35 bucks.  Give me a thousand words on Black Sabbath."  This gets the kid started on his way, and for the rest of the movie you see him carrying around a small, cheap cassette tape recorder with a microphone about the size of a magic marker.  The reason this scene stood out so much for me is that when I was only 18 years old and working as a dj (that's disc jockey for those of you not hip to the lingo) at a small AM radio station in South Dakota my boss came to me one day with my first big assignment.  Militant members of the American Indian Movement had just staged an armed occupation of Wounded Knee, a small town on the Pine Ridge Reservation about a hundred miles away.  A press conference was scheduled for the next day in Rapid City, about 50 miles away, and reporters from the major national news networks would be there, along with South Dakota Senator James Abourezk, Abourezk's aide Tom Daschle, FBI officials and a bunch of other big shots.  For some reason our own news director was not available, so I got the assignment.  I was nervous, excited and scared all at the same time.  But I went, and there I was - sitting at an over sized conference table with all of these pros with expensive equipment, wearing suits and smoking Chesterfields.  A couple of them may have even been right out some classic film noir, wearing a Fedora with a tag that said PRESS sticking out of the hatband.  It was a big moment for me...even if I was way out of my league.  Thank God I never asked a question.

Another Hoffman movie role that got to me was The Count in Pirate Radio.  It should be obvious by now that my radio days were a huge influence in my life and the source of some very fond memories.
I played a lot of those same records in real life as those guys did on that underground station located on a ship drifting somewhere off the coast of England.  I wasn't quite as animated, however, and I was bound by FCC regulations as well as local standards of the time.  But, in one of my proudest moments, I did almost get fired for playing "The Ballad of John and Yoko."  Some of the lyrics were...well...let's just say they weren't acceptable to the owner of a local station in a small midwestern town.  He gave me a break, though, and I'm glad he did.  Thanks Joe.
My next favorite Hoffman role was Brandt, the nerdy personal assistant to Mr. Lebowski. That's Mr. Jeffrey Lebowski, the millionaire philanthropist, not Jeff Lebowski, the Dude.  You know, the one who abides.  I guess if you haven't seen the movie then you don't know.  So see the movie.

There. I feel better.  Maybe I just needed to talk about some of these things.  It could be that deep down when I hear about the death of someone I admire, even though I may not know them, it causes me to consider my own mortality.  After all, I'm not in my early 50s any more.  I'm not even in my mid 50s any more.  But I plan on being around for quite a while yet. As Gavin Cavanagh, one of those crazy guys on Radio Caroline out there in the North Sea said so poignantly "Now here's a rather long record. I hope I'm here at the end of it."

             Roger O'Dea     2/4/2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Unnecessary Objects

I did it again.  This is what happens when I go through an entire day unsupervised.  I buy things.  Sometimes I trade for things. But mostly I buy them.  I can't stop.  It's just too much fun browsing all of those antique stores, second hand shops and flea markets.  I always find something I need.  Maybe "need" is not the right word.  "Want" might be more like it.  But, at least everything I find has some meaning or value to me.  Well, almost everything.  I'm still not sure what the motivation was to buy those miniature fat cat bobbleheads.  I guess you could say they're small works of art.  Art.  Yeah, that's it.  You know how I feel about any kind of art.

So there is a reason to my many and varied purchases.  As evidence I will submit this next photo featuring some of my important finds that I happened to have close at hand, and offer some explanation as to their significance.

The long out of print Richard Brautigan book was discovered in a used book store.  I like it because it reminds me of when I was seventeen.  It was a very good year.  The other book came from a general consignment store.  It's one of the most exquisitely written books I've ever read.  And I've read it several times.  The tiny painting on canvas was one of several being offered at a yard sale just outside Spearfish City Park during the summer festival.  The artist is Lisa Howard.  Similar works by this artist were being sold at one time in the store at the Dahl Fine Arts Center in Rapid City.  They may still be available there.  The campaign button has a very special meaning to me.  I found it in a display case at an antique consignment store.  Even though I was still in high school,  I worked very hard for Senator McGovern during that campaign but for some reason I didn't save any souvenirs.  I still believe him to be the most decent and sincere man ever involved in politics in this country.  The camera is my latest acquisition.  It was buried on a bottom shelf in a cluttered corner of another consignment antique gallery.  Didn't even see it at first.  I noticed it after picking up an old radio that was sitting in front of it blocking the view.  It's a Kodak Instamatic from 1976.  Still in the original box, complete with flash bar attachment and user guide.  The original price sticker from Sturgis Drug is still on the box!  $23.50.  That was a lot in 1976.  I paid $4.50 for it.  I know!  Right?  Can't wait to find some film and see if it works.  So, that's it for...oh wait...the camel.  I don't know why I bought that stupid camel.  It was just sitting there on the shelf, away from anything else.  It's very unusual.  And it was only two bucks.  Other than that I can't come up with any reason.  So I really don't know why I bought it.  I just did. 
I truly do enjoy these little treasure hunts that have become a part of my usual activities, especially during the doldrums of winter.  And these things collected along the way are really not unnecessary objects.  They are all important and meaningful in their own unique way.  Except that camel. I still can't explain the camel.

      Roger O'Dea      1/22/2014

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 - The Honest Truth

This will not be your typical Year In Review or New Year Resolutions essay.  I made a few resolutions last year, and actually kept the majority of them, even though it was mostly by accident rather than some well thought out plan of action.  My heart wasn't in it then and I'm not especially motivated this year, either.  I don't even have a bucket list.  I figure if there's something I really want to do I'll find a way to do it as soon as I can, without the added stress of death looming as a deadline.  So I'm not making any promises, pledges or commitments.  I will, however, offer up some expectations about what will happen in 2014. What qualifies me to express these things with high probability is nearly 60 years of living.  One gains a lot of insight and experience in that amount of time. 
1.   More and more people around the world will work harder and make extra effort to be helpful, positive, caring, tolerant and supportive of each other.  They will make things better for many others.
2.   Unfortunately, there will also be more fanatics and lunatics who don't tolerate any lifestyle or belief system that isn't the same as theirs.  They will cause big problems for many others.
3.   The two-party political system will suffer huge losses.  Too many people are fed up with this whole Democrat and Republican thing.  Independent and common sense candidates will experience big gains in popularity.
4.   Haters will hate.
5.   Lovers will love.
6.   More people will be willing to intervene and act if they see rude, mean or bad things happening.
7.   Unfortunately more people will act out in rude, mean or bad ways. 
8.   The internet, social media and technology will rage on.
9.   Young people will be smarter and more aware. (But, thankfully, kids will still be kids.)
10. The sun will rise and set.  Every day.  Wherever you are.

Now here are my predictions

I will go to work every day, and come home every night.  Except when I don't go to work.  Those days I will make every effort to find some new (or repeat a favorite) adventure.  I will make more art, take more pictures, and go a little deeper into the woods.  And spend more time cultivating friendships with some very awesome and amazing people who I happen to know.
This is how my year looks so far -

Pretty much a clean slate. It will be fun and interesting to see what develops, is framed, or put on canvas this year.  As, Mr. Petty put it, "the future is wide open."

Roger O'Dea     1/1/2014