Mother Nature's Chilly Heart
(and grandma's terrible cooking)

I woke up in Oregon ready to escape the next wave of Nature's snowy wrath. After some careful arranging and leaving behind some large items, we were able to fit everything in the car. I practiced putting on the tire chains, just in case. We took one more joy ride through downtown Eugene before we hit I-5 South. The snow-covered land between Oregon and Redding, CA is some of the most beautiful I've ever saw. The highlight of the breathtaking drive was probably Mt. Shasta National Park. Mt. Shasta's elevation is 14,162 ft and one of the few places that rivals Yosemite.

[We stopped for a bite to eat in Yreka, CA at a little joint called Grandma's House. How could they do this?! They slandered Grandma with bad cooking and poor service. Then the bill came ... Grandma must be senile too.


~*~ All Snowed-in And Nowhere to Go ~*~

We planned well in advance. The car was rented. Our bags where packed and ready to go. Snack food items for the long drive, check. The only thing we didn't do was consult the Weather Channel. If we had, we might have realized we planned to start our journey from Eugene to San Francisco in the middle of a snow storm. A blizzard that closed nearly 100 miles of Interstate 5 between the Oregon border and Mt. Shasta, California.

[Luckily we all have flexible schedules. We were able to enjoy the weather that I always imagined of Oregon. Of course our traveling group didn't mind staying for another day. I went sledding with my nephew and my sister. Built a snowman. Watched cynically as neighbors tried to make it up the hill in their small expensive cars. And of course, like every night, after dark we all gathered around the table for family games ... like Uno. (Our favorite!)]


== You Got to Know When to Hold'um, Know When to Fold'um ==

Like much of my holiday, today was spent entirely with my family. When you don't see each other often enough it sure takes a long time to "catch up." In the morning we all gathered around my mom and talked. The conversation went from my 16-year-old niece's vague memories of playing in her backyard as a toddler to my mother recalling her early childhood, and growing up during WWII. I am the baby of the family by far, my closest sibling being 20 years older than me. I never even realized my mom was alive during WWII! One of her oddest wartime memories was created as a little girl in first grade. She said the students would line up in the school's hallway for rations of prunes and grapefruit juice.

[The holidays are always a great time for family games. Tonight we watched my 6-year-old nephew Hayden put on a magic show. Then we played Trivia Pursuit while Hayden kept insisting we play poker. We finally compromised with him and played a two-hour hand of Uno.]


)) A Night Out in Eugene is Worth Two in the Bush ((

The Shelley James' Music Box rocked Sam Bond's Garage in Eugene tonight with an outstanding collection of original material and 80s covers. Just when you thought it was safe to disregard the familiar radio plays of the 80s, the "music box" proves you wrong. The songs jolted me into halucinatory flashbacks of my early years in elementary school. This band impressed listeners with its skillful coordination and sharp, precise note making. For a small venue fan from the Mid-Atlantic my night out in Eugene was super ... thanks for asking.

[It has become a kind of tradition for me and my brother-in-law Brian to go see live music when I visit. Now that he is living in Eugene and not L.A. that tradition will also take on the sampling of local Oregon micro-brews.]


Boxing Day and Other Foreign Infestations

This is a Nutria at dusk near the Willimette River in Eugene, Oregon. I spent most of the day touring around town with my brother-in-law Brian and my nephew Hayden. We had a great time walking down by the Williamette River, eating cheap Mexican food, and shopping around for the best multi-purpose gloves. I found an outstanding pair of gloves that allow me full operation of my camera, like when I had to change lenses to shoot this Nutria before he moseyed through the tall grass down the river bank. I had one slight let-down today ... the Eugene Register-Guard terminated their internship program three years ago. I still enjoyed visiting what I did see of the facilities and my brief, pleasant conversation with Rob Romig, the Register-Guard's director of photography and graphics.

[Tomorrow we go to Eugene's weekly flea market. I'm betting there will be some interesting purchases made there considering half this town is retired hippies.]


We Wish You a Christmas Pudding and a Happy New Year

This is my brother-in-law's traditional Christmas pudding. Well, actually it's the first time he's ever attempted to make it. I was eating bite by little bite thinking it was an old Welsh family recipe passed down from a long line of fog-walking tea drinkers ... but no. Even my niece Carol was cajoled into thinking he had been making it for years after a story he told about his mother's own Christmas pudding.

[Woke up this fine Christmas morning to a happy laughing family. We opened our eyes. We opened our presents. And, we opened the wrong presents. (Whoops!) I came here imagining that we would be fighting and miserable all stuck in the same house, all 10 of us. Come to think of it that doesn't sound like too many. But, this is the first time my Mom, my two sisters, my brother, and me have all been together in over ten years. I hope everyone feels as loved as the members of our family. Happy Holidays.]


The State of Jefferson

We drove from San Francisco to Eugene, Oregon today. We had an ample amount of irritating stops at yokle diners. The weather was a lot better than we expected, a little rain. We left at about 10am from San Fran and arrived in Eugene at 10pm. Twelve hours in a car with my brother, sister-in-law, and my year-old nephew -- amazingly we all survived. The biggest pain-in-the-neck (literally) was trying to sleep in the sitting position.

[This is a sandwich I enjoyed off Interstate 5 in Williams, Ca. A lot of citizens in the upper half of California would like to seceed from the rest and become a seperate state. If they had their way it would be known as the state of "Jefferson." This seperation is something I can remember folks talking about in Orange County 20 years ago. It's a California myth, something that started as a wacky idea or rumor. Other examples -- earthquakes will cause California to break off into the Pacific, or that a state would actually elect a porn star as governer.]



I am now in San Francisco. My Holiday Adventure has officially begun. Tomorrow my brother Rog, my sister-in-law Liz, my handsome nephew Will, and I will put all good sense aside and start our drive through the 600-mile blizzard separating us from ice-hardened Eugene, Oregon. As of now our plans are to leave before 9am. The drive itself would take approximately 8 hours if we don't stop, according to Liz. She thinks it is possible for some people to make only three 30-minute stops on the trip. I figure we'll be there early Christmas morning.

[It's good to be around your family on the holidays, for as long as you can stand it.]



(I'm headed to San Fran, but ...) If you're out in the chilly Christmas weather and down by the White House around F St, Yannis at Maxim's Restaurant might help you ... try some nice vodka. It's fun to hear Russian spoken around the holidays, and there's usually plenty spoken there. I've been going there for over a year, on and off with injuries. The food is good and meaty and they offer the largest selection of vodka in the area, the review says 90 but the last I checked it was more like 140, MAXIM'S.

[I went to the Veterens' Hospital today for a check-up appointment. I noticed some signs in the waiting room letting Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom veterans know how to get coverage. About an hour later I noticed another sign that said the estimated waiting time was 20 minutes. When I finally saw the nurse she was the only one talking. While I was trying to tell her my problems she was half-listening, telling me about her daughter's toenail fungus. Her computer was on a stack of boxes next to her desk. She asked about my service record; and gave me the creeps like the woman in the movie Misery. "They want us to take an extra-close look at all the recent veterans," she said. And then asked me about nightmares, she brought it up! I swear she wanted me to have Post-Tramatic Stress Syndrome. Well, at least maybe they'll find my missing meningitis records. After that visit I needed a vanilla vodka and Coke.]



This is Penny the dog. Because Lord of the Rings was sold out, drinking with some friends and playing ball with Penny was the highlight of the evening.

[I've not only been taking a break from school for the past few days, but also from taking many photos. The schedule I was on for getting things finished up the last week of class made me nocturnal. I need to get out and be somewhere.]


Capitol Christmas Tree

I walked down to see the tree in front of the Capitol today. It has decorations made by children from all fifty states.

[I went to my friend Dave's house tonight. He had some friends from Richmond, Va. there. Didn't stay too late, hopefully I'll get back on a normal sleeping pattern.


||| | || Standing Around the Neighborhood || | |

My friend Jesse from McLean, Va., asked me, "What are all the dudes doing just standing around chillin in your neighborhood." I told him, "In the six months I've lived in Mt. Pleasant I haven't figured out yet." I'm beginning to think it's some sort of cultural thing. A lot of the community is comprised of South Americans. I imagine it might be an aspect from a culture filled with outside markets and a different way of life. The strangest thing might be that it doesn't seem like anyone is out on the streets selling drugs, it just seems like they're hanging out.

[I got a free meal tonight at Tortilla Coast in Capitol Hill for finding a piece of aluminium in my Fajitas. It was similar to finding the coin in the Christmas pudding.]


^^ A Land Deprived of Sleep ^^

I didn't go to sleep at all last night, the eve of my final class of the semester. I stayed up trying to perfect a slide show of photos for class. It turned out resembling a music video.

[This is the Columbia Road Discount Center where they claim, "The Best Prices in Town" and, "Los Mejores Precios De La Ciudad." This corner shop in Adams-Morgan reminds me of shops in the Mission District of San Francisco.]


}} Honey, Tell the Children I'm Out and Dancing {{

This is a 25 ft statue, by J. Seward Johnson, Jr., that stands in front of the Corcoran Gallery on 17th and New York Ave NW. The steam grate and the street light really work nice. And it's a little gross to think back on, but the steam grate really smells better now that the homeless gentleman, Warren, doesn't live on it anymore.

[I have one more class! My favorite class! Then all I have to think about is Holiday stuff.]


!!! Never Light the Third Cigarette !!!

A.J. Schneck of Deleware passes his lighter to Dan Payn from Warren, Vermont. Both are fine arts photography students at the Corcoran College and enjoy a precious moment of relaxation during a final week of classes.

[When I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh I took photos of student life like this. At the time I smoked cigarettes and remember trying to get as many lights off one flame as possible. Several years later in Jacksonville, N.C., I learned to never light the third cigarette. "It's bad luck," I remember this old Korean War vet, J.O., saying in the Cardinal Lounge. He said by the time the lighter got to the third smoker the enemy would have their sights on it's glow. Bang! It's really safer to quite.]


Unidentified Flying Ornaments

These are some ornaments I photographed on a walk back from one of my nightly trips to 7-eleven. I might not agree with the discusting acts of man, as far as the dirty-handed deeds of colonialism, but every once in a while the convenience of 7-eleven makes me second guess that. I mean it's cool to live in an age of Economic Imperialism when you can get a McFalafel at the Mickey-D's in Alexandria, Egypt (better than their hamburgers).

[Yesterday I decided to stay home and start writing a paper on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. So I ordered a pizza. In the morning, when I woke up I still hadn't written a word. I ate pizza and wrote all day until my class. Because it was the last class of the semester our professor, Bernard, ordered pizza. Of course I ate a couple slices, free pizza. It was going-away pizza, a ritual event I take part in. I can't wait to see my family all together at Christmas, something that is unfortunately not a ritual to me.]


~{ Picturesque Gloom }~

This is the National Cathedral from Kilbourne Pl NW. All morning we had snow and all afternoon it rained lightly. My brother-in-law from England, Brian, would like this weather. He lived with my sister in Los Angeles for about a decade. They just recently moved to Eugene, Ore. He never liked the heat in L.A. I bet they're having similar weather to the District now, or better yet ... worst! There is something the English appreciate about being in an uncomfortable or harsh environment. The constant drizzling rain. I like rain. I like sun too.

[When I'm on the street and it's raining and the wind is blowing I can imagine myself on a ship in the middle of a dark and stormy ocean. Or I'm running down an unknown path in the middle of the night dodging lightning. I guess you could even include something like hiking 30-some miles through a gassy wetlands carrying everything you need to survive, and all the water tastes like cow crap ... and maybe there was a thunderstorm earlier too. Anyway, my point is how does the guy react when a drink spills on him at a party? It's the people who figure, "Already wet, may as well jump in the swimming pool," who make life. Like England and its gloomy fog, the Middle East and its arid land, Los Angeles and plastic surgery ... ]


)) Why do I Relate to This? ((

I walked down to Adams-Morgan to get some food ... instead I found a religion. Santeria to be ambigous, because this is only one known name for this mixture of Catholicism and African tribal beliefs. I saw this giant statue of the Virgin in a dark complexion and a caucasian Christ and had to investigate. The Botanica, which is the general term for a store that sells Santeria religious articles, was a cultural treasure chest. The website Religious Tolerance notes that Santeria practitioners from South America and Mexico may focus more on the religion's Catholic background, whereas Cuban and other Carribean Islands focus more on the beliefs of the Yoruba and Bantu people in Southern Nigeria, Senegal and Guinea Coast.

[This semester I took a class that introduced me to the majority of my understanding of the African and Buddhist cultures. It seems like most groups believe that the true form of eternal life is keeping your ideas alive, or at least being part of a greater chain of productive ideas that hopfully grow every generation. And there is the physical form of eternal life, that a part of your fathers are with you and a part of you goes with your children.]

** Accepting Terrorism, Daily **

Several Terrorism Task Force FBI agents collect evidence in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

(below) Two officers with the FBI's Terrorism Task Force go through the contents of a Chevy Blazer parked in Mt Pleasant on Kenyon St NW. The owner of the vehicle is a suspect in an investigation involving suspicious packages found at a Metro stop in South East Washington earlier today.

[I walked out the door today around 2pm. A block from my house I noticed that the FBI had closed down a part of Kenyon St NW. I took some pictures of the FBI's Terrorism Task Force collecting evidence from a brown, two-toned Chevy Blazer. After a few minutes I kept walking towards downtown. I stopped in an African bar on 18th St NW and talked to a school teacher. He said that the Metropolitan Police had closed off a Metro transit hub by Benning Rd SE due to suspicious packages.]


Hockey is Not Just For Hockey Fans ...

Capitals center Brian Sutherby contorts his stick to slide the 4th of 6 goals scored by Washington in their 6-5 victory over the Boston Bruins. Sotherby, who is Canadian, will be turning 21 in March. Does it seem like the younger the drinking age a country has the better the hockey players it produces?

[I was invited to the hockey game by a good friend Jimmy, owner of the Xchange Saloon on 17th and G Sts NW. We had an awesome corporate suite compliments of Budweiser. Jimmy also awarded a golf bag to Capitals center Robert Lang before the game. This was an exciting, high-scoring game. And I thought it had quite a few brawls ... I was mistaken about the brawling according to the seasoned hockey fans. The strangest thing was probably these two Canadians that were drinking with us at the game. I mean we were cool with them and everything, but they just kept insisting they were from North Dakota.]



Class was much better than I expected. After class I hung out in the student lounge at H St as usual. I thought I'd try out the typewriter, but the only paper I could find had been xerox copied on. I also discovered that the typewriter only had a correction tape and no ink. So I used my pen to express Indiana Pacers star Ron Artest's pain while being squeezed through the media-press.

[I don't know much about Ron Artest but Corcoran College writing professor, Casey Smith does. No coincidence, Casey is from Indiana like the Pacers. "[Artest is] one of the best players on both ends of the floor," said Smith.]


_-- Step to Class --_

This day has been one of many technical difficulties. I have two classes; one morning, one night. The hours aren't very agreeable, especially with an 8am class Wednesday morning. An 8am class Wednesday morning that has a final. An 8am class Wednesday morning that has a final that I could really use more time to study for.

[There was a student lunch at the Corcoran today. It was great. Of course, because it is getting toward the end of the semester no one really had time to hang out and mingle.]


Bean Bags
(coffee beans)

Sealed packs of M. E. Swing Co, or MESCO coffee roll off the end of Walter Russell's conveyer belt and into boxes below. The MESCO roasting facility is located in Alexandria, Va. Russell worked at Swing's right out of high school. He worked for an area produce store for about 4 years, but he's been working at Swing's for the past 17 years.

[Russell has been with MESCO longer than anyone, except Patricia Swing.]


|l-_Closing Up the Zoo_-l|

Locking the gates, Officer Ron Gaines of the Zoological Park Police secures the National Zoological Park. "A lot of people visit the Zoo, even in the winter," said Gaines. He said they get a lot of joggers and bicyclists at the Zoo because of the access from the trails of Rock Creek Park. "The Zoo is a family place," said Gaines. "Sometimes I come to the Zoo on my day off."

[The National Zoo is open from 6am to 6pm in the winter, and 6am to 8pm in the summer. The Zoo's exhibit buildings are open from 10am to 430pm in the winter, and 10am to 6pm in the summer.]



This is a lawn on Kilbourne Pl NW in Mt Pleasant. It seems like the traditional time to start putting up Christmas decorations is right after Thanksgiving. However, there is no customary time to take them down. Some christmas lights never come down. Some ornaments don't make it down until May. Others just dissapear.

[I went to Haydee's, a latin resturant on Mt Pleasant St, with my friend Sprengelmeyer. He is busy writing a fiction novel based on his experiences in Iraq. After a good dining experience we talked about past, present and what we want to do in the future. I mentioned I wanted to go to the liquor store for something cheap. I walked out of the Mt Pleasant Deli with a $2.79 bottle of Thunderbird, "An American Classic."]

<-- Regarded as Clumsy or Uncouth -->

Went to a show at the Black Cat. A friend of mine ended up being the bass player for one of the opening bands. I decided it would be cool to get up closer to the stage. I was adjusting the controls on my camera while holding a full pale ale. "Argghhhh," the next thing I knew the beer and some punk rocker were on my shirt. I didn't get mad, I thought, "Well, I should have known."

[This is the Goons' lead singer Serge Baptista getting some vocal backup from a fan.]


)) Winter Weather? ((

This is looking south down Columbia Rd. toward Adams-Morgan. The first snow of the Winter started off slowly today around 3pm.

[This is Nelson. He was walking home to Columbia Heights from work downtown.]


Hey! This Isn't For Pornography, Is It?

I was over visiting a friend in a building called The York on 20th St NW. I was taking some pictures in the hall when Bill Roberts walked off the elevator. I don't know Bill, he just looked photogenic. "Hey, this isn't for pornography, is it?" asked Bill.

[Bill has been living at The York for many years, although the majority of the residents appeared to be George Washington University students.]

Dog Smacks Girl

This is Jen's black eye. Jen works at Swing's Coffee on 17th and G sts NW in the afternoon. In the morning she walks some dogs in her neighborhood. One of the dogs she walks hit her in the eye with his paw. I like the green color.

[I wish it was easier to get a job with no car.]


** Everyone Makes Mistakes Sometimes **

Jemala McCroee and his father Ellis stand in front of the Washington Monument and their flipped pick-up truck at 14th and Constitution NW. A woman in a small compact car hit the rear passanger's side of the truck while running a red light sending the truck and the McCroee's tumbling through the intersection. The McCroee's work for the Boeing Co. as renovation carpenters. This afternoon around the same time as the accident the CEO of Boeing, Phil Condit, resigned amid controversies. Smell a connection?

photo illustration

[Similarly to the woman who ran the red light because she wasn't focused on her driving, I didn't focus the camera when I took this shot. So I put a radial blur on the background and made it a nice-looking photo illustration.]


}} Starving Artist? ... Try the Calimari! {{

This is Brandon Karnes eating a plate of fried squid or calimari at the Dupont Italian Kitchen on 17th St NW. They give free refills there and it's just a block from Trio's, a dump which does not give free refills ... where would you eat? Karnes is a fine arts major at the Corcoran College who doesn't appreciate free refill as much as I do.

[I got the chicken fettucine alfredo. It was good. I prefer Cajun chicken fettucine alfredo. I tried to order cajun alfredo in Venice once. Then I asked for just chicken fettucine alfredo. Then I just asked if they wouldn't mind cutting up a chicken breast on my fettucine.]