Saturday, July 11, 2009

Day 276/365 - Generic Sign Project

I've recently started something I call my Generic Sign Project (GSP). I'm probably the only person in the world who would find this project interesting, but essentially it involves taking photos of random, isolated words on signs. The rules are still evolving, but so far I've decided that it has to be a noun, it can only be a single word or short phrase, no other letters/numerals/words can appear in the shot, homemade signs don't count, no shots that are too cheap/easy (i.e., stop or men's room signs), no proper nouns, it can't too obviously be part of a larger sign, and no post-production trickery like airbrushing is allowed (although cropping is fine).

It's proving to be kind of fun. Not "oh wow, this is so awesome" kind of fun, but "hmm, this is sort of interesting" kind of fun. I guess it appeals to my collector instincts. It's a bit like a photo scavenger hunt or urban/suburban safari, although I'll grant you that venturing forth into the dark, primeval suburbs to stalk the deadly and elusive noun likely doesn't hold quite the same thrill as lion hunting.

Today I walked around my neighborhood checking the signs for stray nouns to collect and this was my favorite of the ones I found. It's the sign for a women's clothing boutique called Gossip. The GSP photos look a bit odd when viewed all together, almost as though they are a ransom note composed of words cut from newspapers or one of those magnetic poetry sets. Eventually I may broaden my photographic vocabulary and include verbs and other parts of speech or perhaps single letters, but right now I'm cool with just shooting nouns.

(Taken with my Nikon D90)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 275/365 - Beach Nut

This shot wasn't taken anywhere remotely near a beach, unfortunately. It was taken alongside the Mt. Vernon Trail near Reagan National Airport across the river from Washington, DC. I've got a serious case of beach jones at the moment. I haven't been to the beach since I went to San Diego last summer, and I'm jonesing hardcore for sand, sun, and surf.

I've been browsing the web, skimming magazines, and asking friends for recommendations, but I still haven't found my sure thing yet. Key West, Sanibel Island, Bermuda, Barbados, and even possibly Cape Verde are all still on the table. The last one is a dark horse candidate at the moment, however, given that ideally I want to go somewhere within a couple hours flying time.

I don't want to go to a big city or party beach and I don't want to stay at a plush resort or trendy hotel. I just want to find myself a bungalow/cottage at a mellow, laid back beach and not do much of anything. Basically I want to spend 3-4 days living inside a Corona beer commercial. I want there to be a small, cozy town nearby so I can go get a drink or something to eat if I feel like it and some walking/biking paths to explore.

I want to lay in a hammock, sit in a beach chair, stare at the tide, soak up the sun, read, and listen to music. That's my alchemical formula. I don't figure on going until the middle of next month, so I've still got some time to figure things out. Hurricane season could certainly complicate matters, though.


(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Day 274/365 - Auto Accident Abstract

This is neither my car nor my accident. I sold my Jeep about nine years ago and let my driver's license expire around eight years ago. Now I'm strictly a passenger and a ride bummer (bum-a-rider?). I passed by this car parked in the lot of my apartment building when I ambled home tonight after my post-prandial stroll.

I've only been involved in one serious car accident, thankfully. Less than a year after I bought my Jeep, I drove it home to Missouri from Norfolk, Virginia when I was on leave from the Navy. While I was home, my Pops took my Jeep over to the regular mechanic he'd used since he was a hot-rodding teenager to get it fine tuned. It was running better than it ever had.

On the morning I left to drive back to Norfolk it started snowing lightly. The roads were fine. However, the bridges were not. When I drove across a short bridge over a small creek about 20 minutes from my house, my Jeep started slipping and sliding and shimmying like a drunk rattlesnake. Unbeknownst to me, the bridge had iced over. Duh, I should've guessed that one. I knew not to slam on the brakes in that situation. I'd done that once before in my old AMC Hornet when it started to slide going around a curve in the rain and it spun 180 degrees and slammed into the curb. Lesson learned. Or so I thought, anyhow.

But then as I got to the far edge of the bridge my Jeep started heading off the side of the road. Tapping or pumping the brakes would probably have been the smart thing to do. Either that or just letting it go off the road and steering back on once it regained traction on the grass. Unfortunately, I did neither. I stomped on the brakes. Bad move.

For the second time in my life, I sent my car spinning into a 180. Go figure. The driver's side of my Jeep hit a row of deer reflector posts that lined the side of the road. Then it tipped over on its side. I clearly remember thinking at the time "I'm rolling." Oddly enough, it wasn't a panicky or startled realization. It was more like a "hmm, imagine that..." kind of moment. As my Jeep toppled over, my head hit the soft vinyl window and thumped off the ground. Fortunately for my noodle, there was no rock there. Then my Jeep slid on its side down a 30-foot embankment and landed on its roof in a ditch at the bottom. Just a week earlier the ditch had been full of water, so I guess my timing isn't always dreadful.

I had my seatbelt on, but I don't remember hanging upside down or unfastening it. I think the bump on the head stunned me for a second. The first thing I remember after the Jeep landed upside down was trying to open the driver's side door and discovering that it was wedged against the side of the embankment and wouldn't open. So I crawled past the console, which had previously been between the seats but which had come loose and fallen down to the roof in the accident, and got out through the passenger side door.

One image that I think will be fixed in my memory forever is looking back up toward the road and seeing the silhouette of a man running back up the side of the road to check on me framed in the misty haze. Bless him. He asked me if I was all right and I said I thought I was and then he suggested I turn off my engine. Oh yeah. Guess that would be good, huh? Then he gave me a ride to a McDonald's at the next highway exit so I could call my folks (this was in the days before everyone over the age of 8 carried a cellphone).

My Mom freaked out a bit when I told her what had happened, even though I tried to make it sound like it wasn't a big deal. They came and got me and took me to get checked out at the hospital. Apart from having a knot on the side of my head I was fine, so then we drove to a towing company and had them follow us out to the accident site so they could retrieve my Jeep. They flipped it back over and winched it up the embankment and towed it off to the nearest Jeep dealer. There were two other accidents due to that icy bridge that day, but neither of the other drivers were dumb enough to turn upside down.

The next day I caught a flight back to Norfolk. For some reason the insurance company didn't total my Jeep. They should've because by the time the repairs were finally done they wound up paying more to get it fixed than the blue book value. It took nearly six months before it was finally repaired and my folks drove it out to Norfolk to give it back to me.

My Jeep never really ran worth a damn after that, although I still kept it for about six more years. There was always one thing or another going wrong with it. I think it was just pissed at me for wrecking it. Now that I think about it, maybe it's a good thing that I don't drive anymore. Although with the current state of the Metro, the subway is not exactly the most reassuring mode of transportation either.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Day 273/365 - What's in a Name?

That which we call toes by any other name would still smell like feet...

Hmm, perhaps I need to brush up my Shakespeare. This wooden carving of my name may well be the oldest thing I ever bought that I still possess. I got it at a tourist trap replica of an old wooden fort in Golden, Colorado when I was in elementary school. We have a cousin who works at the Coors Brewery in Golden and we used to go out there every summer to see him and to go camping.

I loved the fort place, although I can't remember what it was called. It was mostly just shops selling trinkets, but they did have a dinosaur ride that I liked a lot. Most of the things I've bought over the course of my life have been lost, broken, or given or thrown away. It's a wonder that this is still in one piece.

(Taken with my Nikon D90)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day 272/365 - I Am a Camera

For this week's self-portrait we have a silly shot of me transformed into a cyborg twin lens reflex camera, courtesy of a Tokina 12-24mm lens and a Nikkor 18-80mm lens. Hmm, I probably should've figured out a way to balance my flash unit on top my head as well.

The outtakes for this shot are here and here. As you can see, my timing remains dreadful.

(Taken with my Nikon D90)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Day 271/365 - Pedalboat Pier

This is the pedalboat pier across the Tidal Basin from the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. I guess it's DC's version of the Molo in Venice. I pass by it whenever I walk home from work, like I did tonight. I've never gone out on the Tidal Basin in one of these pedalboats, although I really want to. It's a very touristy thing to do, but I don't care. I still think it would be fun. Next time someone comes into town for a visit I'm going to have to try and talk them into going out in a pedalboat with me.

As far as I can recall, I've only been in a pedalboat once before. My mom and I went out in one on some lake when I was a kid. Going out into the lake was fun, but I remember getting back to the dock took forever and left us exhausted. Another thing I really want to do in DC that is equally touristy is go for a tour on one of the duck amphibious vehicles. I've tried talking one of my friends into going on the tour with me, but so far no dice. That's another thing I may have to wait on doing until someone comes for a visit.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Happy Venezuelan Independence Day

In honor of our Independence Day neighbor, Venezuela, (and Adri and Des) this week's extra shot from my archives is a photo of an order of arepas (a traditional Venezuelan appetizer) that I took when my friend Pia and I went to dinner at Zengo, an Asian-Latin fusion restaurant in the Chinatown section of Washington, DC. The dish in the background is an order of Won Ton Tacos. Both dishes were delicious.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Day 270/365 - At the Folklife Festival

This was the final day of the Smithsonian Institution's 2009 Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC, so I had to make sure I got my butt up off the couch and went. Each year the Folklife Festival highlights three aspects of various cultures -- one or two of which are American and the remainder international. This year the three sections were "Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture," "Cymru/Wales," and "Las Americas: Un Mundo Musical."

Going to the Folklife Festival is always a great way to expose yourself to other cultures without having to leave home to do so. And the food they offer for sale at the various stands is usually really interesting. This year I went with one dish from each culture. I think the Welsh section was the most interesting. They had several arts and crafts displays and cultural presentations. The other two were good as well. The "Giving Voices" part had good storytellers and spoken word performers and "Las Americas" had some fun music and dancers.

The fireworks yesterday and the Folklife Festival today (neither of which cost a dime in admission) are just two of the many reasons why DC is such a great area in which to live and work.

(Taken with my Nikon D90)