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Month: January 2012

Seattle 8F trip day 4

Seattle 8F trip day 4

Sam and I started off our last day in Seattle with a short walk to Pioneer Square to take the Underground Tour.


Afterwards we headed to the Market to meet Byron for lunch.  I had my third and final Mac&Cheese of the trip (the second occurred when I slipped out of the Market on Saturday while everyone else was shopping for that surf n’ turf dinner).


We then went to Pike Place Chowder for a repeat of Friday afternoon’s lunch.  Sam said it was the best clam chowder she’s ever had and I can’t disagree.  Of everything in Seattle, I have to admit, the thing I most looked forward to (other than seeing my friends, of course) was this chowder, bisque and mac&cheese.  I’d had the same meal 2.5 years ago, except this time I added the crab sandwich after Byron introduced it to me on Friday.


After we said our goodbyes Sam and I hustled to the library.  We had three points of interest to see and we had less than 90 minutes to fit it in.  We went up to the 10th floor of the library, which doesn’t have a lookout point, but a few interesting views down into the library as well as the surrounding structure.


Next, we scrambled down to the Columbia Tower and made our way to the 76th floor.  In the first two shots below pay special attention to that building at the corner of pioneer square with the pyramidal roof.  Smith Tower was our next destination.


In the photo below you can see the old haunted hospital on the hill (the reddish building on the hill in the middle of the shot) where Byron had taken me to take photos the evening before.


As we left the Columbia Tower it was nearly 3pm and Byron had advised us to be on the metro to the airport by 2:45.   Our flight wasn’t until 5:45 and being used to LAX we were confident we didn’t really need to get to the airport hours before our flight.  We ran down to Smith Tower in a hurry and when we got inside we inquired with the front desk about going up to the Chinese Room on the 35th floor.  We were informed that the room was only open on Saturday and Sunday.  We groaned and mentioned that we had to leave to go to Los Angeles in a few hours and we’d only just heard of the room the day before, which was true as we had learned about it on the Argosy Cruise.

The front desk attendant leaned over and whispered “I can get you in.”  The woman nodded to the elevator operator and we were whisked inside an old style manually operated brass and copper elevator from 1914.


At the top the attendant said “we’re normally closed on weekdays, so you guys’ll be the only ones here.”  She went over to the sliding glass door that lead to the 360 degree balcony and said “usually they lock this when the room’s not open but… okay – it’s open today – just press the button and call me when you folks are done and I’ll come get ya.”  We slipped out into the open air balcony to take photographs.


The shot below is of the Columbia Tower, where we’d been only minutes earlier looking in the same direction.


We found it humorous that we were up in this tourist spot completely alone.  We could have spent hours there just hanging out if we didn’t have a plane to catch.  Sam made sure to sit in the famous “wishing chair” before we left.  The attendant told us on the way back down that normally the room hosts up to two hundred people – and whole cruises come by and visit the room together.  On a regular day the ride up is free, but there is a $7.50 charge to come back down.  Our visit was completely free of charges and people.


Seattle 8F trip day 3

Seattle 8F trip day 3

On Sunday morning Byron and Christine took us to one of their favorite (extremely hipster infested) breakfast places, OddFellows.  I can see why Byron likes it though, it’s completely his style; old turn of the century (or earlier) appliances, furniture, everything.  Their “key” logo even looks like one of Byron’s drawings (I wouldn’t be surprised if he did their logo and was too humble to mention it to us).  The food was good, and I freaked out everyone around us when I dribbled the chocolate beignet sauce on my sandwich.  The sandwich had many other “sweet” elements to it, so it actually went together with the chocolate quite well.


After breakfast Christine dropped us off at the pier and Sam and I headed to the aquarium.  The aquarium wasn’t bad, but it paled in comparison to the Long Beach Aquarium.  It was a very kid-centric experience, and focused more on coral reefs and brightly colored tropical fish than larger more complicated exhibits at other aquariums (like the king crab aquarium, jellyfish tank, or manta-ray tank at Long Beach).


There were two octopi at the aquarium, but both were unfortunately asleep when we went through.


Sam wanted a photo of the baby puffins really badly.  Her camera wasn’t fast enough to get a good shot.  I quickly discovered that through the rain and reflections mine wasn’t either.


The aquarium has a cool underwater dome.  It reminded me of that show SeaQuest 2032… that was on tv a long time ago.


When we walked by the seal tank there was a solitary seal that kept doing a loop quickly through the tank over and over and over.  He went so fast it was impossible to get a clear shot.


One of the attractions of the aquarium was a new baby otter.  Like the octopi the otter was asleep as well.  The otter tank is half outdoors, so getting a good shot through the rain (and plentiful children) was a tad difficult.



I don’t remember what these guys below even are (muskrats?), but they were all asleep too.


Instead of putting together a full size tank to house full-size jellyfish, the Seattle Aquarium went a different route and had a circular flowing tank you could walk through with baby (or maybe just small) jellyfish.  In person this is a cool exhibit, but photographing the jellyfish in any kind of aesthetically pleasing manner  is a bit of a challenge because of the reflectiveness of the curved surface and the transparency.


Our next stop was the Argosy Harbor Cruise.  While waiting we stopped by Starbucks and Sam posed with Elliott outside.


The boat had little heat and I only made it worse by continually opening the windows to take photographs.


The day was so rainy and gray though that even manipulating the photos in photoshop did little to remove the “blah” look.


The boat tour guide said that we had come upon a “national geographic moment” when we passed the sea lions sleeping on the bouy.  Most of the folks on the boat ran out to bark at the animals.  Sam and I sat in our seats, as sea lions are plentiful (and you can get much closer to them) in Malibu.  After the boat tour was over we headed to a restaurant in Belltown called Local360.  I had fried chicken and cheese grits and Sam had steak frites.  Both seemed somehow slightly incomplete, but I have to say (I love cheese, remember), the cheesy polenta was delicious.


After dinner we went to B&O for some chocolate desserts.  Our waiter seemed like he was a drug-addled hipster, which became a constant source of amusement for us.  Afterwards Christine dropped Sam off at our hotel and Byron dropped Christine off at home.  Byron then took me to Queen Anne park to take some night shots and take care of more “shop talk” (this WAS a business trip, remember?).  By this time the rain was coming down slightly harder than a drizzle.  Taking long exposure photos was problematic because the only railing was kind of low and the rain kept dotting the lens (as well as producing more fog than preferred).


After a few minutes at Queen Anne we headed to the haunted hospital (parking lot) on the other side of town.  The shots taken here, although dealing with the same wet conditions, proved much better as we found a sign pole with a relatively clear view.

The photo below is a zoomed in version of the photo above.  Here you can clearly see the difference in night shots between a stabilized (gorillapod) version and the Space Needle shakey-in-the-cold-hands version from two nights before.


Around 10:30 Byron dropped me off at Hotel1000 and I joined Sam in our room.  The hotel had upgraded us when I told them that I was a blogger and wanted to take “great city views.”  The room itself was fantastic, very modern.  The tub filled up from a spout in the ceiling.  The hotel even gave us two glasses of champagne and a cheese/cracker plate when we checked in.  It was actually kind of disappointing that our time spent in the room was going to be very minimal.  The hotel has all kinds of other amenities that we didn’t even have time to check out.
Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of the hotel to get the “great city views” that I was hoping for.  Instead we had a view of the shipyards, which was much nicer than looking at the side of a building, but a little bit of a downer from what we’d hoped to see.


Seattle 8F trip day 2

Seattle 8F trip day 2

On this trip, Byron and Christine were generous enough to let Sam and myself sleep in their bedroom. Christine and Byron had an air mattress in the living room. On Saturday I woke up to find them both “plugging in” together.
After Sam and I made a quick run to Top Pot we all poured into Christine’s car and headed southeast towards Mt. Rainier. Our first stop was Snoqualmie Falls. The waterfall is quite beautiful. It kicked up a similar amount of vapor as the big falls we had seen in Thailand and made photography over the edge questionable. However, unlike Thailand, I didn’t have the opportunity to break another toe as the access to the foot of the falls was closed.
We headed to the adjacent Salish Lodge for lunch. Our window was about as close to the falls horizontally as you could get in the restaurant. The look down over the cliff was both breathtaking not just from the beautiful scene, but from fear of falling.
After eating we headed to The Summit for snow tubing. We’d planned to go tubing about a week earlier when Christine squashed our snow-shoe plans by telling us just how dangerous it could be to do that this time of year. In my head I jumped at the idea of snow tubing because I had such great memories of doing it on the hill across the street (and other places in the neighborhood) when I was a kid. Unfortunately the Summit runs were very cut and dry compared to the ups and downs (ramps and cliffs) we piloted our tubes over in the “old neighborhood.” It was still fun, though, especially for Sam who had never seen more than a tiny sprinkling of snow in person.
Back in Seattle we stopped by the Farmer’s market to pick up some things for the dinner that Sam, Christine and Byron would prepare (I was the only non-chef in the group I guess).
A little while later dinner was served. This surf n’ turf meal consisted of a large salad, vegetables, a plate of sauteed mushrooms, two grilled steaks, six oysters, fifteen grilled shrimp, two steamed dungeness crabs, garlic butter, rice and white wine. It was impressive, for sure, this was about three meals in one for Sam and myself.
After gorging on all that and trying to help clean up (I felt bad that I couldn’t aid in the preperation of this meal) I snuck away to try and take some night shots out of the many windows of their apartment. The shot below is the best I could get out of their bedroom window looking southeast toward the downtown area. There were many tchotchkes on the window sills, so stabilizing the camera was an issue and it became impossible to get a clear shot from inside the bedroom (the window without the netting wouldn’t open).
Shooting outside on the balcony was a much better experience since I could wrap the gorillapod around the railing and set up a long exposure. The shot below is looking northeast from the balcony outside the dining room.
The shot below is looking northwest from the same balcony.
The shot below is from across the street from the balcony looking due west.
Byron and I walked down to the end of the street that ends perpendicular to the 5 freeway.

We walked back to the apartment and Byron and Christine took us to Molly Moons.DSC06946.jpg
Byron and Christine knew that I was in search of great night photographs of the city. We first stopped not far from their apartment on the way back from ice cream. The below shot was taken on the crosswalk over the 5 looking south.
Because it was nearly 11pm we only had time to go to one more spot and we didn’t have much time there, but we tried to make the best of it. We went to the Gas Works Park in northeast Seattle by the University of Washington.
The wind coming up off the water was very cold, and it was made clear that I wouldn’t have much time at this late hour to take shots, both due to the cold and possible security concerns. I took a few long exposure shots, some timed exposure shots of us and hoped I’d get some workable images out of it later. I will make a point of going back earlier in the night (and later in the year) next time I’m in Seattle. The first three shots you see below are actually cropped from much wider images. I dampened the color of the second two shots because in a long exposure the red color of the bricks in the foreground is way too overpowering. The subdued colors do make the image feel “colder” though which is perhaps more appropriate given the actual wind chill that night.
This last photo is from Sam’s camera, which has flash. I so often discovered that I only took long exposure photographs at night that I didn’t even bring my flash on this trip. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used the flash that came with my DSLR except when testing it right out of the box.


Seattle 8F trip day 1

Seattle 8F trip day 1

Late last year Byron and I began working on a business together.  That business will be revealed to the world very shortly, but before that happens we needed to meet in person to work out some of the kinks.  Sam was aware of this as she has a small role in one of the functions of the business.  Since some of our employees will be based in Seattle, we felt it was appropriate to meet in person.  Sam made this meeting easier by making the trip a Christmas gift to me so I could see my best friend.  It didn’t hurt that she’d never been to Seattle before and this was a great way to kill three birds with one stone (business meeting + see new city +  Christmas gift).

The blogs that follow our journey do not mention the business meetings, but the entire trip was a constant flow of discussion about the business between Byron and myself and by the end of the trip we were able to work out some key issues (vendor relations, accounting structure, etc.) that needed addressing.

On Thursday night Sam and I hopped a Virgin America flight to Seattle after work.  Our flight was actually delayed by an hour and so when we arrived we chatted for a bit with our hosts, Byron and Christine, but quickly got to bed.   In the morning when we awoke we found this note.  Earlier in the week they had asked us what type of tea we liked in the morning and we had said “orange juice.”


We drank the juice, dressed and headed off to what we thought was our first destination.  Sam had never been to Seattle before, so I was trying to fit in all the touristy spots for her.  We thought we’d probably sleep in and then just go straight to the Farmer’s Market to have lunch with Byron.  However, as we started walking around 10:30 we realized that the Space Needle was actually not that far from Byron and Christine’s apartment.  We stopped at one of the many Starbucks on the route and grabbed chocolate smoothies to drink on our walk to the needle.


On a Friday morning in January there really aren’t any tourists at the Needle.  When I visited in August of 2009 Byron and I had to wait in a line that spiraled around the building.  On this day there was no wait at all.


After leaving the needle we took the monorail to the Farmer’s Market.  I can’t think of “monorail” without starting the song from the Simpsons.

Byron actually took the rest of the day off and met us for lunch.  This was the first of three trips for me to Beecher’s in four days for mac and cheese.  I like cheese.


After lunch we boarded the monorail with Byron and headed back to the Space Needle.


We went to the Pacific Science Museum, stopping first to have some fun with the waterworks.


Inside we were greeted with several sensory tests set up to be “fun” for children, but it only succeeded in reminding Byron that he’s color blind, Sam that her eyesight isn’t perfect and that my sense of smell is all but dead.  We were all too happy to proceed to the giant rubik’s cube.


And then to my favorite future pet, the axolotl.


We stopped by the sea anemone touching area.  I was the only one brave enough to touch any of them.


Then we stopped by the bug area.


We spent most of our time in the bug area in the Butterfly Room.




DSC06694.jpgNext we visited the Dinosaur display.  This was  quick walk through for Byron and Sam, but I lingered longer to appreciate the artistry that went into making these monsters.  They were hardly “life-like,” but still had to take thousands of hours of craft to produce.


Outside again we walked over to the Experience Music Project and Sci-Fi Museum.


The first thing we checked out was the Avatar Exhibit.

The first stop was the fairy (thing) wall that interactively draws the fairy seedling things to your shadow.


The exhibit had two microsoft surface tables, which was the first time I’d actually been able to use a surface table.  We had more fun playing with the interface than actually paying attention to the content.


They had a full size mech prop from the film.


They also had the “experience” portion where you could act out a scene as one of the characters on your own motion capture green screen area.  I tried to hold my tongue as best I could that this was really just another user of Microsoft’s XBOX360 Kinect software, and nothing more amazing than what you can buy and play dancing games at home to.  But that would have made me a spoilsport, so I tried to keep a tight lip on it, even when one of the museum employees kept repeating how “amazing” it is to people when she shows the video captures of the experience.  Sam’s video will appear below her photo.  It was easier to see on the big screen, but towards the end the software gets confused and starts ripping the characters arms off.


We next went downstairs for the horror movie exhibit.  This was very well designed, but mostly featured gross-out stuff that none of us particularly enjoyed (tvs showing scenes from Eli Roth movies about flesh eating zombies, etc.).  Something that I DID care about was a chance to meet my old pal.  Of course this put an end to the debate about there being a skull behind the dome in the original movie.  I was thinking there wasn’t (you can’t see it in the film), but clearly there is.  I don’t really like this as it makes the monster too “human” and being “alien” is part of the scariness of the concept.

DSC06742.jpgP1270323.JPGThey also had a facehugger.

And a model from the production planning from the Cronenberg version of The Fly.


I didn’t see this, but Sam spotted it and took a picture even though she didn’t know what it was: a Critter!
I can’t wait for Critters to hit Hulu just like Killer Clowns did.  The horror exhibit had a similar shadow wall as the Avatar exhibit did one floor up.  This wall added “horror” elements to the shadows, although it seemed more akin to muppet parts to me.
The last thing we did was stop by the scream booth.
Our photo showed up on the wall outside.
The stairs going up/down to/from the exhibit had a bunch of “scared” faces from the booth.
We next went to the EMP, with the famous guitar tornado.  We didn’t spend much time there.  It seemed like all the exhibits were the same as the last time I’d been there.  Byron and I ended up spending twenty minutes in one of the “jamming” rooms while Sam got a bite to eat downstairs.
After leaving EMP Sam and I saw the “SeaRex” IMAX 3D movie at the Science Center.  Outside the theater there were lots of oversize props for some reason.
The 3D in the movie was actually the worst implementation of 3D I’ve ever experienced.  Every frame had “ghost” images wherever there was any point of contrast.  We thought maybe we were sitting too close and moved to the back, but the problem was still there.  It made the movie almost unwatchable.  Of course, the premise of the movie made it almost unwatchable too.  In Sea Rex we have a 19th century historian “come to life” to explain the three periods of dinosaur history to a thirty-something year old woman who is “amazed” to hear that the earth is not just millions, but billions of years old.  Her part seemed like it was written for a 12 year old.  I hope our educational system isn’t so bad in America already that adult women have never heard of dinosaurs.
Although when creationism teaches that Dinosaurs and man roamed the jungle together only 4,000 years ago and everyone on facebook reposts idiotic rants about “keeping jesus in our schools” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this approach to the subject matter was deemed appropriate for a public science museum.
After exiting the movie Sam and I went back up to the Space Needle to see the view at night.
I tried to take night photographs, but I didn’t have my gorillapod.  We had originally planned to make our night visit on Sunday night, but when we turned in our citypasses Friday morning we were told we had only 48 hours to come back for the night visit.  I tried to stabilize the camera against the railing as best I could (see photo below), but it didn’t work.
Because I didn’t have my gorrilapod I couldn’t get a stable shot, and every single one was at least a little blurry (like below).  At 600 pixels wide it is hard to see the blur, but if you could see the full RAW file it would be immediately obvious upon zooming in.
After exiting the needle we met back up with Byron and headed back to his apartment.  When we arrived Christine was waiting and the four of us headed to a seafood restaurant in Ballard.  I can’t ever hear “ballard” without thinking of the old sausage brand that my mother used to buy to make sausages on Sunday mornings.  They had commercials with well-to-do dancing pigs as they spelled out the company name in song.  The best I could find on youtube was a more recent commercial with the end of the song and a tiny slice of the pigs dancing.
After dinner we headed back into town to visit dilettante chocolates, where I decided (rare for me) to have a martini.  It was a “chocolate cherry” martini consisting of amaretto, cherry vodka, chocolate and an actual cherry.  Byron had a similar hazelnut martini, Sam had hot chocolate and Christine had a very dense chocolate cake slice.  We didn’t head home until almost midnight.




On Saturday night I picked Sam up from LAX.  She had just spend two weeks in Hong Kong for work. Her reintroduction to Los Angeles was fitting as we went to Whole Foods for a bit to eat and then headed to Bergamot Station for a gallery opening.

The show was Conjoined II at the Copro and picked up so much steam over one sculpture that it was even referenced on sites that are about as far out from the new-brow movement as you could get.  Like PerezHilton.  Some of my hipper friends in Ohio were even posting the B&B sculpture photos on their facebook pages.

Because we didn’t leave LAX until about 8:30 we arrived at the Copro close to 10pm, which is much later than we normally would.  We were punished for it by having to wade through a huge crowd (although it’s debatable whether this was due to our timing or the show simply being promoted more than a normal show).

As we rounded the corner through the smokescreen a band was just finishing up.

Inside the place was packed to capacity.

The mask below reminds me of something, not sure what.

On one wall, apparently not officially part of the show, was this huge piece by Dan Quintana.

Opposing it was this sculpture:

and in between was this piece, clearly by Chet Zar:

The main room was packed to the limit which made viewing the art a little tough.

In the “back room” (the smaller room) was the reason we really came to the show; Peter Gric‘s pieces.  Peter’s work is very reminiscent of Beksinski and Giger, two of my favorite artists. The images below are lifted from the Copro’s site which contains all of his work from this show, these below are my favorites.

Back in the main room, in the very middle, Scott Musgrove had an interesting chrome sculpture.  I was able to photograph the back, but unfortunately the place was too packed for me to ever get a clean shot of the front – so I’ve copied the Copro’s image below to show the front.

and this is the back:

sturtevant falls

sturtevant falls

Maybe a month ago Sam and I planned to spend a Saturday in January hiking to a waterfall with Cindy.  A little over a week ago Sam was informed she’d have to go to China for work for a few weeks.  This waterfall turned out to be a decent one, so it’s a shame that Sam couldn’t come.

Sturtevant Falls is part of the Chantry Flats area of Angeles National Forest.  The trail to the falls goes down a steep paved fire road to the bottom of the canyon.  Once down at the bottom there are several trailheads to choose from, all meandering through the woods next to little streams.  Sturtevant was a popular destination on Saturday as there was no parking in the main parking lot – we had to wedge ourselves into the walls of the mountain along the road and hike perhaps a quarter of a mile just to get up to the regular parking lot.  The actual waterfall area was similarly jam packed with picture takers and picnickers.  I never really was able to get a decent shot – it would have been a long wait.

I’ll post my photos below – but they are all eerily similar to the one’s on this site, which I recommend checking out as it even has a video.

This (above) is near where we parked.

Once hitting the bottom of the fire road most of the rest of the way is spent walking along the dirt trail next to the little creek (with several dams).

Cindy got a mountain bike recently and I told her Sam and I would go biking in Angeles National Forest if she can get any weekends off (Cindy has a job in the medical field that requires odd scheduling).  I hope she finds a way to do it as I would love to mountain bike on these great trails…



Feeling old

Feeling old

Cool, right?  “Wish I got to play Rage songs when I was in band” I thought.  Lucky kids, when I was in marching band we had to play Carlos Santana songs and Earth Wind and Fire… lame!

After a few seconds a wave of depression crept over me as I realized that a 20 year old Rage song is probably about as cool to these kids as the 20 year old Earth Wind and Fire songs were to me when I had to play them in marching band in 1994.

I hate getting old(er).

Ohio Trip 2012

Ohio Trip 2012

After three years away my mother convinced me it was time to visit the house I grew up in.  On New Year’s Eve I sat through two sold out Southwest flights and ended up at the Columbus Ohio airport around 8pm EST.  We drove through the night down lonely four lane divided highways to end up at my parents’ house around 10:30.  My brother and his girlfriend had been waiting for us in her new Jeep outside the house.  They gave up and passed us on the road moments before we arrived.  They doubled back and we rang in the new year in the new addition to the old house.  We didn’t have a tv or a radio on (thank god, because that Romney 2012 sign behind the ball would have been a crappy image to start the new year with!), but we knew our watches were correct when we heard gunshots go off somewhere in the cold dark hills behind the house.  Apparently poor people of all colors like to live dangerously on New Year’s.

The next morning my brother and his girlfriend came back to take me on a road trip.  Before leaving my mother cooked up a typical white-person’s brunch.

That’s blueberry muffins, bacon, scrambled eggs and a pancake with some sort of homemade strawberry sauce on top of a cream sauce of some kind.

Our destination on the road trip was the old strip mines.  The first stop was the giant scooper bucket that used to scoop the coal.  Just about everyone that grew up here has been to this thing and been photographed standing or sitting in it (Byron, I’m looking in your direction) – but, curiously, I’d never been.  You know that opening scene in Avatar where they circle around a big “ugly” mining operation…  That’s part of my cultural heritage, yay!

The weather gods couldn’t make up their mind whether they wanted to just be cold, overcast and windy or if they’d like to add rain into the equation.  Luckily Emily drives a Jeep, so the muddy roads were no obstacle.  Getting out at landmarks was curtailed somewhat though due to the inconsistent rain.  A typical shot of the bleak frozen Ohio winter wilderness appears below:

At one point we stopped at a lookout above an area called “the wilds” which is apparently a wildlife sanctuary.  We saw some deer grazing the field in front of us (too small to pick out in the photo below I’m sure).

Next, we stopped so I could use the restroom.  Nearby we found a fire tower with a room at the very top.  We started up the steps.

By this time the wind was moving fast again.  Imagine el nino style winds, but with an ambient temperature of 18 degrees.  This was not comfortable.  About 3/4 of the way up my brother and I started to have reservations about completing the climb up the old swaying steel tower.  Emily, however, has apparently no aversion to height or cold and lead us on.

At the top we discovered that the trap door to the little room had been sealed, so we wouldn’t get a high respite from the cold.  We hastily but carefully descended back to the tundra below.  Once on the ground Jon and Emily set about finding a geocache, something they are very passionate about, apparently.  The cache was hidden in a tree not too deep into the woods near the fire tower.  The tree below is not the actual tree, but an example of the woods we walked through.

Soon we were on our way back to Marietta to stop by my brother’s house on 2nd street to pick up his printer/copier/scanner.  One of my missions on this trip was to scan all the old photos in storage of my elementary school and high school days.  In the process I found many interesting things and helped my parents get rid of some old junk (who needs stacks of old Omni, Car & Driver and Guitar Player magazines?).  I found a huge box with all the jewel cases to every compact disc I ever owned.  For some reason I felt an especially guilty/sad pang when I put the box in the trash pile.  I seem to have inherited my father’s tendency to keep things forever whether they’re important or not.

I didn’t just find old photos, though, I found a huge cache of old drawings, my old comic books, every note that was ever passed to me in high school, toys, comic books, grade cards and more.  Through much of this there was a consistently reappearing thread: Aliens!  I can’t think of a single person who is more excited than I am about this summer’s release of Prometheus, the prequel to Alien.  I have been following this project for many years, ever since Scott dropped hints in interviews that he’d “like” to “someday” revisit “that universe” of his original sci-fi blockbuster.  A little over a week before my trip, the first teaser trailer for Prometheus debuted to much fanfare on the web:

My first memory of the Aliens franchise was when Jim Cameron’s Aliens premiered on CBS in 1989 and I watched it in the living room; being only eight years old I was both fascinated and horrified.  In the years that followed I would keep a trained eye out for rebroadcasts and managed to record the film once it began regular Sunday outings on Fox.  When Fox began gearing up for David Fincher’s directorial debut on Alien 3 (as well as the afterglow of success from Predator) there was an explosion of merchandising for the franchise.  Suddenly there were many Dark Horse comic books, a full line of toys and detailed model kits.  I wanted it all, and I had most all of it too.  Many of my toys and models didn’t survive the twenty year journey to January 2012, but I assembled the ones I found in the photo below:

When I found the toys I asked my mother if she knew what they were.  She wasn’t sure.  I explained they were based on Alien from 1979, to which she exclaimed “oh, I never watched those movies, I just know you were crazy about that stuff and couldn’t get enough.”  She was right.  My early development as an artist was fueled by two things; comic books and Aliens.  Every other drawing in my childhood portfolio after 1989 was an Alien.  I learned how to draw human hands by studying the hands of the Alien (it’s essentially the same, but with fused digits and an extra thumb).  I learned how to draw human teeth by drawing the teeth of the Alien.  I was sixteen when Alien Resurrection was released (November 1997) and I remember convincing my father to take me to the R rated movie.

I just wrote a lot of fluff about my preoccupation with Aliens, but this serves to educate anyone who may doubt my sincerity of (or my reason for) anticipation for Prometheus – or my concern about what may be disappointments to come (like how the Space Jockeys might be giant blue men based on a still from the trailer).

After retrieving all the old photos and packing the toys/drawings/etc. back up I went upstairs for some pictures of the Christmas tree in the (unfinished) new addition to the house before beginning the long process of scanning.

The next day my grandfather and my aunt came to visit and watch the Gator Bowl with us.

Outside visibility dropped as a blizzard set in.  Things didn’t get much better on the football field.

The next day I ventured outside in the bitter cold (note, it’s not that bad if the wind DOESN’T blow…but of course the wind was always blowing) to take some photos.  Below you can see the unfinished deck on the addition to the house where the old garage used to be.

Below is a photo of the little pond that used to exist in a hole in the back yard.  When I was little my father dug a giant crater out of the side of the hill.  Supposedly this was eventually to house a wine cellar or something, but all that ever materialized was this little pond that used to be a great place for little boys to catch frogs in the summer.

Not too far from the pond now it appears my father’s old Honda has found its final resting place.  Throughout my childhood this bike was kept at the back of the garage.  I was told my father decided not to ride it after my mother became pregnant – but would start it up again when the kids left for college.  Apparently the interest in whipping around country roads on two wheels had faded by then, and the bike would sit another ten years before begin trotted out to the back yard when construction began on the house.  Three years ago, when I’d last visited, the original house was intact. From the growth of ivy through the engine I’d guess the bike left the old house not long after I last did.

I always think my old neighborhood has something of a “shire” quality to it with the rolling hills and little houses dotting the fields here and there.  A bit harder to imagine in the winter though when everything is covered in white.

Back inside the house I found my father in my old room, which, I imagine, is where he spends a large part of the day during the winter.  It looks far more comfortable than my computer work station, that’s for sure.

Looking down the old hallway and through to the new addition to the house is a strange experience, a bit like looking into a mirror.

The old living room is in a state of flux.  My mother informed me that the next time I’m home the window will likely be replaced with something else and the door might be in a different spot.

For lunch on January 3rd my mother made an old childhood favorite: veal parmigiana

Around 3pm my father and I drove into Marietta to pick up my uncle Rick.  Rick used to be very active, jogging around our town every day even into his 70s.  At 84, now, he’s a bit more limited and has not only given up jogging, but driving as well.  I’d probably been informed before, but I was unaware until a few days ago that he had served in the Korean War and has shrapnel in his knee.  In spite of all this he remains kind and upbeat with a laugh you can hear a mile away.

A bit later my uncle Ray and his friend Dee arrived in his new turbocharged black Kia Optima.  Before long it was time to eat mom’s BBQ pork and mac & cheese (and some other vegetable based dishes which I obviously ignored).  The only room in the entire house that is nearly complete is the kitchen.  Somewhat to my surprise, my mother’s design sense is entirely modern and the kitchen looks like anything you might see on an episode of MTV Cribs, with a huge granite island, 6-burner stove with built in gas grill, recessed lighting, LED track lighting, brushed aluminum fridge, etc.

On my last full day in Ohio I drove to Athens and visited my old friend Cliff, his wife and their new baby.  I didn’t get any photos of this adventure, but decided to stop and photograph two of the chemical plants near my parents’ house.

The EPA is a hot button topic in Marietta these days.  There are unsubstantiated rumors that there will be black-outs when the AEP power plant closes down.  This area has one of the worst air quality ratings in the nation, but since the particulates aren’t brown (like in Los Angeles), the simple folk assume the massive chemical plants have nothing to do with the high cancer rates.  I don’t often get political on this blog any more, but it makes me sad to think that so many of my relatives may suffer from pollution they were bamboozled into supporting with “pro-jobs” or “end the EPA” “conservative” politicians.  I heard someone on my visit even say “Obama hates us,” as if the President has any idea Marietta Ohio even exists.

The photo below is a massive (although largely hidden in this photo because I didn’t want to have a swarm of security guards come after me) Energizer Battery factory.  This facility is minutes from the house I lived in for 18 years and the elementary school I attended for 9.  People used to take a peculiar point of pride in the fact that our little town might be on the top of some rogue nations’ nuclear hit lists because we provide so much electric power (and chemicals – Dow is located here) to the eastern US.  I always used to think this was an ironic point of view, since by NOT getting bombed we’re simply slowly poisoning ourselves anyway with the pollution being pumped/dumped/drained out on a daily basis.

When I got home my father’s famous (in our extended family, apparently) roast beef (and mom’s green bean casserole) was waiting for me.

The next day my mother made sausage patty sandwiches for breakfast, much like on many Sundays from my childhood.  We then left for Columbus, meeting two of my aunts for lunch before I was on my way back to sunshine and opportunity.