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THOUGHTS ABOUT PURPOSE

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  In quiet moments, questions of purpose can corner you. Have I done enough to help others? This is especially true when you hear of grand things others have done for the betterment of all. You wonder if your work is really helping others. Even in retirement the question of greater purpose gnaws at you. Purpose can always be viewed grandly, but perhaps it can be found simply. The touchstone of the documentary “Road Runner” on Anthony Bourdain says a lot. That all the travel, food, found philosophy, and experiences Bourdain had were second to “Tony learning to be a better person.” Maybe this is the first step toward finding the purpose we seek. Being a better person helps us be more sensitive to others and in touch with the shared importance of dignity. Most of all, it helps us get beyond ourselves to be more observant of the world and its needs.  Needs that may be as simple as opening a door for someone, a kind word, listening, participating in a community meeting, rolling in the trash

MARKS

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  They always cause me to pause. Marks on walls, pavement, and transit, all have something to say. I try to imagine art from them. How they were left there, could I use the renderings to paint. My camera comes out and there you have it. Another mark to pull at your wandering mind, to imagine, maybe create.  Perhaps it’s the randomness of them, how they break the perfectness of what is strived for in modernism and cities. All the while knowing they are the marks of our lives coming and going. Some are painted over, only to be marked again. Some aspire to a street art of their own, where intentions overcome the wildness.  I take the photographs home, play with them, get frustrated at times by what I thought I saw and didn’t. Still trying to pull the art from the mark. Sorting them out till one or two speak above the rest. Staying in my mind until art becomes…. Art Note: William Klein, the great street and fashion photographer who recently died was the first to paint film contact shee

WITNESSES

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  You find them in the corners of life, often left behind and alone. They can be people or just objects where you sense something happened. Like people they have stories to tell, testimony to make, but can’t except for the thoughts and images you give them. People always make the best witnesses. Still some are reluctant to share their experiences. Others shout them out and some think there are angles they can play. Some bottle them up, hiding in corners, unaware someone is watching, waiting to hear. Events cry out for witnesses. All want to give testimony. For some though there’s no one to listen…

A TRAVELING SALEMAN

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Sometimes you learn things from relatives only after they have died. Ones your parents told you that you should get to know, but never did. All I really knew about Uncle Wes was he traveled the entire country as a salesman of small leather goods, men’s accessories like wallets and key chains. Ones he manufactured, selling them to variety, clothing, and hardware stores, mainly in small town America.  He and his wife Louis had a grand house on a hillside in Oakland where you could look out on the majesty of San Francisco’s skyline and the Bay bridge. In winter, Wes manufactured his products in the basement. Family rumor had it that Louis came from a monied family, the source of their wealth. My parents sent me there on school breaks to help him with manufacturing. The wondering imagination of a young boy looking out on what seemed like the whole world at the time. Even then, Wes would spin his tales of people he met on the road and wisdoms he learned. He took pride in fashioning things f

LEFT BEHIND

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  You find them in every state, small towns where the main engine of commerce has left, leaving empty storefronts and depressed times in their wake. These disinvested places seem left behind, apart for commerce, with little future evident. Many are attractive places with classic architecture and long standing residents who have weathered it all. You want to take these places in your arms and make them better, but how to make them sing and dance again can be elusive. Too often renewal efforts target the downtown areas of these places. Often not yielding the results wanted. Tearing down old classic buildings, attracting name brand big stores, and support for new subdivisions tied to downtown end up sputtering. They also can create gentrification that drives out long time low income residents. Surprisingly, the biggest asset these towns have is their stock of existing affordable housing. These small towns were once factory or mill towns. Ones built by the factory owner. They tend to be we

TRUCK 30-055

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    Sometimes you feel like your stuck behind a large truck, traffic on each side, unable to pass, unable to see ahead. You grind away moving closer to the truck and then back, still moving, but trapped. You bide your time thinking of all the places you would rather be, but the path ahead isn’t clear. There are small breaks in traffic on either side once in a while, but thoughts of what could go wrong keep you where you are. You imagine all those bad outcomes of passing, until you take a chance and gun the engine, still unsure of what is beyond truck 30-055, but willing to take the risk…

ORDINARY LAND

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  Thousands of cars pass it by everyday. To most, it just looked like another ordinary urban landscape. In the distance, beyond the broken parking lot with a few area lights flickering on leaning poles lay the concrete slab that was the corpse of the once great Eastland Mall. Gun shots rang out in the mall in 2005 as rival factions of the Happy Valley King’s gang fought it out. They did not kill the mall then, but its decline began. During its life, the mall had many more stories to tell. Eastland Mall began as a dream in 1975, billed a “crown jewel of Charlotte Commerce, a mecca for middle class shoppers, the heart of the Eastside.” The city hoped it would keep the Eastside growing and together, but things changed.  The demographics of the Eastside were strong middle-class with good payrolls from the light industry. Developers saw opportunity. The already successful Southpark mall had opened in 1970 just six miles away. It catered to high end stores and clientele. The middle class nee