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Showing posts from 2022

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

VISITING THE DRAGON

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  Deep in the caverns of the medical matrix of the hospital a dragon lives. If you're one of the 1.7 million new cancer cases each year, you know what I am talking about. The formal name for it is a linear accelerator or EBRT machine, but to patients like me it’s a dragon, immense in size. You lay flat before its arms and hot breath, just hoping. Praying the treatment room professionals have it in control, that the out come will be good, that you will survive. There’s the preparation room where others patients sit waiting for their turn. Some for as few as 5 treatments, others for over 40. It all depends on the type of cancer and the prognosis. You get to know each other, at least by first name. All pretense falls away, you are all there for the same thing. Sometimes you ask what they are being treated for. Mostly though, the talk is of how many treatment days are left. They come and go as your treatment progresses. The ones with one or two left are envied by all. Your mind plays w

THE FISH AND THE FISHERMAN

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  John Steinbeck’s “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” is not meant to be a book on business, but has things to say in this regard. The book is about the expedition experiences Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts had on a voyage to catalog the different marine species off the shore of California. Steinbeck embarked on this journey to get away from the fame and controversy caused by his book “The Grapes of Wrath.” He needed time to recharge, to reset his spirits, and thoughts.  Experiences he recounts on aboard are thought provoking regarding the business age we are in. An age when so much of what reaches our desk is already evaluated, quantified, and carry with it specific instruction on how our work is done.  Steinbeck writes about the Mexican Sierra fish, one of the mackerel species of fish found in the Pacific. The Sierra can be identified in a lab by counting the number of spines. All done by employing the cold objectivity of a lab technician who opens a specimen package of a d

WITHOUT CAPTION

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  The long empty roads of the high desert captured me. I stopped and got out of my car. The quiet and warmth of the desert wrapped around me. No words, thoughts or captions were needed. Different from the day to day life I had, where everything seemed to require a comment, a decision, point of view, or action.  Maybe this is why photographer Thomas Boivin produced a book of just photos titled “Belleville” This after years of producing photography books with narratives and captions, he arrived at a point recognizing that great photographs spoke for themselves. Ones that captured the heart of life.  I look these days for more of these special places, where I can pause and appreciate the richness of life just as it is.

REACHING OUT

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  Reaching out to meet new people can be challenging even in normal times. Today, the hurdles are greater. Technology and other factors have lessened our face to face social contacts. The irony of todays life is the value gained by short interactions with people is snuffed out by the aversion to strangers. David Sax just wrote about this in the opinion section of The NY Times entitled “Why Strangers are so Good for Us.” COVID, CRIME, POLITICAL DIVISIONS and many more things have deepened the inclination to avoid personal contact with others, let alone strangers. Technology is also a culprit, making it possible to go through an entire day without interfacing with another human being. Examples abound from the fast food kiosk to being able to silence the Uber driver by hitting the no interaction button. It all causes us to withdraw and interact less.  There are many social costs to all this. A certain loss of the richness of life, as David Sax describes it. On the business side, the costs

THE ART OF YOU

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  “Art is not what we see on the wall, it is what we make of our lives.” This quote from the Nomad series is so true. We get so hung up on the 1,2 and 3’s of life, that we sometimes forget to nourish the whole. Life is not all about career, family, the money we have stacked up, or the rewards on the wall. It’s how we move through the world. How we are regarded by others, how we treat others, how we view the breath of life before us, and how deep our passion goes. The question is have we learned to enjoy life fully. There is no one formula for this, that’s the art of it. Over time and sometimes because of circumstances this concept becomes evident to us. We are comforted by the niches we have carved out in life. It is only when we are out in the world unhinged that we discover the true value of becoming as complete a person as possible. People, especially in new situations, care less about the work you do and more about the person you are. Our family is more than just our relatives, it

CLOSED SHOP 170

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 Most of the time, you just pass closed shops and the miscellaneous of street wandering. Sometimes though, you catch a reflection, a pattern, mark or color that makes you pause. A learned blessing it is to be wise enough to stop, reflect, imagine or just enjoy for a moment...

LEFTOVERS

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  We had been through so many mergers in 24 months that we lost count of them. Every morning when we came in, we looked at the name over the reception desk trying to find some foundation to things. There were just nine of us left from the original staff of 40 people. Those let go were replaced with rookies and a current crop of new management. Branded with the macro vision of our new owners, often separated laughingly from the market place we worked in. Where did they get their research anyway?  We began to call ourselves the leftovers. There were reasons why we were still there. Most of the time, it was the book of business we had, that somehow remained loyal through all the changes or some specialized knowledge not easily replaced. It was not because they loved us. In fact, we were kept far away from the inner circle of where the big next moves were made. The new rookies sent out like bots to capture that vision. Quickly replaced if they did not. It was almost like they did not

THE OTHER MARKET

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  There’s another market for opportunity out there. One often overlooked. It’s a market where consumer units are a mix between people trying to stay in the middle class or striving to reach it. Where a segment uses a culture of improvised self sufficiency and government support just to make it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks our economy into five income brackets. Much of the target for products and services is the two top brackets, consumers making more than $96 thousand. Disposable income fuels a slew of luxury items in hot competition with each other. However, these two brackets only represent 30% of the 132 million consumer units in the United States. Surprisingly, the three lower brackets representing 92 million consumer units combined almost equal the spending of the top two. No wonder it has attracted business models like the dollar stores. This other market often falls outside the traditional profit thinking of many. Part of the reason is the breadth and diversity of the

WHIMSICAL THINGS

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  The next you may be no further than the pencil on your desk. It’s important to move the edges of our experience. To think and create whimsical things. More difficult with age, because of the burden our our legacy experiences. The marks and strides may not be of any importance or impact. Sometimes though, it turns into art, special things that inspire. Artists like Cy Twombly and Joan Miro were masters of turning random marks, swirls and squiggles into beautiful things to ponder. It’s all about getting beyond the self you have known, testing the bounds that hold you in place. Whether it be in art or business, it is where great performances can be found…

U - Haul Trailer

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  Some Small Towns don’t have much to say for themselves, except the U-Haul Trailer  you keep in a corner of your mind … 

BUILDING ON BAY STREET

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  I walked by it each work day, the building on Bay Street. It watched the city for many years, but had nothing to say. The spark of life gone from its eyes. Only the changing light and time of day made it look different.  You wondered what it had been all those years. Shops and people once there, I knew not who now. Each day I would walk by the building on Bay Street. It said nothing, but maybe ask why I did so. Why, when there was so much of the world to see...

SCATTERED PLACES

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  You find them all around, where things don’t fit together right. Like broken pieces of glass we can’t walk over. We pass them quickly, not wanting to spend the time understanding or finding our way through. We prefer the well ordered in life. The tree lined street or row of stores we know. Still scattered places somehow linger on our mind, like unfinished business. Often these scenes that don’t have much love in them. They stand out in the desert against the vastness, adding mystery and intrigue. Urban areas are different. The parts closer together, but still a disorder to them. The best ones have an area of calm. Space we can use to try to figure them out.  Their appeal may be the scenes themselves, their uniqueness or maybe the unfinished edges of our own lives..

OPTIMIST INTERRUPTED

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  The world spins around. Fortune can be a phone call or right word away. You have to be an optimist and hope dreams are not interrupted by reality...

BOX STORE

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  A walk around AT HOME box store, Carolina Place Mall

PLAY LIKE A CHILD

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  The thing I most admire about artists is their ability to make art look simple to do. You think, wow I could do that in a flash, but then try. It’s not so simple. Three artists who excelled in making things look simple were Joan Miro, Cy Twombly and Picasso. The drawings of all three display this ability the most. Twombly could make random marks somehow come together in a symphony. Miro conjured up fanciful images with random lines and Picasso could draw anything seemingly without ever lifting the pencil from the paper. They all somehow rose above the dark abstraction of Pollock or the deep color studies of Rothko to create a more joyous world. These gifts did not come naturally, but were a learned skill over time. As Picasso once said, he worked all his life so he could finally do art like a child. I never hope to achieve artistic levels of these giants, but I can enjoy simple work along the way. Efforts that sometimes, yield surprises you might call art…

FACTORY WINDOW

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  FACTORY WINDOW Worker faces all the same Building cars, missiles, trucks. Worker faces all the same Behind these windows. Workers faces all the same Came and went each day. Workers faces all the same Only sound from work. Workers faces all the same Like machines within. Workers faces all the same No one ever knew their names. young '22

MALL WALLS

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  A visit to the mall always has the glitz of stores, mosaic of shoppers, cascading sounds and steps. Sometimes, one can find  even more interest on the edges. Malls all have a history. Some long and successful, but always with many transitions. Marks on the walls reflect changes over time, a replaced sign, a scrape, a restructured surface. One example of this is the parking deck at Southpark Mall in Charlotte. The interior and stores of the mall have changed many times since it was built in 1970. Owners have ranged from Belk to a Dutch Firm to Simon Properties. All have brought their own concepts with them. In the case of Southpark, it led to success with the mall now being the 10th largest on the East Coast with over 1.7 million sq ft of retail.  Still you can get a sense of the history and place by walking around the outside and parking decks where you can see how the mall structure came to together. Noting along the way wall marks of time left behind.

LEFT ALONE

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  I have traveled to Great Falls SC many times seeking sparks of creativity and a good photo. It’s not an easy place to pull things together. You find a scene here and there, but nothing that ties them together. Great Falls has always been like that.  Even in its heyday when J. B. Duke built a hydro-electric power plant and the Republic Textile Mill came into existence. A time when farmers left their fields and moved to Great Falls for the new style of work offered. The city grew rapidly, but in two directions. The lower part was dominated by a row of company owned stores. The upper portion, around the corner, by privately owned stores. Both sections competing with each other. All this is history now. Only two rows remain of these sections of town.  From a distance they look interesting colorful fronts. Up close though, they are empty and in decay. Only a couple of stores remain with irregular hours. No people walk the sidewalks, only a rare auto passes. It’s like everything left town,

A WINTER EVENING

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  Rain is falling, loud enough to hear. Damping out the last light. Winter is different. Different from summer, When the light never seems to die. Where there is always something more to do. Winter is different. A quiet time, if you let it. The day measured shorter. Thoughts turn to warmth, Sips of scotch, a fireplace. A meal on the table. Winter is different. A loved one and bed to go to. The curious satisfaction of it all. The last sight of the trees, Bare now and stalwart.  Close together protecting each other. Maybe a brief glimmer of sunset, Viewed between the rain clouds. Thankfulness for the warmth around. You think these things, Not time for in summer. Winter is different. dty ‘22

DESERT SPIRITS

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  It's warmth and quiet captures your soul. Taking it to a peaceful place you've never known. The desert wants to learn about you, to hear your dreams.  If it likes your dreams, the desert may let you stay for awhile. If not, it will sweep you away. All the while reminding you, with sudden storms, it's watching.  (photograph "Desert Spirit" by Kathleen Young)