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  • Places: 1 Month, 20 Photos

    As a child, I didn’t get the chance to travel much during the summers. Most of our trips were to visit family in various parts of Texas — Longview, Waco, Albany — and I spent most of my time buried in a book as the landscape passed by. Other than a quick jaunt around Longview in a family friend’s plane, I didn’t fly on a commercial airline until I was in high school. (Ironically, that trip was to Washington, D.C.).

    It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I started traveling quite a bit, thanks to my job and family situation. Now, it seems, I’m on the road as much as I’m at home. And my camera is always with me.

    On this blog, I’ve shared almost 1,500 daily photos over the past four-plus years, and started a Places section on my website with galleries and short essays about interesting sites I see. More often than not, however, the photos I shoot are of random things that catch my eye.

    Here are 20 images from the past month. To see them in a larger format, go to my Facebook album here.

  • The Tonys and NOLA

    I watched the Tonys last night in my hotel room in New Orleans, where I'm starting a two-week trip that includes shooting conferences here and in San Francisco, with another trip to Texas in between. (Bonus: Nick is meeting me here tomorrow and will be with me through the Texas jaunt. Yay!)

    It was wonderful to see so many people I've become acquainted with performing and being part of the ceremony, and you couldn't help but love the speeches of Ben Platt and the Divine Miss M.

    I got here early yesterday and walked around the city, dodging the raindrops to take a few photos. In the afternoon, I went on a swamp tour (why not?) and then called it a night, sitting in my bed and happily watching the Tonys.

    Based on all the noise I heard outside, it sounded like the streets of NOLA were viewing the show on a giant screen, but I decided not to be part of their fun. And given the marathon of the next two weeks, I'm happy with that.

  • Politics, Baseball & Other Random Thoughts

    Less than a month out, here are a few more random thoughts about baseball, politics and other things…

    • Is it flu season? Or is this feeling coming because I'm a Nationals fan during the playoffs? At least I can get a shot for the latter by walking to a nearby cabinet.

    • In case you’re wondering what my qualifications are for that last statement, remember that my childhood was spent in the Houston area, where the playoffs and Rolaids marched in solidarity every fall.

    • Dear Mr. Stump: Thank you for proving yet again that misogyny and vitriol are alive and well. I've never seen such anger and hatred in my life as I’m seeing in the days leading up to this election.

    The GOP on November 9.

    ••••••

    • On a somewhat related note, Mr. Obama’s approval rating is higher at this point in his term than any president since Ronald Reagan. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a turnaround.

    • Having been to Pittsburgh twice in the past two weeks, I’m beginning to think Pennsylvania is one of those states where the red light and the orange cone should just hook up and call it a night.


    • Speaking of travel, here’s an on-the-road question: Why do hotels that charge $200 a night leave you with single-ply toilet paper?

    • Twitter is the new People Magazine. You can read all you need while sitting on the can.


    • And the best news yet …. The boy has a job for the next couple of weeks!

  • A Random Travel Ramble

    Random ramble while sitting in a JiffyLube on a Saturday...

    Over the past 5 weeks, I've been out of town more than I've been at home. Work and family have taken us to Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and California, plus drive-thrus of Maryland (east and west), Delaware and New Jersey.

    One kid went to college. One filmed a movie. One went on the road for his job and the other started a new one. Jill and I spent great time together and more than a full week apart.

    The next couple of months bring the same level of intensity, as the situation flips and Jill embarks on a series of fall trips for work.

    Lots of stories and memories will find their way onto my website and Facebook business page in the coming days. Ironically, I now have 1986 likes on that page.

    1986 is the year I turned 21, never imagining for a moment I'd live this kind of life. To everyone who has made a contribution to that life, especially my family biological and extended, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • Moving on Up: A Three-Day Journey

    It's difficult to believe it was just a week ago that I embarked on a 60-hour trip from New York to Tampa to Northern Virginia to move our daughter's stuff home. Now that our garage is sufficiently stuffed with stuff again, here is a summary of random thoughts from the long drive home.

    Day 1: Monday

    • Flying from New York to Tampa, I spent three hours on a packed airplane — window seat — with Edith Bunker and Sophia from The Golden Girls. Neither stopped talking the entire flight. One leaned over and raised my window while I was trying to take a nap, then explained three times in two minutes that she's "class-tro-phobic." I could resurrect the sitcom stereotype and run for five seasons on that material alone.

    • The weather is nice in Florida, but reminds me of growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast. That’s the last time I remember seeing I saw a mosquito drive past in an Escalade.

    • Not to make a political statement, but folks down here don’t seem to remember that the war ended 151 years ago. Of course, I know people in Texas who refuse to believe it ever joined the Union.

    Day 2: Tuesday

    • I’m in a 12-foot moving van from Florida to Northern Virginia with no CD player or aux cord and spotty FM reception. The local AM conspiracy theorists are coming through loud and clear though.

    I want to ask how it's possible to be so pessimistic and paranoid given their proximity to the happiest place on Earth, then realize I'd rather not know the answer and start searching for a sports talk channel. It’s gonna be a long trip...

    • Cormac McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Road,” his post-apocalyptic tale about a father and son traveling for months across land that has been destroyed by an unspecified cataclysmic event. Pretty much sounds like I-4 between Orlando and Jacksonville.

    • Seeing a billboard for a heart specialist between ads for Cracker Barrel and Golden Corral seems sort of beside the point, doesn't it?

    • In its next session, the Florida legislature sincerely should consider making an orange cone the state flag. That is, if Pennsylvania and Texas don’t beat them to it.

    • Spotted on I-95 after crossing the Florida line: One F-150 towing another F-150. In many states you’d say that was someone helping out a friend. Given the political climate in Georgia these days, it feels like Ford is making a commercial for Brokeback Mountain.

    • Speaking of I-95, it’s time to paraphrase Robert Earl Keen with, “The road goes on forever, but the party never begins.”

    Day 3: Wednesday

    • Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up, even if you’re working on next-to-nothing sleep at a Best Western off I-95 somewhere in the sticks of South Carolina... George Mason University received $30 million from the Charles Koch Foundation and an anonymous donor to rename the law school after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. The name they came up with was The Antonin Scalia School of Law, which translates to ASSoL or ASS Law.

    Needless to say, I’m sure the Kochs weren’t happy to hear this. The name was quickly changed to The Antonin Scalia Law School.

    I needed that.

    • I’ve stopped at a couple of places along the way to take pictures. Future stories/photo essays coming up, I’m sure.

    • My grandmother rode her first horse in her mid 70s. I feel like I’ve been riding one for 800 miles.

    • One stop was in Summerton, S.C., where I spent several months researching a story for the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Almost 12 years after that story was published, not much has changed in this small town … sadly. (More on that later, too.)

    • If Pedro from South of the Border ever becomes the billboard spokesperson for 1-800-Kars4Kids, I promise you I will hurt someone. Consider that a given.

    • Post-Pedro billboard observation: North Carolina's internal conflicts are exposed in a 10-mile series of advertisements for Jesus and adult novelty stores that use the name Adam & Eve.

    • Not much to report in Virginia. Thank goodness.

    • Made it home around 9:30, about 60 hours after leaving New York. Now that all is said and done, I have driven more than 1,000 miles in 2+ days, loaded a small apartment, taken some pics and made it home alive to tell the tale.

    Not that I haven’t been telling it all along.

  • Chronicle of a Caribbean Sunset

    In life, few things are more beautiful than watching the sun fall slowly from the sky.

    Note to fellow shutterbugs who might be curious: Taking these photos off the island of Aruba, I played a great deal with the exposures and f-stops to achieve the variations in the photos you see. With a couple of exceptions, limited post-production work (cropping, minor color adjustment, definition) was done on these photos.

  • Travel Is, Repeat, NOT Glamorous

    From the "Yep, it's Monday all day and night long" file...

    Storms and other wicked weather in the Midwest meant the Billy Elliot tour kids and parents were delayed on the trip from Des Moines to Appleton, Wis. What was supposed to be a 5-6 hour travel day turned into major ugh. Now they're making a 200-mile bus ride from Chicago.

    Nicholas left at 1 this afternoon. Delayed for hours in Detroit, he’s just now getting to Appleton after flying standby when his flight was cancelled. It’s after midnight, and rehearsal starts tomorrow morning early...

    It's not as glamorous as it looks, folks. 

  • Life Is A Highway

    At the recent rate of travel, I can’t help but think I’ll be one of those people who wakes up in his own bed and doesn’t know where he is. It is nice, though, to be back in my bed after a whirlwind 2+ weeks.

    For the past couple of months, Jill and I have pointed to this 17-day period as the one we had to “just survive.” To recap:

    June 19: Kate graduates from high school with my mom in from Texas and the McFarlands and Nicholas here from North Carolina.

    June 20: The McFarlands leave for a 25th anniversary weeklong trip to Maine.

    June 21: “Newsies” ends its two-week run in D.C. on Father’s Day. Nicholas returns to his new job and new apartment. My mom leaves, too.

    June 22: Ben leaves for Boston; Emma and Jeremiah start tech week for MSA’s “Toy Stories.”

    June 23: I leave to shoot the Graduate Management Admissions Council’s annual conference in Denver.

    June 25: Jill leaves for the ASCA conference in Phoenix.

    June 26: I get home from the GMAC conference.

    June 27: Ben catches a 6 a.m. flight from Boston to come home to see “Toy Stories.” I pick up the McFarlands in D.C. and take them to the matinee, the first of four shows scheduled this weekend. Emma packs for her three-week dance intensive in New York City.

    June 28: “Toy Stories” ends. Jeremiah returns to New York with his mom. After the tearful farewells to MSA’s seniors, Emma, Ben and I leave at 11:30 p.m. for Lower Manhattan, arriving just after 4 a.m. so she can start the dance intensive.

    June 29: Bleary eyed, I walk around the Lower East Side with my camera as Emma starts her camp. Afterward, Ben, Ginno and I meet her for a grocery/drug store run, then we leave for Boston.

    June 30: I have a business meeting in Boston, then Ginno and I watch Ben perform as Crutchie for the first time in “Newsies.” Harvey Fierstein (book), Jack Feldman (lyrics), and Jeff Calhoun (director) are in attendance. Ben nails it.

    July 1: Ginno and I head south in the early morning. I drop him off in Midtown and then head for Virginia.

    July 2: After a brief sleepover stop at home to check on Kate, who is child sitting for a family this summer, I did a quick photo shoot before leaving for North Carolina to see Nicholas and take him furniture for his new apartment. The trip takes almost seven hours, three of that to Fredericksburg 30 miles from our home.

    • July 3: Nicholas and I embark on a memorable IKEA run to Charlotte, then drive back to Northern Virginia to see Jill, who returned that morning from her Phoenix conference. At the end of the evening, I drive into D.C. to pick up Emma, who is coming home for the weekend.

    July 4: Nationals game with Emma, her boyfriend James, Jill and Nicholas, followed by fireworks in D.C. with Kate. Great nap outside the National Theatre between the two events.

    July 5: Nicholas and Emma return to New York and North Carolina, respectively. I have another photo shoot with a client. Life returns to “normal,” if you can call it that.

    Over those 17 days, I went to or through nine states and the District of Columbia, eight of them (plus DC) in a new car that has 2,600 miles on it after only 21 days of ownership.

    To use a phrase Nicholas likes, “That, folks, is how we roll…”

    #weareTHATfamily.

  • Random Thoughts: Frequent Flier Version

    The past week has been so busy that the random thoughts have floated by fast and furious. With the holiday weekend, trip to Texas and Nicholas’ graduation all in the past 14 days, thought I’d share a few…

    • Perhaps this seems odd, but one of my favorite songs in "Billy Elliot" is "Solidarity." Given our history with the show, it's not the go to piece you might expect. But as a parent with a family I care deeply about, it's one that resonates, especially now.

    I try to let my wife and kids know at every opportunity, in some form or fashion, that nothing matters more than family. Solidarity — despite our inclinations to disagree about the most mundane of things — is most important of all. Take the statement for what it is.

    • Speaking of “Billy Elliot,” I think I was the only person who didn’t post something marking the show’s 10th anniversary last week. Great show, great story, and one that will be part of our lives forever. It’s definitely a musical for the ages…

    • I-95 on a holiday weekend is a transportation TBT: You are reminded quickly of what travel was like on the cattle trail.

    • I was catching up on some reading while Jill drove for a bit on the trip down to North Carolina and saw a tweet that captured perfectly my opinion on the Josh Duggar situation. It read: “@OMGkee: Josh Duggar = Hypocrite. ‘Don’t judge me’ is the 1st thing judgmental people say when they're exposed. You want the mercy you refused others.”

    All I can add to that is, “Amen, sister.” 

    • It’s no surprise that another TLC show is biting the dust — the network mercifully pulled the plug on “19 Kids and Counting” repeats over the weekend. What was surprising is that they didn’t announce a reality celebrity death match between the Duggar clan and Honey Boo-Boo’s mother after she threatened to sue TLC. Of course, there’s always the next sweeps period.

    • One last bad joke: Has anyone noticed that Jim Bob Duggar looks suspiciously like he could be the older brother of Jack McBrayer, who played Kenneth the Page on “30 Rock”? If McBrayer is looking for another role and the Lifetime biography of John Edwards doesn’t work out, he should give it a shot.

    • I have no love for the Atlanta airport. I don’t know anyone who does. So it came as no surprise that I had to go from C50 to T02 in 20 minutes to catch my connection, or that the connecting flight then showed up 20 minutes late. That at least gave me some time to stop sweating.

    • Which leads me to the official Memorial Day/start of summer statement: Humidity is my body’s self-irrigation system.

  • The Holiday Whew...

    Over the past five days, we...

    • Had 14 people over in hosting our first Thanksgiving since 2003 (massive kudos to Jill for a great meal and for wonderful food throughout the weekend).

    • Unveiled Kate's newly remodeled bedroom, much to her appreciation.

    • Attended (and photographed) two Frosty Follies shows (kudos to Ben and Emma, the later of whom was Black Friday shopping until 4:30 a.m.).

    • Watched as the Frosty Follies kids went ice skating. 

    • Purchased and put up our Christmas tree (massive kudos again to Jill and Nicholas for the decorating).

    • Hosted my mom, Olivia, for her longest-ever visit. (She leaves tomorrow.)

    • Held an impromptu early 21 party for Nicholas and his early gift exchange with the trio.

    • Snaked our way up and down I-95 to the Richmond area twice, giving my mom a chance to meet Nicholas' girlfriend, Katherine, and her parents.

    Thank God it's Monday? Nah, wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world.

  • Traveling from DC to NY

    To go back and forth from Virginia to New York, we normally take the Bolt Bus, which is where I started writing this. Unfortunately, this means we must navigate Interstate 95, which I think was engineered to make sure that no one bolts anywhere.

    Still, the ride is cheap, the bus has a bathroom, and you meet some interesting characters. I hope that’s what the other riders thought on Thanksgiving Wednesday when we journeyed — very slowly — to the Big Apple with our nieces, Elisabeth and Margaret, and Jill’s cousins James and Katharyn in tow.

    Two years ago, we left on Wednesday afternoon to go to Chapel Hill for Thanksgiving.  Three hours and seven miles later, we turned around. This year, going north was not much easier. 

    We had a persistent mist and fog for the first half of the trip, two prerequisites for screwing up traffic in unprecedented ways. Combine that with some not-so-timely road construction and the I-95 engineers penchant for making five lanes of traffic squeeze into two, and you have the makings of a cluster of cars as well. 

    All I can say is that it would not be inappropriate to use cluster in a different context here. What is normally a 4 to 4½ trip took 8 hours, no fun under any circumstances.

    Still, the trip had some highlights…

    I now know how to make the selections for the U.S. men’s downhill team, and don’t have to go anywhere near a ski slope to do it. Stick them in the bathroom of a charter bus in stop-and-go traffic and tell them they can’t hit the lid while peeing. Those that can pull it off can do the Alps without a problem.

    ••••••

    Favorite lines of the day:

    Kate, after taking falling asleep for an hour at the start of the trip: “Are we there yet?”

    Me: “Nope, not yet.”

    Kate: “How much longer? Five minutes? Ten?"

    Me: “Sweetheart, we’re not even to Baltimore.”

    Kate: “Oh, but we’re close, right?"

    As you can see, geography is not her strongest subject in school.

    ••••••

    Kate: “Where are we?”

    Me: “On the Turnpike, close to Rutgers.”

    Kate: “Fuddruckers?”

    Me: “No, Rutgers. It’s a university.”

    Kate: “I didn’t know Fuddruckers was a university.”

    ••••••

    Nicholas, after leaving four hours later and making it to the apartment earlier than us, thanks to a flight from Greensboro to LaGuardia: “I’m so ADD that I get distracted reading a picture book.”

    That’s my boy…