Jitters

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Just pretend it was taken at dawn.

Dean, as I will call Dean, dropped by (from 90 minutes east) for a getaway that turned into a walk along the C&O Canal at Williamsport on the Potomac, a bit of sitting in at the every-other-Saturday open mic at the Desert Rose Cafe, where we ate wisely, and a drive off into the sunset, ahhhh and awwww, that took us into Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

Mid-May looking south on the C&O Canal, Williamsport, Maryland.

Just friends have been Dean and I (15 years), and I might say of such a friendship that I’ve had my adventures and misadventures, virtues and many vices, with which Dean has had little to do — fact is: that, one panel up, is the first time she has heard me play guitar and sing, not counting about 30 seconds of getting about right some weepy love song in a living room long consigned to Dean’s past–and Dean was up the stairs at the time and may not have even heard that.

So we had a lovely walk on the canal path, a light supper, a little showbiz, and a fine drive in the hill country out to one of the nation’s smaller but persistently capable and drawing tourist destinations.

Missing from the photography: as we were leaving Berkeley Springs, the rise over the big hills on the town’s eastern edge of the largest spring moon you ever saw.

Heartbreaking.

Lights on at Berkeley Springs State Park, mid-May 2012.

Dean, being Dean, I’ve had to ask myself where I might wish to go by myself . . . and what I might wish to do there by myself . . . or, locally, where I might wish to hang out for a while.

. . . . . .

Some years ago, six, to be exact, I had managed to spend about ten years of evenings (and many weekends) dancing country-western style in a bar on the southwest fringe of Baltimore and the Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Airport.  Those who know it will know it by the description and know also I followed the franchise when it opened where I now live.

I hardly drop by these days, some for having grown shorter and wider, some for playing music around town, some, a lot, for keeping a political blog and putting in Facebook time big time with an affinity-built Facebook community.

At the moment, it feels as if age, finite time, technology, and a concomittant super-abundance of things yet to do (I’m ready to get through the second half of War and Peace) have caught up with me. 

Yes, rather no, children, you cannot do it all. 

And if you can, it doesn’t matter to me because I can’t and am about out of time for figuring that out.

My mansion inside a cabin inside an apartment by a patch of woods on the eastern edge of western Maryland floats not only close by the American economy — another story I’m sure I will get to in these virtual pages some day — but also by quite a few good enough to very good bars and restaurants, including that one where I had been a regular (and there’s the one where I’ve been singing Tuesday nights), but such amenity may prove as hard on the closet as on the heart, literally. 

As for staying in, I’m not quite Maugham or Shaw enough — not quite the indie literary loner, nor gay with known stops — so I have got a compound problem defending my freedom, keeping my health (while my marrow cranks out WBCs and a lymph node or two gobbles them up), remaining Jewish (yet another story), and coming up with company.

Or going it, as ever, as always, alone.

Although I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy driving around with Dean.

. . . . . .

Online shopping helps for distraction.

Serious sports car geeks know sandals, jeans, a t-shirt, a windbreaker (or leather jacket) and a long-brimmed ball cap will suffice for a drive — put a diner or road house at the apoapsis — but, oh no, I go out equipped like a scout — I have to support the Lumix or another camera, at minimum, plus . . . prescription driving glasses, the cell phone, other “mag” “murse” and “it’s European!” stuff — or like an army, but trimmed back some from the American Tourister set: canvas guide, side, and duffle bags will do for me.

Still, I don’t know whether I’m looking for a landscape or a restaurant, or which landscape or what kind of restaurant; for that matter, what means the next landscape or the next restaurant?  Perhaps all this — everything — is going to come down to is mindless gas guzzling, out far and away and back.

Either that last thought will prevail, which might be fun in a weird way, or I’m about to learn a lot about intuition.

Body Parts — Wheel, Rim, Hood

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16-inch Eagle RSA and "bullit" rim.

I don’t nickle-and-dime the car wash in getting to a clean surface (cleaned finally with the help of a spray bottle of water and a roll of paper towels).  For wax: Mother’s Gold Carnauba. 

Waxed hood.

Having been its happy owner — although now and then she kicks me in the wallet — for the past seven years, I don’t wish to glorify the car too much.  Still, few automotive concepts and designs have the power to change lives, and this one with its sleek hood and raised haunches and rear wing still says “drive me”, and not for utility or for luxury or to make a statement, but for joy.

It has been a while since I’ve toodled around the landscape, but here with her fresh coat of wax, I may be running short on excuses for letting her and letting myself sit idle.

Silver Mustang 2000, Hagerstown, Maryland, March 2012

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That's my "pony car" parked outside the Georgia Boy Cafe at Park Circle where I have been gigging Tuesday nights.

It’s a snap shot, almost a grab just dashing out with the Lumix LX5 between sets, definitely not Tuesday night’s main event.

When’s it going to go somewhere?

When is it going to feel like it has someplace to go?

God only knows those answers this evening.

I juggle three acts, axes, axis: writing, music, photography; and each has its own cuckoo life.

Find me on stage on the other side of that neon Tuesday nights.

Sold at Auction – March 25, 2011

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Thomas Point Shoals Lighthouse

I won’t tell you what my eight works fetched this afternoon, or where or for whom apart from their fetching for a worthy cause.

I will tell you that signed single prints of each, six at 13×19 inches and two at 11×17 inches, went home with a buyer. 

“White Spring,” intended as a decor print and “The Road to Roulette Farm”, intended for institutional acquisition, were part of completed limited edition print runs. 

“Cold Fence”, on the other hand, represented a one-off print of a series of five prints (existing) — same “capture” but each tonally manipulated — while “Thomas Point Shoals Lighthouse” and others came off very short runs, the lighthouse in particular as it was printed on Pictorico White Film (the printing monster was HP’s near lethal B9180 — truly, I feel daring using it in the presence of uncertain high blood pressure — loaded with the archival Vivera inks) and I’m not so hot to invest in another stack of sheets.  Still, the few prints of the lighthouse on the Pictorico are as gorgeous as the image.

"Untitled", Winter Scene, Longmeadow Road, Hagerstown, Maryland, 2008.

Bloody Lane, Antietam National Battlefield Park, Sharpsburg, Maryland.

“Bloody Lane”: Intended as 1 of 20, the B9180 came down with the bangs and shakes when fed additional sheets of heavyweight Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl, so today’s buyer has taken home a truly unique print: 1 of 1. 

In thinking it over, that 1/1 will always be unique, for I may not get it together to invest in another printer (so I can feed it the fattest Hahnemuhle rag for as long as funding permits) or choose to start over with a less substantial sheet and some other finish) and resume the project (the Antietam National Battlefield Set consists of a dozen similarly toned images, and while unsigned prints are available through my account at Fine Art America — at least they are there this March 2012 — I’ve priced around $1,000 per print with a cut-off at a dozen sales each).

The Road to Roulette Farm, Antietam National Battlefield Park, Sharpsburg, Maryland.

“The Road to Roulette Farm”: I thnk there are 16 more prints, each tweaked, to move along to buyers (numbers 1 and 2 being reserved as “estate prints” — may the lot grow in value before I kick off)!

“Patuxent River Trout Fisher”: This too has been let to live online at Fine Art America.  The web “print” only hints at the detail available in a large realspace print, for in the enlarged file, one may see the fishing line!

White Spring, Longmeadow Road, Hagerstown, Maryland.

“White Spring”: The run made it before the HP B9180 decided it was done with the Hahnemuhle.  Probably, I should set it up on Pictorico although I’ve become fond lately of Ilford’s Gold Fibre Silk.  All this gets silly: is the paper the art?  Is the image the art?  What if it were printed on metal?  That can be done these days.

Cold Fence, Hagerstown, Maryland

“Cold Fence”: I already miss this delicious gray-on-white print.  There are a few more of the fence around (bids are welcome), and, of course, they’re all fine, but this one’s got a hint of two-tone wood cut vibe going for it.  And it’s gone.

The prints were left loose on foam core boards inside plastic slips with descriptive sheets on the reverse.  It was the first time I’ve seen a loose collection of mine “binned” for sale and looked over by strangers.  The auction was silent, so the bid-up minimized by each buyer moving on to mull, schmooz, nibble, and sip, altogether a pleasant set of behaviors and psychologically much, much different from head-to-head live competition for a valued unique item.

The experience has left me with a couple of questions, the first being whether to replace the notorious HP B9180 with an Epson, or nurse it along (that’s going to take a lot of coffee!), and the second being whether to put more effort and cash into limited edition printing and marketing.

The early web ethos relating to all being free seems belied by the costs of producing — call it what is really is: artisinal manufacturing — pretty good to excellent work, some of which may float along once certain basics — camera gear, web gear, web services — have been obtained — but expanding travel range (and keeping belly and tank full) or pushing ideas into realspace using paper and ink incur continuous direct expenses.

Add to the bite the more interesting “costs” — those to desire, ego, and heart. 

How compelling, how decorative, how good, how wonderfully original, how suited, and how suited to what does work need to be to keep a photographer afield?

Or is contemporary art culture done with breathtaking buys, courageous commissions, and deep-pocketed patronage?

Setting those nagging cultural, economic, philosophicle, and practical questions aside, I’ve long found it cool — once with a play, many times in print, sometimes reminded by someone else of an old music recording I made (and left on a cassette tape) — to have something I have made (even forgotten about) out in the world enjoying a life altogether its own.

"Morning Orchid"

However all of this works out (aesthetically, financially), I’ve got thousands of slides to mine out of the files, strong film and digital Nikon gear, and plenty of miles to go with a sweetheart of a Mustang built for getting a ways away and into fresh surrounds really, really fast.

End of Winter – Obligatory

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Cherry Blossoms, Fairgrounds Park, Hagerstown, Maryland, 2012

 

Hagerstown - North End - Trumpower's Garden, 2012

One week in the mid-Atlantic, it was winter and the next: 80-deg.F., bright sun, gentle breezes, thunderstorms.

A film director would have given the transition more time.

Not God, not this year, not today, not right now: we are April-May and practically May-June on spring’s first day.

I’ve shot an awful lot of convenient subjects with the Panasonic Lumix LX5, the most convenient camera I’ve owned since setting aside a Kodak Instamatic!  Of course, I armed it with the extension barrel and pretty good “sky” and polarizing filters.  Most enjoyed: JPEG-shooting “Intelligent Auto” followed by Aperture-Priority and Program modes that afford this old SLR guy a little bit of control in the shooting.  Most disliked: both the electronic viewfinder (never use it now) and the back screen in bright conditions.

Next up: a D2x with a Nikkor 16-85mm VRII, a really unwieldy beast of a combo by the day’s new standards, and yet . . . I want to press it back into use!

A Pony Can Dream!

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Mustang 2000 - Hagerstown - Winter 2012

The emblem runs on ice.

I’m not so sure about 16-inch Eagle RSAs, although they’ve proven themselves on black ice and slushy stuff.

Still, says I, “Ice or snow–pony don’t go.”

Life’s a little easier that way, and around here, between the library, theater, and the web — all in-house — let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

It’s not exactly with desparation that I’ve picked up War and Peace.

However, I may wonder, having aged my share, how even a short drive out of town might feel.

Sad to say, it has been a while.

I suppose I’ll get to find out after plowing through about a thousand pages.

Dining at The Gourmet Goat — GG’s Restaurant and Martini Bar — Hagerstown, Maryland

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A glass of Joel Gott Cabernet starts my two-for-one Happy Hour at Hagerstown's Gourmet Goat one chill January evening. In winespeak: blackberries, currants, cherries.

For the name, I’m going by the signage, of which it may be said in the way of relationships, “It’s complicated.”

The Gourmet Goat on Potomac Avenue in Hagerstown, Maryland features a counter and deli-style restaurant up front — that clean, well-lighted space for lunch and such during the business day — and at the back quite another setting, softly lit and warm, a bar, a dining section, with even a grand piano (although I haven’t heard it played yet): all that goes by the name “GG’s Restaurant and Martini Bar.”

Specialty of the bar: the Martini (for every mood and taste).

In its own elegantly peaceful way, dining at GG’s may turn out quite the production, for the production really is in elements supplied and their presentation.  A simple glass of Cabernet is how I began yesterday evening after an hour’s walk around Hagerstown’s old North End community in freezing weather — as good for the appetite as for the soul — and what a Cabernet the bar / restaurant (Gourmet Goat, GG’s, whatever) had to greet me: no need for me to get all waxy poetic over it as others have done with the Joel Gotti family of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Although I had the MAG with me (and the same Lx5 point-and-shoot involved), I hadn’t intended a write-up, so here I’ve no picture of the Caesar salad to share with you.  However, in words: big romain leaves, crisp, well drenched and covered with Romano, and served with chunky good crunchy croutons.

Main course for the cursed cold winter’s night in the abandoned city: Greek Shrimp! 

Hot olive oil, feta, shrimp, spinach, basil, tomato bedded out on pasta -- a Mediterranean vacation in a dish.

As stated in the caption, “a Mediterranean vacation in a dish” — only it’s the winter version and hot, pungent, sweet, warming, delicious.

This might be a good place to return to the name gaming around ye goat. 

Cutting through the pleasant cabernet haze, I asked the bartender about the name, and in quick succession, he mentioned through names a possible order of business events: “Leila’s” (on the web, it’s around the corner) and The Dancing Goat (perhaps a previous incarnation — hey, I was eating, not “covering”), a reference to an Ethiopian folk tale dating in western scholarship back to the 17th Century: “Kaldi, noticing that when his flock nibbled on the bright red berries of a certain bush they became more energetic (jumping goats), chewed on the fruit himself. His exhilaration prompted him to bring the berries to an Islamic holy man in a nearby monastery. But the holy man disapproved of their use and threw them into a fire, from which an enticing aroma billowed. The roasted beans were quickly raked from the embers, ground up, and dissolved in hot water, yielding the world’s first cup of coffee.”  (Wikipedia: “Kaldi”).

Well, write first, research later, sez I! 

For the record and from the restaurant’s web site: “When we purchased our business it was named The Dancing Goat, however there was a coffee roaster in California with the same name. To prevent any possible lawsuit we renamed the business The Gourmet Goat.”

So “The Dancing Goat” would best suit the coffee shop, the get-you-goin’ and keep-you-goin’ place, but this place is different, more of an away-from-it-all place, in fact a gastronome’s hideaway, old soul music in the background, an isolated Martini (or glass of wine) in the foreground, a flavorful dish to come, itself separated — and intended to separate you — from all the distractions of the world. 

How good is it really?

I’m finding it — this was my third visit — a perfectly low-key, wonderfully relaxed dining-as-entertainment experience, really.

Ours is an age where any may work wonders at home for having distributed across the nation the very good to finest of everything that can be retailed, the ingredients of food foremost (not to mention all the James, Julia, and Marcella we should care to read and all the Nigella et. al. we might care to watch); however, and writing here as a kind of tourist in my own town, the urge to go out to a restaurant, whether to frequent or try one out, has to do with everything constructed in it for show and taste, and there, across the many dimensions of a small dining adventure, The Gourmet Goat and GG’S Restaurant and Martini Bar, turns out a great deal, delightful for the senses, clarifying for the mind, relaxing and restorative for any harried, troubled, or (cold and) hungry soul.

A continental cup for the coffee; a dollop of whipped cream for the Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake.

The Gourmet Goat and GG’s Restaurant and Martini Bar  – 41 North Potomac Street, Hagerstown, Maryland – (301)790-2343

Legacy – 2006-01-15 – MD – Kent Island – Hemingway’s

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Dusk, Hemingway's Restaurant, Kent Island, Maryland, January 2006.

I’ve worked with this regional travel concept possibly all the way back to 1996 (the “wayback” machine may yet have a page for “Chesapeake Travel”).  Even back then, geekier guys were producing code to automate the uploading of photographs to their publications and trying to pick up advertising accounts to keep their servers spinning.
 
Be that as it may, my good ol’ 15-year-old Nissan “Standard E” pickup, 4-cylinder but with decent torque, started dozing — complete moving stall — on the Capital Beltway late in the fall of of 2005, and when its driver’s side rear panel broke out in a rash of see-through rust, I thought it time to trade over or up to an SUV.
 
Then I saw her.
 

My five-year-old (with only 60,000 miles on her) at home in Laurel, Maryland, February 2005.

And something like this blog was born.
 

The Hemingway's page from an earlier html and tables-based concept for Mustang Highways.

 
I’ve a larger job ahead of me with regard to scanning a slide collection that goes back to the 1970s, but here I thought it would be a shame to lose the visual record, however spare, of earlier art and excursions associated with cruising in the ‘Stang.
 
Here is the text of that early jaunt out of Laurel, across The Bridge, and a pleasant landing in the “Land of Pleasant Living” — and living pleasantly is what we traveler’s do at Hemingway’s:
 
“My parents, romantics well into their 70’s (and dead early in their 80’s) drove the hour to 90 minutes out of Rockville to dine here.  I thought I’d honor that tradition with Anne, or perhaps start there for the occasional strong drink, dining equal to it, and a bill to match (though not so hard on the wallet).  The strong drink: the standard 6-oz. Martini mixed with “bar rail” vodka and Rossi Vermouth and decorated with  three fat olives on the toothpick.  If that doesn’t ease you into the sunset, nothing will.   The fine dining: Caesar salads, grilled Tuna steak, sea scallops, crème brulee cheesecake, and coffee.  Better than merely “it was all good,” the kitchen puts its own spin on the standards, shaving the Romano on the salad, for example, adding visual delight to it and texture and continuing through to the drizzled glaze around dessert.”
 
Beware the martini. 
 
I recall it — forget about me having two without a room for the night — as a generous pour served with two big green olives.*
 
Anne’s married (not to me).
 
I’m free . . . suppose I could do with another hand at the wheel these days (so I can drink that martini), but whether alone or not, a silver Mustang in good condition (still is) makes for an enjoyable drive.
 
So I should start driving again.
 

Dock at sunset, Hemingway's, Kent Island, Maryland 2006.

 I bet there’s nothing like a good tour to inspire new songs.
 

Just about suppertime -- the marina at Hemingway's, Kent Island, Maryland, January 2006.

Pier One Road, Kent Island
P.O. Box 507
Stevensville, MD 21666
Phone:  (410) 643-2722
 
*Now the morning after having published this post, I see the pour was 6 ounces and the olives three.  Yummy.