Saturday, March 3, 2018

Stone Mountain Park Historic Square Details

Today Jessica and I went to Stone Mountain to walk around in the Historic Square. It was, I believe, the first day the Historic Square was open after being closed in January and February. For the first time in quite a while, I decided to take my "real" camera, my Canon 60D, instead of just relying on my cell phone's built-in (and generally pretty good) camera. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy capturing images of textures and contrasts and details with a good, solid camera. Here are some of the pictures I took today:

Friday, February 16, 2018

A Walk at Alexander Park

This afternoon I went for a walk at Alexander Park. I took some pictures while I was there, and here they are:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Me and Mom in the Kitchen, Lilburn, Georgia, ca. 1981

We’re both wearing blue, and neither of us looks all that happy. Not unhappy, just…normal, average, the way most of us look most of the time. We were just living our lives, starting our day (whatever random day that happened to be), getting our breakfast together—in front of me is a plate of pancakes, and also a bottle of syrup, the same kind I use today, I think; in the background, on the left edge of the frame about halfway down, you can see that there’s still some coffee in the coffee pot.

This picture shows an everyday scene of such mundanity that I doubt most people would think it worth pointing a camera at, especially back then, before digital cameras and smartphones with built-in cameras, when film had to be purchased, and then you had to pay to have it developed after you’d used it. I’m not sure why Dad took this picture--I’m pretty sure it was my father who took it; who else could it have been? Maybe it actually was a special day, though I can't find here any clues as to what that might have been (a birthday? Easter? the first or last day of school?). Maybe Dad was testing a new camera, or using up the last exposure on a roll of film so he could take it to be developed. Maybe he did it just to annoy Mom.

Whatever the impetus for this picture’s existence, I’m glad I have it. It offers a glimpse into my youth I treasure. I'm pretty sure that at the moment this picture was taken, Mom and I were mostly taking that moment for granted. I had, I’m quite sure, no idea I would someday look at this scene and be happy to revisit it. I’m sure I just wanted to eat my pancakes. I hope I enjoyed them.

What I hope even more, though, is that it would have occurred to me, at least every once in a while, to be grateful I had a mother who would make me pancakes, and who on other days made French toast, or creamed chipped beef on toast (sometimes without the beef), or bacon and eggs, or any one of a whole host of other breakfasts she regularly made for us. I am grateful now for all of that.

And though I'm sure it would have been surprising news at the time to say that that kitchen would ever be an object of appreciation, all these years later I have a great deal of affection for it--linoleum floor, tacky wallpaper, and all. On the counter, in front of the syrup, is a little container Mom used to screw on to our blender to make...what? I have no idea. And behind me, just at my left elbow, you can see the red bun warmer that we had for years. Above that, just under the vent hood--where some years later a microwave oven would go--hangs an assortment of spatulas and ladles and strainers. And, as I pointed out earlier, on the left edge of the frame you can just make out the coffee maker. Mr. Coffee? Maybe. We had one at one point, but I don't remember what we had then. Proctor Silex? Hamilton Beach? Perhaps. Maybe it doesn't matter.

But in a way, it does matter. These little details, in their very ordinariness, their everydayness, are among the things I love to see when I look back at these old pictures. Most of them are pretty mundane, with nothing special about them, but put together enough ordinary little details and they just might add up to a whole past.

Remember what Emily asks the State Manager near the end of Our Town? "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?" The answer, of course, is "No."

Maybe one of the reasons I love looking back on these kinds of pictures is because they help me realize life, even if what the picture shows happened thirty-five years ago. In one of her short stories, Amy Hempel writes something like, "looking back shows us more than looking at." Sometimes looking back is good enough. If you realize life in retrospect, that still counts.

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Walk at Stone Mountain

The girls didn't have school today. We spent the morning laying around and watching "I Dream of Jeannie" on the Roku Channel (I think we watched a full twelve episodes before any of us got dressed). But after lunch, Jessica said, "I want to go somewhere," and Elyse and I did too, so we all got dressed (a process that took a full forty-five minutes) and we went to Stone Mountain to go for a walk on the Cherokee Trail.

Here are some of the pictures I took:

Jessica had specifically wanted to visit the Nature Garden (though she didn't quite remember that's what it's called), which is along the Cherokee Trail a bit east of Memorial Park (the lawn where they do the laser show):

(You can read about The Atlanta Branch of the National League of American Pen Women here:

We practically had the place to ourselves; much of it, in fact was closed for maintenance. We wanted to get a snack and something to drink, but nothing in Crossroads seemed to be open:

The Skyride also wasn't running, but they were doing stuff to it and testing it, so the cars passed over quite a few times, empty, as we were walking.

Friday, February 2, 2018

"A Night in Paris"

Tonight Elyse and I went to the "A Night in Paris" Father-Daughter Dance at J.C. Magill:

Anna took this picture of us just before we left:

(I know I look like a 1950s professor, but that's kind of what I am, and that corduroy jacket is the only one that still fits me. Wool sweater vests may not be the current fashion, but they suit me fine, and nobody else there was wearing one!)

Elyse took Tasha and Owen, two of her stuffed friends, who did all the dancing for us. Like me and my sweater vest, these friends were unique to Elyse:

(It was actually much more crowded than the above picture might lead you to believe.)

(And busier than this picture represents.)

We waited in line for fifteen minutes to get our picture taken, then waited in line for thirty minutes to get our food--a salad for me, which was pretty good, and chicken Alfredo tortellini, which I liked but which Elyse wouldn't try, and baked ziti, which, thankfully, Elyse did like (even though she didn't eat she didn't actually eat that much). This meal was, I must report, after we'd already had cupcakes; on an occasion like this, it seemed okay to have dessert first.

We decided to leave at about 7:20:

I don't know if we were the very first to leave--there was another car leaving the parking lot when we did, but that could have been a teacher who worked late--but we were definitely among the first. I can tell you one thing: I bet we were the only ones who went straight to Arby's to get something else to eat!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Happy Birthday, Jessica!

Today, Jessica is eleven years old!

We got a late start on our celebration because we had to wait for my car to be ready at the car place where it was being fixed, and then go pick it up so we could return Pa's truck to him (I'd been driving it for the last few days while my car was being worked on).

We met Granny and Pa at Subway (Jessica's choice) to get sandwiches to take back to Granny and Pa's house (also Jessica's choice), but we didn't actually sit down to eat until about 7:00, by which time Elyse was tired and cranky. She laid down on the sofa and slept through Jessica opening presents:

It's hard to believe Jessica is only a couple of years away from being a true teenager. In many ways, she already is one; she's certainly working on developing a teenager's attitude and sense of independence.

We're proud of her and so happy to have her in our lives! I just wish, as I've probably written dozens of times in the past few years, that I could figure out a way to make it all slow down.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Happy Birthday, Elyse!

Elyse is officially eight years old today!

We celebrated by going to Stevi B's for an early dinner, and then going to Granny and Pa's house to eat birthday cookies and watch Elyse open presents:

Earlier in the day I went and had lunch with her at school. It was their first day back after the two-day weather holiday. (Though Anna didn't have to go back today--Rockdale took it as yet another bad weather day.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Snow Days!

It snowed last night, and school--every school that affects us: Gwinnett, Rockdale, Gwinnett Tech--was cancelled for the day!

This is what we woke up to:

Not exactly a Winter Wonderland, but an inch or so of snow, enough so that Elyse could go outside and build a small snowman on the patio:

(Jessica didn't get to go outside because of her injured ankle, but she did sit by the sliding glass doors and communicate with Elyse via walkie talkie.)

It wasn't truly a "no school" day; officially it was a "Digital Learning Day," which means the kids had school assignments on their e-class portals. Here's Elyse working on hers:

There's a famous line in a "Star Trek" episode where a long-lived character says to Captain Kirk, "Immortality consists largely of boredom." So do snow days. I don't know that either Jessica or Elyse would agree with that, but by the late afternoon we were all going stir crazy.

And tomorrow (Thursday, January 18), because today the temperatures are not s'pose to get above freezing so all the snow and ice will be here for a while and therefore the schools will still be closed, we get to do it all over again!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Jessica is Sidelined

This afternoon, Anna sent this message to Jessica's teachers:

"I took Jessica to visit the Urgent Care facility today after she slipped yesterday and complained of severe pain in her right ankle that continued this morning.  They did X-rays, and she has a fracture in her ankle.  She will not be in school today."

I'm not going to post any pictures of Jessica in her brace or trying to use her crutches (which she is strenuously resisting); mostly she's been resting on the couch with her leg elevated, watching "The Addams Family" and "Cupcake Wars" on Hulu.

We hope she recovers quickly!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Happy Birthday, Annie!

Today is Anna's birthday! We went to Granny and Pa's house for lunch (Chinese food from Oriental Garden), mostly to celebrate the birthday but partially also to escape our own house, which was having a new roof rather noisily put on it).

Jessica has spent several hours over the previous few days working on a bag for Mommy, using Granny's super-duper sewing machine. I wish I had some pictures of Jessica working on it, but I do have some pictures of Anna opening it:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Chris and Jeff Rocking Out in Jeff's Bedroom, Lilburn, GA, 1980

Jeff’s wearing a Star Trek T-shirt and mine says Star Wars, but there was no rivalry between those two science fiction universes back in late 1979 or early 1980 when this picture was taken. One was an old TV show that had been off the air for more than a decade, the other was a fairly recent, wildly popular movie—but just a movie, singular, and not a whole franchise, or, for some people, a way of life. (By the time this picture was taken, Star Trek: The Motion Picture may have been released, but it wasn’t very good so I don’t think it counts. Also, I don’t think The Empire Strikes Back had come out yet, and besides, Star Wars is the only real Star Wars, as far as I’m concerned.)

“Star Trek” and Star Wars aren’t the only science fiction represented in this photograph: on the top left you can see a Shogun Warrior, whose fists (if I remember correctly) could be shot from his arms like missiles at the press of a hidden button, and who probably had other weapons as well. On the shelf directly below that is a space vehicle of some kind from the Micronauts line.

At one point Jeff and I had quite a collection of Shogun Warriors and Micronauts. Among my many wonderful memories of childhood are the times when we could convince my mother to take us to Lionel Playworld, which was on Buford Highway in Doraville (though I may not have known either of those facts at the time), and which was (as far as I was concerned) the greatest toy store in the world. I can’t recall how much was actually bought when we would go; I think we had maybe ten dollars each saved—though in the late 1970s, ten dollars was a lot—and we could buy one or two things. Just being in Lionel Playworld was enough, even if I didn’t get to buy everything that caught my eye. We did eventually amass quite a collection, as I said, but most of the toys we had we got for Christmas or our birthdays.

Of course, most people might not even notice the Shogun Warrior and the Micronaut. The focus of the picture is me and Jeff in all our youthful, untrained musical glory. I got the guitar for Christmas just a few months (or maybe even weeks, or days) before this picture was taken. It was a black Memphis Les Paul copy, which had a mostly hollow body that was badly prone to microphonics. My amp, which isn’t in this picture (or in Jeff’s room at all), was a twenty-watt Crate amp.

This wasn’t originally the guitar I was going to get; Dad had an Explorer copy on layaway at Joe’s Music in Norcross, but I changed my mind at some point and decided I wanted the Les Paul. Though it’s been nearly forty years, I sometimes think about that and wish I’d gotten the Explorer.

The drums may have been more my idea than Jeff’s, I don’t know. I was eager to put together a band, and figured the guy in the bedroom right next to mine was a good candidate for the drums. How interested he really was, apart from a level of enthusiasm than an older brother can sometimes inspire, I don’t know, but he never really learned to play those toy drums. At one point, a year or two later, I somehow managed to get him outfitted with a bass, but we never really coalesced into a band. (Interestingly, it was that instrument, a cheap copy of a Fender Telecaster bass, that my cousin Scott played when he and I were in the band with Roy, so I did, in a manner of speaking, achieve my end.)

It took me a few years, but I finally realized that I don’t actually have any musical talent. Not enough, anyway, to become the working musician I once aspired to be, and definitely not enough to even approach the skill of the guitarists who were (or would become, in the months and years after this picture was taken) my idols: Steve Howe, Steve Morse, and especially Alex Lifeson. Within five or six years of this picture being taken, Jeff would become a much better guitar player than I was.

But this picture doesn’t remind me of lost dreams or a lack of talent—though I will admit that those are things I still occasionally struggle with. This picture reminds me of how great it was to be young and to have hopes and aspirations, and to have a brother you could try to rope into being involved in them, and, perhaps most important of all, how fortunate I was to have a mother who would put up with all the noise coming out of my bedroom (small though it was, that Crate amp I had could really wail), and who could macramé a lion for your brother’s bedroom wall, and take you to Lionel Playworld so you could dream of one day owning the entire collection of both Shogun Warriors and Micronauts.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Jessica and Dad at the Stone Mountain Historic Square

Tomorrow the girls go back to school after their two-week-long Christmas break. Jessica and I wanted to do something on this last day, so we took Elyse to Granny and Pa's house and then went to Stone Mountain to walk around in and take pictures of "the old houses," as Jessica calls the Historic Square (which, up until a couple of years ago, was called the Plantation).

Here are a few of the pictures I took there:

I would really love a study like the one above someday, though preferably without the magnolia leaf garland they hang at Christmastime.

The stairs at the end of the above hall go to the attic, which is closed off to the public and which I would really love to be able to go up and see.

Hey, look: Jessica's smiling! She doesn't always do that when she knows someone's taking a picture. (Not that I believe you always have to smile when your picture is taken.)

We didn't enter.