Thursday, November 30, 2023
Saturday, November 25, 2023
Some of my best photographs are accidents.
I snapped a shot of a young woman at a Devils game. She was wearing face-paint which is not unusual in that setting. The woman was ten feet in front of me; behind her are men 150 feet away on the other side of the ice rink. Because of that disparity in distance, the woman appears LARGE and the men look SMALL.
Reviewing the photo I saw this visual illusion and decided to play with it. If we crop the picture, the woman -- whom I'm sure is a lovely person -- transforms into a hideous monster about to bite defenseless little men. Wild paint on her face adds to that interpretation.
I later learned this woman is Echidna, immortal goddess of Greek mythology. Known as the "Mother of Monsters," Echidna has the face of a seductive woman and the body of a dragon. Echidna drags her victims to an underground pit where she devours them alive. Rumors say her pit is beneath the Newark ice rink.
Who'd have guessed Echidna'd be at a "Devils" game? :)
Friday, November 24, 2023
Thursday, November 23, 2023
Sunday, November 19, 2023
Friday, November 17, 2023
On Sunday I'm going to do something I thought I'd never do again -- ride a motorcycle. No, I won't be operating the bike; my friend Jaime will. He offered me the back seat on his touring bike (BWM K1200LT). I used to own that exact same model (in 2002-2014). The bike is a behemoth designed for long-distance touring.
We're doing a full day's ride with the Nassau Wings, traveling to several North Fork vineyards. We'll buy local wines for the holidays. I always get blueberry port; it's not available anywhere but at the winery (Duck Walk Vineyards). It's delicious.
In the old days this ride was initially named after Jaime and me because we conceived the idea for it. Since then "Jaime and Ralph's Champagne Run" has become an annual tradition. I'm excited to attend it again, back on two wheels.
Friday, November 10, 2023
I think I camake you laugh at my misfortune. Well, not my blindness per se but rather my weird efforts to improve the situation. Some are downright comical.
I can see, sorta, but have visual impairments. These make life difficult and treacherous. I've struggled for months to conceive and craft practical solutions. Here are two examples. (There are dozens more.)
I've lost depth-perception: I can't judge how close or far away things are. This poses constant problems, the biggest being injury from bumping into things. Early on my legs, body and head were frequently bruised from unplanned collisions with stationary objects like furniture and walls. Equally perilous are stairs: I can't see which is the last step and, oops! down I go. You probably don't know but many staircases and escalators in public places have yellow stripes across the last step. They aren't noticed by sighted folk but are invaluable to me. They signal where stairs end and when to get off escalators. They save my ass regularly.
I came up with a way to avoid bumping into things from a terrific book I read last year ("An Immense World"). The book describes innumerable ways animals perceive their environment, many of which exceed our own physical senses, such as seeing lightwaves outside the human range. I thought, if I was a six foot tall insect with poor eyesight, how could I sense my environment other than through eyesight? The answer is obvious: I would use antennae.
I wasn't born with antennae but I can use my front legs (you call them arms) as such. I stretch them out in front of me, in a diamond-shape, to detect nearby objects as I move through space. Every day my arms brush up against something I'm glad I didn't slam into with my face or body. The maneuver saves me from injury. I use this technique in private settings to avoid alarming anyone but you can picture me as a tall insect with outstretched antennae and laugh. It's okay.
A second example is even funnier. My biggest visual impairment is darkness. What I see (with my one good eye) is only half as bright as what you see. Even when I add powerful lamps to a room the lighting is still not bright enough to see clearly. Peering through darkness is my constant curse. I have, however, discovered a partial solution.
A headlamp. The kind coal miners use. They sell them today to hikers and outdoorsy folk for nighttime activities. Using one (at maximum brightness) I can suddenly read labels on file folders, see contents of boxes and get shit done. Before I found this I was stymied in doing the most basic tasks. Now, looking like a coal miner, I'm productive.
This, also, is something I do in private. If you walk into the room and see me using one, you'll laugh. How can you not? The sight is inherently funny. Particularly since I'm singing coal mining songs while I labor. (My favorite is "Dyin' To Make A Livin'.")
It's important to enjoy humor wherever we can find it, especially in hard times. When I see myself doing something odd (but effective!) I laugh. And so should you. It's healthy.
Friday, November 3, 2023
It's natural on birthdays to look back at life.
In 66 years I've seen things. Good and bad. Had experiences both banal and intense. Some were unexpected.
As a young adult I lived cautiously but got bored with that. Later I tried riskier activities (motorcycles! solo travel!) and found excitement. Adventure is fun even with attached danger. Ironically we often skate unharmed through perilous situations but get smacked when doin' nothing. My conclusion is you might as well choose excitement 'cause bad stuff's gonna find you anyway.
Wisdom? Be compassionate; we're all in this together. Be curious; the world is more interesting than we're told. Be courageous and see what's out there. The best parts of life are vivid experiences and the friends we meet along the way. Those pleasures counter-balance the suffering we face. Finally, smile, whenever possible. It helps.