Tag Archives: observations

Making arrangements.

Yesterday was a lousy day in America. After some deeply disturbed coward in a Las Vegas hotel room left most of us feeling sad and hopeless, the office was silent. People on the street spoke of feeling vulnerable. I wound up at the grocery store wandering the aisles looking for plastic wrap and a friendly smile or two.

That’s when the Safeway floral department came into view. Colorful, living things—free from gun control debates, social media bullshit and the perpetual stress of trying to get by. Just pretty things that make human beings happy.

Suddenly, with a bouquet in my hands, the checker wanted to chat, neighbors stopped in their tracks to ask about the flowers and complete strangers nodded their heads when I passed by. I’ve never seen nine dollars go so far. Were people glad to see the flowers? Or happy to witness one human theoretically doing something nice for another? Maybe both? I suppose it doesn’t matter why people reacted—it’s just the simple fact that they showed signs of life on a day when so many were focused on the subject of death. And that’s noteworthy. Or, in this particular case, blog worthy.

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As a man of many cities, I’ve found myself accidentally, inadvertently documenting my take on their defining characteristics.

In Madison, Wisconsin it was the incredible amount of snow. I took a million pictures on 35mm film.

In Chicago it was the Gotham-esque buildings (and the snow). These were the days of color shots that appeared to be black and white.

Kansas City was filled with old cars that begged for impromptu portraits. So I did my best to please the beautiful machines.

In Springfield, MO the old cars continued, while the expansive Midwestern sunsets also emerged as a trend.

Then San Francisco came along—with its year-round foliage and strange weather patterns. Cold. Warm. Cold. An absolute paradise for a Kansas kid, the mild temperatures inspire sincere feelings of passion. The word “beautiful” has never been used so accurately. And I’ve reacted accordingly, aiming my camera at the sky predominantly. The fog never ceases to amaze me and for good reason. It’s mysterious. It floats. It’s seemingly always around, yet disappears within seconds. I captured some of what I’m referring to a few days back on an early-morning bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.

On Top.jpg



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Friday night feeling.

Another day spent wondering what’s next and reading bad news about the government. 

The billboard tells me there’s a Lexus sales event I can’t miss, but I have a feeling I’m not gonna make it. Damn, maybe next time, Lexus.

Moving on and off. Hoping my haircut doesn’t make me look like a douche. Hoping my personality doesn’t allow me to act like one. 

Everyone preaches love and peace, but few show much interest in either when a parking spot is at stake. 

That’s life and so is this. 

So on and so forth. I’ll quietly plead the fifth if anyone asks me for answers. 

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Not so criminal.

The security alarm began blaring as I sifted through a bin filled with mildly abused apples at the local Safeway. The security guard was barely fazed as he walked slowly toward the emergency exit door left slightly ajar.

“Happens all the time,” he mumbled, pulling the door closed and deactivating the alarm.

Everyone in the produce department went on about their business—ruffling lettuce leaves, massaging grapefruit and plucking stray bananas from their bundled bunches

Fairly certain no one was going chase the perpetrator down the street, I made my way toward the express lane. The checker offered a mostly genuine, “howya doing?”

“Big heist today?” I said, nodding toward the emergency exit.

“Pardon?” she replied.

“The alarm? Someone ran off with a bunch of stuff,” I explained.

Punching in the code for abused apples, she responded with a slight smile, “I don’t even hear that thing anymore…it happens so often, I just block it out.”

The notion of people having to steal food made me feel rotten. But the fact that no one at the store seems to strictly enforce the rules left me wondering if there might be more empathy out in the world than I’d originally thought.

The jury’s still out on that one.

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Three-tree holiday.

Life comes in threes. It’s the key to comedic timing, nice design and alarms during raging infernos. It’s the number that confirms a real case for or against something (two examples could be coincidental, three is a situation). It also just happens to be the number of Christmas trees we had this year.

The first tree was purchased too soon. I’ll admit it. But while many get irritated when Christmas music starts playing in department stores, coffee shops and public plazas, I get anxious and excited. Time moves fast and the earlier corporate holiday initiatives start to take hold, the sooner I can justify decorations and presents. Or buying a live tree from a small lot under the 580 freeway. The poor shrub barely lasted three weeks—by the end of which its branches were drooping under the weight of the ornaments and it began to look more like a fire hazard in the living room than a nostalgic ode to the most wonderful time of year.Tree One.jpgThe second was a silver creation I’ve had since college. Guessing it’s from the 50s or early 60s, this metallic beauty generally comes out mid-December as a backup tree. Often jammed in a backroom or stuck on a sun porch, it’s quick and easy to set up and often leaves me wondering why I ever feel compelled to buy one that requires water. I still can’t explain. This year, the silver tree was unveiled on a warm California afternoon and then hastily placed near the front door later that same day. It stood in the brown shadow of the first tree for a week with only a few ornaments on its branches. This antique epitomizes the plastic, “Las Vegas” version of Christmas I like to celebrate and therefore ranks high among my most prized possessions.Tree Two.jpgThe third and final tree was a highly discounted beast purchased on the eve of Christmas eve to replace tree number one. Missing enough branches to prevent it from having a good side and slightly crooked at the top, there was something about it that caught my eye. It was also extremely fresh—which gave me hope after watching the other quickly turn brittle and dry. Naturally, this one didn’t fit into my cheap Walgreens tree stand without a few rounds of furious stump shaving with a dull hacksaw. But as we all eventually learn, making the most of the things you love isn’t always convenient and when the third three of our three-three holiday was tweaked and trimmed, it was one of the most outstanding of my adult life.Tree Three.jpgAs you may have guessed, tree three still stands—healthy as a dead tree can be. And as discarded not-so-evergreens begin to line the sidewalks and alleyways of our lush Oakland neighborhood, I’m conflicted. I’m not ready to let the beast go just yet. After all, once the tree three is gone it’s just January and there’s nothing very festive about that.

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Around the bend.

Little kids crack me up. Sometimes I even admire their unruly, uncontrolled behavior. When they’re uncomfortable, they let the world know with a wail. When they don’t want to go somewhere, they drop to the ground. Best of all, when they’re happy they show it.

Adults on the other hand, seem to adopt a tired complacent approach to life as they get older. Strapped by bills, routines and a perpetual cycle of compromise, we generally fall in line and try to act professional. It’s a consequence of growing up and pretending we enjoy putting up with other people’s shit. It’s how we get by.

The craziest part of living a calm, obedient existence is that no matter how careful you are there’s no way to know what’s coming next. Ambitious employees get fired. Good drivers get run off the road. Healthy, cautious people slip and fall on the stairs trying to take out the trash. Life is an unpredictable mess of coincidence and circumstance.

So as a very nutty 2016 draws to a close, I’m pushing for more tenacity in 2017. I’m not suggesting adults act like children, I’m simply suggesting a more honest approach to the universe. Laugh until beer comes out your nose. Eat leftover pork ribs for breakfast. Stand on the back porch in your underwear and play fetch with the dog if you feel like it. Less faking and more fucking. Or whatever you’re into. After all—as long as no one gets hurt—a little misbehaving could be good for you.

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