Sunday, December 28, 2014

On The Road At 60

Traveled by car to Denver, Spirit Airlines to Phoenix, I-17 north to Arizona 179, which took me into Sedona, Arizona - a place like no other. I had heard so much about this location that I had to experience it for myself. And my 60th birthday seemed like a good occasion to do it. The fact that my son was able to fly in from New York to join me made it even better. He is a rather private person but I managed to snap a picture of him that I'm sure he won't object to me using here -

Ahhh..the Blue Moon Cafe. The World Famous Blue Moon Cafe. Our first introduction to the local flavor. I noticed there was a lot of "world famous" on this trip. The Sultana Saloon, Pink Jeep Tours, Rod's Steak House, Grand Canyon Hotel,  Moon Dogs Pizza ... the list goes on. But none are more famous than Sedona itself. It really is an amazing place. So much to see. And do. And feel. Very powerful and spiritual in addition to being incredibly beautiful. 
These aren't just formations to be admired at a distance, there are many trails that take you right into the landscape.

During a solo trek one afternoon a strong feeling came over me to go off the trail through a stand of Juniper and Pinyon which led me to a clearing that had a particular attraction to me for some reason. I sat down amidst a feeling of calmness and clarity. I have trouble being still. It's hard for me. So I have to work at it, through meditation and physically putting myself in locations that lend themselves to thoughtful contemplation. There are several special locations in and around the Black Hills where I can go to do this, but this place on this day gave me an instant feeling of sanctuary. It may have been one of the vortexes people talk about in that area, or it may have just been that I was open to the experience of pure primordial nature and the positive energy that can be felt if you are ready to receive it. Time passed slowly, and I'm not sure how long I was there. Quite a while, though, because by the time I got back to the trailhead it was near dusk in the late afternoon. I left a small totem as a token of my appreciation. Not a quality structure for sure, but then it wasn't meant to be a permanent offering, and I trust it's gone by now.
We spent most of another day driving through the beautiful (and world famous) Oak Creek Canyon up to I-40 and old Route 66. Near Williams, Arizona we spotted a sign that read "Grand Canyon - 56 Miles." Why not? So we made a hard right and headed on up. It's another place that is really indescribable. We were there near dusk and the setting sun, cloudy sky and late day shadows made the view absolutely magnificent!

Another memorable experience on this trip was meeting Banya, a spiritual intuitive guide and healer located in Sedona. It was already too late to schedule a full session, but I was intrigued by an offer to have my aura photographed. I am definitely not a disbeliever, but sometimes I am skeptical of these things. The large number of positive testimonials regarding her practice made me feel good about going through with the process. I had hoped for a different result but must say I was not surprised at what showed up in the photo.
Apparently I have some work to do. This photo shows an imbalance that I would like to correct. I won't go into the details (those of you who know about such things will see what's going on) but will say I am taking seriously an action plan suggested by her, and am already underway with phase one. 
It really was a wonderful trip, and one I will remember always. I'm sure I'll go back. There is so much more I'd like to see and do. If you've been there, you know. If you haven't, I enthusiastically encourage you to go. And be sure to stop by the Blue Moon Cafe, especially for breakfast. I suggest you try the Paul Bunyan Pancake. I hear it's world famous.

 Roger O'Dea   12/28/2014

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

Friday, June 6, 2014

Storms Never Last

"Stormy weather,
Just can't get my poor self together ..."

Anybody else notice how many storms we've had already? Severe storms. It's hard for me to complain because I've always liked a good thunderstorm. But it seems like they've come early and have been more fierce this year. We've been fortunate so far in our town. No big hail or damaging winds. But we can't seem to shake the trend of almost daily afternoon darkening skies, often leading to some heavy downpours and threatening winds. We do get an occasional respite. Like yesterday. It was sunny and 75. But now as I write this the clouds have gathered in a sinister plot to once again deny the sun its rightful and proper place of prominence in the summer sky. So it looks like another one day in a row, then back to what must be climate change because it's sure not global warming. Forecast says rain and highs only in the 50s or maybe low 60s for the weekend. That just doesn't seem right for June in South Dakota. Although, as I've already mentioned, it's not entirely a bad thing. Because with bothersome or disagreeable weather often comes some pretty good photo opportunities. Which suits me just fine.
It's also true that some of our most fun and exciting family times have been experienced in the grip of a raging storm. Like the time we were camping near Mt. Rushmore with our son, who was about 9 or 10 years old at the time, and a thunderstorm of near epic proportions moved in so quickly it caught most everyone totally unprepared. Most everyone but us that is. We were skilled campers. We had pitched our tent on a very slight incline and driven the stakes deep into the ground when setting up, and even carved out a shallow trench around our tent to divert the water around it in the event of rain. And, oh, did it rain! There was also some of the most intense lightning and thunder we had ever  experienced. We were huddled together inside that little tent, dry and cozy, while the storm raged outside. It was awesome! We still talk about that night and how much fun it was to "beat the devil."
Some storms, however, have not provided such good memories. There was one a few years ago that sent us scurrying into the crawl space under our house to escape the high winds and huge hailstones crashing through our windows. That was scary. So, I guess the quote by Forrest Gump about a box of chocolates could also apply to summer storms... "You never know what you're going to get."  
One other thing - have you ever seen the tree pollen as thick as it is this year? It's crazy. I snapped a picture one afternoon a few days ago because I couldn't believe what I was seeing off in the distance. The pollen was so thick in the air it looked like a pale yellow fog rolling through the trees. It was kind of creepy.
If there was a time before when it was this bad I don't remember it. The rain started just a few minutes after I took the photo and knocked it all down, but for a while it was quite a sight.  
As I look out the window now from my desk I see the sun has lost another battle against the clouds. Guess I'll load some fresh tunes into my playlist for the drive to work, and take some comfort in the fact that, just like storms in life, storms outside never last either. Now I just need to decide which version of Stormy Weather to include. Billie Holiday or Lena Horne? Actually, I'm going with the Etta James version. I like that one the best. I might even turn it up real loud and sing along. I don't even care if someone is watching, as long as they can't hear me. That would be one box of chocolates no one would want to get.

Roger O'Dea   06/06/2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

Ten Years After

I don't like taking a test. I'm usually not very good at it. But sometimes you have to do it, even if you're afraid of what the results might be.  This December will be the 10th anniversary of my heart attack, so during my regular annual checkup the doctor recommended I take a stress test to see what condition my condition is in.  I've only done this once before, nearly three years ago. It was the abbreviated version which consisted of walking on a treadmill while being connected to an electrocardiogram. It was toward the end of a summer packed with activities and I felt good, so I wasn't very worried about the results.  And I pretty much aced it.

This time I would be taking the test near the end of winter...a season where I do nothing.  Not even regular exercise. I could exercise. I should exercise. I just don't.  I don't like it, and prefer to get my workouts naturally by being outside between May and October. I am admittedly a little soft right now.  So it was with some trepidation that I showed up for my scheduled appointment.  Adding to my anxiety was the way they would be conducting the test this time.  I would not only be hooked up to the machine as usual, but I would be connected to an ultrasound device so they could actually observe how my heart responded to the strain.  I wasn't expecting that, but didn't protest.  That is until they informed me that they weren't getting a clear picture during the prep process so they were going to insert an I.V. with a solution that would allow them to see into my heart more clearly.  Great.  If I already wasn't worried enough, now I had to think about getting a needle jammed into my hand and having a tube hanging off me - in addition to all the wires.  I could feel my blood pressure rising.  Oh. Did I mention that I also had a blood pressure cuff around my arm?  I seriously considered calling the whole thing off.  The I.V. was something I just wasn't sure I wanted to allow.  I've had a few of those in my day, and more often than not the person attempting to insert the needle into whatever part of my body they were attempting to insert it into had a difficult time getting the job done. I don't blame them. I apparently have difficult veins for this type of procedure. Also, I tend to tense up which just makes it even more difficult.  The nurse was very reassuring, though, and very skilled. It actually went in quite smoothly and with very little pain.
The test got underway at slow speed and just a slight incline. After three minutes the speed was increased and the incline raised.  So far so good.  Three minutes later the speed was increased and the incline raised again.  This cycle was repeated a couple more times until my brisk walk turned into running at a pretty good clip.  After that cycle I reached my limit and had to stop.  The nurse and ultrasound tech both said I did well and everything looked good even after I maxed out on my heart rate.  They even said I beat my time from the previous test. That surprised me. But I was very happy to hear it.  I was also pleased (and relieved) when I received this letter from my doctor a few days later -

Brief and to the point. But good news just the same. And a relief, because as I mentioned, it's coming up on ten years since my heart attacked me. The reason that is significant is that the surgeon told me at the time, and my follow up doctor has repeated it several times, the type of by-pass surgery I had generally only lasts from 10 to 15 years before the veins used to build the new arteries wear out and the surgery needs to be done again.  Because I had five by-passes (yes...five) and because I was relatively young at the time it is very likely I will outlive the rebuilt arteries and will need the surgery at some point in the future. That's still true.  However, the results of this latest checkup have provided me with at least some assurance that I have a few years before I need to start worrying about the inevitable.  I can put it off even longer by eating better, exercising regularly, and being more mindful of my health on a daily basis.  I really should do those things.  Everybody should.  And I intend to. I hope I can follow through.  Guess I'd better get started, because I have a lot of things to do and a lot of places to go.

Roger O'Dea   5-4-14

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