Travel Thursday Encore: Watching Opera With a First Timer

The place: Savonlinna, Finland

Olavinlinna is an old spooky castle, which kinda makes it perfect for opera. Some more than others, of course; MacBeth, or something by Wagner, but it works for Tosca as well, which I was seeing for about the hundredth time, but I was going with an old friend who’d never been to an opera in her life. Here’s all you need to know about her, as described by a magazine editor: When Giina had been designed and made, they saved the mold for very special occasions.
So I didn’t tell her anything about the plot, and since she knew English, she could read the subtitles. Of course I enjoyed the work as always, but also took pleasure in watching her enjoy it, especially considering she had no idea what was going to happen. She oohed and aahed a little, but there really wasn’t that much action taking place in the first act, just exposition, so she had a lot more emotion to go through. I wondered if she’d cry some toward the end, though knew better than to ask; she was a self-proclaimed “tough chick.”
There was a big enough intermission after the first act for us to leave our seats. When she didn’t say she was going to the concession stand, I knew what option was left, and too bad she’d worn such a tight dress. So I asked if she wanted anything, and she demurely replied for me to remember her “sweetie tooth.” I figured that could mean anything but beer in this place, although considering the microbrews in this part of the world, anything really was possible.
Thinking she was easy to please, at least when it came to desserts, I got in line and reckoned I’d just get her whatever I was having, though in the end it turned out not to be the same flavor. As I turned from the counter with my hands full of ice cream cones, a woman in a fur coat dumb enough to be in the exit line blocked my way and got some droplets of ice cream on her.
As I inspected the ice cream to make sure there was no fur on it, and really, who wore that in this weather, the relatively young-looking bitch whined, “Do you know how many animals had to be killed to make this coat?”
“Do you know how many assholes like you I’d have to kill to come up with one brain?” Hey, sometimes you gotta shoot from the hip.
“Making friends wherever you go,” Giina laughed, her timing perfect as usual, as was her aim, relieving me of the chocolate ice cream. The “friend” in question checked out the blonde–who was smiling placidly–knew she was done before the fight started, and turned away.
As we went over to look at the lake and landscape, she told me how she was researching the possibility that Sibelius, and other Scandinavian composers, wrote somber pieces of the low register and slow tempo because of the severity of the winter landscape, while in places like Italy, Spain, and Greece, the music is mostly high register and much faster tempi. I told her she could start a whole new field, which I called Musical Geography. Then she laughed and said, “Imagine if my boss could hear me now!” Or even that magazine guy.
The lights blinked, making her wonder if the power was going out, but when I took her by the arm to lead her to their seats instead of acting like it was an emergency situation, she figured I knew something she didn’t and walked alongside.
The second act fired her up, which was not surprising, given all the action: she winced at the sounds of the hero being tortured, gave me a baleful look when the heroine agreed to sleep with the bad guy, even though everyone knew he had no intention of keeping his side of the bargain, and barely kept from shouting “Yes!” when the heroine killed said bad guy instead of letting him take her. I actually had to calm her down, do something to stop her nostrils from flaring as the second act came to a close. Too bad there wouldn’t be a long enough intermission to take her out for a walk or something else to make her burn off this excess energy. . . if indeed that’s what it was.
The very short third act was a roller coaster for her, from her tearful “He forgave her!” to a knowing snort at realizing the hero was really dead–with scorn at the heroine for not realizing it herself–to a heartfelt “Oh SHIT!”–such a cute accent–when Tosca threw herself into the river, so perfect I had to keep from laughing at the most dramatic moment of the entire opus.
“Wow, I’m sweating!” she remarked as we walked out. “That was gut wrenching! Now I know what you see in opera! What’s next?”


Poetry Tuesday: Three Short Finnish Poems

By Paavo Haavikko of Finland, who died only about ten years ago.

You can’t take with you
Even the little bit that’s been stolen from you
In Hell, small change
Is perfectly useless.

The soul against the state
The willow against the jail.
No, it grows by the wall,
A life sentence, with its roots,
Outside the walls,
A living shadow.
The soul against the state.
The willow against the jail.

The woman raises her garment,
Rain, wind, darkness rise,
When she is full, comes the child,
Children, and children bring poverty,
We have visitors: darkness, wind, poverty.


Music Monday: Anyway

Second week in a row with a song that starts with an A. Second week in a row featuring a redhead. Next week’s will not start with an A. . . but might be a redhead.
Alicia Witt has been all over your TV screen for a long time now, starting back when she was playing the piano on the original Twin Peaks. She played it a lot more on Cybill, but it wasn’t until after that when she took a turn at being a singer-songwriter, and that worked out too. Seen her play live at Hotel Café numerous times, and even carried her keyboard stand once. Not that she’s likely to remember, but hey, I didn’t even realize until after that I’d gotten in free when they’d assumed I was her roadie.
And obviously this is my favorite song of hers. By the way, in the scene where she’s yelling at the musicians, she’s not wearing white tights, she’s really that pale. Redheads. . .


Travel Thursday Encore: Chillin’ Edition

Here’s my last tour of Scandinavian capitals. As the rain comes down yet again in SoCal—and on cue the sun comes out—I comfort myself with the thought that I’m not in any of these places at this time of year.

Ever work for a boss so mean that when you say, “Please don’t send me to Scandinavia!” he chuckles evilly and immediately sends you there? Well, just so you know, I love Scandinavia, and I love to play poker with my former boss. . .
“Wouldn’t you rather be halfway around the world than stuck in your house?” the e-mail screamed. That would have been a lot more impressive if I hadn’t been in a hotel halfway around the world.
So, my second Scandinavian tour in three years, but last time was right in the middle of summer and this time it’s in the middle of fall, not blizzarding yet but definitely colder than I’d like.

Two days before I left, I ran into the Icelandic president here in LA. He told me to bring a heavy jacket. Gee, thanks for the advice. Though he did tell me Iceland didn’t need Daylight Savings, so it’s a 7 hour dif instead of 8. That’s more useful, though not by much.
It’s 40 degrees and raining–help me!
The biggest deal to hit the island in a while was the Imagine Peace Tower, which was actually on a smaller island in the harbor: a beam of light radiating from a wishing well bearing the words “imagine peace” in 24 languages. They told me I was the first professional photographer not at the unveiling to shoot it, so another thing to put on the application to the Hall of Fame. Seriously though, it’s not at all different from the light at the top of Luxor in Las Vegas. It may stand for something special, but it doesn’t look like such a big deal. Just goes to show why Yoko Ono’s rep is well deserved. {No, I don’t have any idea what I mean by that either.}
Prices keep going up–last time the burger and fries combo at the Vitabar was about $4, now it’s $7.50, though that’s still less than Mel’s at Hollywood and Highland. They tried to get me to eat something they call a gleym-mer-ey (which translates to “forget-me-not”–guess it looks like the flower), which is a blue cheese and garlic burger. They really don’t know me well. . . or if they do, were actually trying to kill me, since I’m allergic to garlic.
The most fun–to do, not to say–was the “Wonders of Snæfellsnes” tour. That’s a glacier, which Jules Verne used as the portal into the center of the earth in his famous book. Luckily we didn’t go downward, but just in this small area there was black sand beaches, waterfalls, scenic coastlines, seals, and even a stop for lunch at an inn that did not serve fish, thankfully.
Back in town, I went to a handball game, which is a kinda cross between basketball and soccer, but much more exciting. Really wish I coulda played it in my athletic days, though of course not now; I think I could score a penalty, if my life depended on it, but that’s a long field for running. . . nah, I probably would have been a goalie here too. And I was happy to notice the female players used shorts much more akin to volleyball players, rather than basketball or soccer.
Also went to the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, where I was talking to the doorman while we waited a few minutes for the place to open, and when I told him I was a professional photographer, and I was in Iceland to work, he let me in free! So if you go there, give them some monetary love for me.

Fjords need sunlight for a good photo. Looks depressing when cloudy, and when it’s foggy it doesn’t look at all, despite the fall foliage that could rival New England. Did manage to visit this new archaeology dig, which included an exhibit of a Viking queen and princess from 1200 years ago–most fun I’ve had in Norway in a while. I don’t know why, but Norway has always been my least favorite of the Scan countries; it couldn’t be the blondes. . .
Some decades ago, after the U.S. military saw how long it took to get everything ready for the first gulf war, they had the bright idea of pre-positioning supplies in certain parts of the world, so they could get to the war zone quicker–all you had to do was fly in the troops, and the tanks and  other stuff would be waiting for them. Anyhoo, one such place was this massive cave complex in Norway, and it’s still run by the same guys who were in charge back when I visited in uniform so many years ago, so I got a lot of photos I shouldn’t have. . . which is always the most fun, of course.
Don’t worry, I’m not telling the Harrison’s Fjord story again. . .

My first time in Copenhagen, I was walking through the Nyhavn, which is where they have canals and tall ships and basically looks like a less-dingy Amsterdam, when I saw a photo shoot going on, so of course I stopped to watch. Just as I was wondering where the model was going to change, she took off all her clothes and slipped on the next outfit. My seventeen-year-old pen wrote I LOVE DENMARK in huge letters in my journal.
And this time I’m the one who got to shoot there! So awesome. Then did my usual traditions of saying Hi to the Little Mermaid, having lunch under the statue of Hans Christian Anderson, and spending at least three hours at the Glyptotek, the local Getty-type museum (oops, actually spelled that Geddy at first; I was so looking forward to the Rush concert in Stockholm). Remember to be quiet when you walk by Rodin’s The Thinker, because. . . well, he’s thinking, don’t bother him. And also as usual I strolled down the Stroget and looked in all the McDonald’s, but all the cuties I knew who worked there were gone, and I didn’t have time to meet the new ones. Also as usual when I’m in town, Tivoli was closed for the winter, but the theater was still in use, so I managed to catch The Four Seasons with one of my favorite violinists. With its fast-paced and frenetic passages, it might be the only classical piece that could serve as an opener for Rush.
The train from Copenhagen to Helsingør takes 44 minutes–I love train schedules! But this time a friend drove me there instead and it took us all day, stopping in the countryside frequently while she pigged out on strawberries every time we stopped. Got there in time for a sunset shot of the castle, spooky. No ghosts came out in the shots, thankfully {for those of you who didn’t get that, Helsingør=Elsinore, as in Hamlet}. And check this out: In the old days the captain of every ship passing by and wanting to use the waterway had to state the value of ship’s cargo, with the tax calculated depending on the value of the cargo. The king had the right to buy the cargo for the price the ship’s captain stated, which kept the captains from stating prices that were too low. How smart is that?
Legoland is no longer of any interest, with there being one in Cali now. . . and since they opened a Lego store at the Copenhagen airport.
By the way, for those of you who know the story of “A Ton of Redheads,” so many years ago now, I finally got my revenge on blonde Nikki who played that trick on me. But that’s a whole ‘nuther blog in itself. . .

So, name someone else in this whole wide world who goes to see a symphony and then two days later takes in a Rush show? Huh?
A relatively balmy 50 degrees for a high on the day of the concert, with clouds but no rain or snow. Not that it matters much with the indoor Rush show, but on the walk to the subway station and then the hotel it’s way too cold for this SoCal boy, so even though I’m sweating in the heavy jacket, it’s better than the alternative. No doubt the locals would bring out the snark once I got there.
Just so you understand how funny this is, the arena where the Rush concert was held is referred to as the Ping-Pong ball, golf ball, take your pick. It’s particularly a sight coming out of the subway; Stockholm is so beautiful that you definitely do not want to ride the subway during the day, but since it was night and the traffic was heavy. . .
I’m not going to write a huge blog on the concert like I did when I saw them at the Hollywood Bowl, just a few thoughts, like the fact the other fans considered me a guru because I knew all the lyrics. And despite seeing it thousands of times on the internet, I still loved the South Park Tom Sawyer intro; too bad most of the crowd had no idea.
Still, it was a bit of a weird concert. On the one hand, it was the same show I saw at the Hollywood Bowl, but it was also vastly different, being indoors and with a crowd that didn’t know all the lyrics and wasn’t screaming and standing the whole time. In a way it felt more like an intimate club show, though of course the screen and the lasers and the shooting flames belie that. Still, I might say I enjoyed this more than at the Bowl.
Ok, some not Rush stuff. I have a relatively famous photo of a sunrise over Stockholm harbor, all gray and gloomy, with the tall ship/hostel on one side and a pair of swans in the middle. On the day I flew to Helsinki, I went out to take the shot again, to see how the skyline of south Stockholm has changed, and a couple of swans come cruising through again. There’s no way it could be the same ones a good ten years later, right? How long do those suckers live?
And this time I did remember to climb to the top of the city hall tower to get some shots. I don’t know why I torture myself and go to all these towers and even rent planes and choppers when I damn well know I’m afraid of heights, especially considering I got an attack of vertigo a couple of weeks before heading out here. If there’s a psych reading this who will tell me more than “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” let me know what my problem is. {How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? One. . . but it has to want to change.}
OK, what’s the deal with changing from daylight savings and not telling the tourists? Almost missed my flight.

Got to Helsinki on the last day of the book fair! Yay! As usual I bought enough books that I had to put them in a carton and take them to the post office to ship them home. They’ll take so long to get here I’ll forget all about them, of course.
Helsinki likes to say they’re the biggest city in the world without slums (probably not true anymore), but at the same time there really isn’t much to see in town besides beautiful blondes (and some brunettes, and a few redheads. . .), so it’s always good to get out of town. Too cold to get on the water, instead I went for a drive into the countryside to see some more fall foliage while dodging mosquitoes with some of those aforementioned blondes. That’s when the fog isn’t rolling in. Oh well, I got the requisite shots of city hall and stuff.
Helsinki is cool in one way, though: transportation. Most of the town is white or gray, but the subway is bright orange–like Mexico City, only funkier–and the trams are green. These will probably end up being the best photos. The worst part was having to photograph the famous church carved out of rock; places like that give me the chills, both literally and figuratively.
And I am going to write a whole book on birthday traditions to go along with all the photos I took of a beautiful brunette friend’s birthday. Part of the festivities was going to the local equivalent of Staples Center–Hartwall Areena, though I don’t know if it’s named after a local company–for lunch. There was a Pizza Hut and some burger joints, but we went to the Golden Star Café (yes, in English). Unable to resist, I stopped at the ticket office and, yes, Rush was playing that night, the last date on their tour. Should I. . .?
Damn right I did. To think I was so happy after seeing them once. Wonder how that’s going to look on the expense account, though. . .
Quick note: on the first song of the second act, “Far Cry,” there’s a line that goes: “You can almost see the circuits blowing!” And on cue, the guitar amp blew. Awesome.
My last night in Helsinki I stayed awake and then caught the sunrise flight back to Reykjavik, where I slept during the day, woke up and went to dinner with a friend, then flew back to El Lay, so I’m not even close to jet lagged this time. Which also means I get back to the usual grind without any time to “readjust,” so next time I might skip all that and suffer through the jet lag anyway. . .
Or I suppose I could lie about it. . .



Poetry Tuesday: I Saw a Strange Creature

Anonymous ninth century Anglo-Saxon.

I saw a strange creature,
a bright ship of the air beautifully adorned,
bearing away plunder between her horns,
fetching it home from a foray.
She was minded to build a bower in her stronghold,
and construct it with cunning if she could do so.
But then a mighty creature appeared over the mountain
whose face is familiar to all dwellers on earth;
he seized on his treasure and sent home the wanderer
much against her will; she went westward
harboring hostility, hastening forth.
Dust lifted to heaven; dew fell on the earth,
night fled hence; and no man knew
thereafter, where the strange creature went.


Music Monday: Almost

My friend Christiane is an entertainment lawyer—in fact, she runs the whole division at her law firm—while taking care of her two kids and wacky husband. She’s also in a cover band, had a solo Celtic music career, but most importantly for our purposes has her own band, called Riddle the Sphinx.
While this may not be an example of the typical style of the band’s sound, it’s easily the most beautiful.


Book Reviews: Kids Are

The Boy and the Egg
In what looks like a European town, a boy finds an egg and takes it home, wondering what will come out of it. It ends up being nothing he could have imagined.
Cute story, with a good twist. Nicely drawn, though nothing here really stands out.

Cody Eats Everything
Cody’s a dog that’ll eat everything, including rocks. And poop.
This isn’t really a story, just a list of what this crazy dog will eat. Might have been shorter to list what he doesn’t, if anything. This is for really little ones to learn to read, with easy words and plenty of repetition. Simply drawn as well.

Happy Easter Little Hoo
The little owl is looking for Easter eggs. There’s plenty to find, most of them easy, so play along.
This is more like a hidden thing game book than a story. Nice for what it is.

Kat Makes
Kat makes food, architecture, art, slime, and a lot of other things. As you might imagine, she’s not the cleanest kid ever.
Like others in this series, it’s not an actual story, just a list of the things Kat makes. Of course there’s a lot of repetition. Once you’re okay with the fact that this book is designed to teach really little ones to read, then it can be enjoyed for what it’s worth.

Little Hoo Has the Flu
Disclaimer: I had a cold when I read this, but not the flu.
As the title screams, the little owl is sick. His mom takes care of him. His friends come over to play, find out they can’t, and return later with gifts and get-well cards. Hoo feels better.
The first shot shows Hoo sick in bed, but smiling. . . no. Has this author never had the flu? Maybe this is done to make little readers feel better when they’re sick, but it seems dishonest.
Funny how he has a huge red spot in the middle of his face, like a runny nose, but there’s no nose to be seen.
At the end you can make and print out your own get-well card.

Mole Goes to the Beach
Amidst large drawings and a smiling sun, Mole does all kinds of beach-related activities.
There’s no actual story here, just a list of things the animal in question likes to do when near the ocean.
I wonder if it ever crossed the author’s mind that a mole, unlike a dog or cat, would be an unfamiliar animal to the tykes reading this. “Mommy, what’s a mole?” There’s nothing explaining what an actual mole is like, because most of them don’t go to the beach.

Monsters Move
Monsters do a lot of things, usually in rhyme, including mixing and grooving and making noise. And let’s not forget feather tickling and farting.
Like others in this series, it’s not an actual story, just a list of the ways in which monsters move. Of course there’s a lot of repetition. Once you’re okay with the fact that this book is designed to teach really little ones to read, then it can be enjoyed for what it’s worth.

My Favorite Pet: Mice
Photos of the animal in question fill this book, with a little bit of text to go along. They sleep, eat, and clean themselves a lot. Their environment, food preferences, and the like are all shown.
Both the reading and the quizzes are appropriately easy for the target age level. In fact, the quizzes might be too easy.

My Favorite Sport: Tennis
Photos backed with a little text explain all the rules and nuances of the game to kids.
Some of the captions are simple enough, while others go into more detail, like teaching how to serve. There are some quizzes that aren’t that hard, as long as the reader is paying attention. There’s one caption that uses the word “practice” four times, which makes it difficult to read.
There is one error: when explaining “deuce,” it says the next player to win two points in a row wins the game, but that’s not necessarily true.
There’s one shot at the end of a smiling kid who looks about the same size as the racket he’s holding. It’s really cute.

BigFoot Goes on Big City Adventures
Find out about 10 cities around the world—don’t know how Mayapan in Mexico made the cut—and then search for the elusive BigFoot in the same way you would for Waldo.
Biggie is incredibly difficult to find, but at least he’s always in his famous pose, which helps a little. It’s also good that he’s always in context, unlike the koalas on top of the Sydney Opera House. What doesn’t help is the art style, which is watercolory/Impressionistic, sometimes not sharp enough for details. The rampant unicorns were easier to find, as were just about every other thing except the footprints. Some of the objects were a little silly, though, like the presidential pens. I eventually had to zoom in quite a bit to find him. For those with the physical version, hope you’ve got glasses or a magnifier, but now that you know what you’re getting into, it’s nothing but fun.
Some of the factoids explain what are simple concepts, so this book seems to be targeted for kids, even if it claims all ages.

My Daddy and Me
A small cute list of things kids like to do with the masculine parental unit, with different animals playing the parts, shown in big cartoony art. Designed for beginning readers, it’s meant to get the child thinking about their own experiences with Daddy. It’s sweet.
Somehow it seems very wrong to see alligators wearing clothes. . .
The “buy me” page at the end mentions something about how the pages can be folded to reveal new images, like the old MAD magazines, but it obviously doesn’t work on digital.

My Mommy and Me
As expected, this follows the exact same format as the Daddy edition, a list of things certain animal kids like to do with the feminine parental unit, shown in big cartoony art.
Designed for beginning readers, it’s meant to get the child thinking about their own experiences with Mommy. It’s sweet.
Tigers love new shoes.
The “buy me” page at the end mentions something about how the pages can be folded to reveal new images, like the old MAD magazines, but it obviously doesn’t work on digital.

What a Nice Car!
A mouse supposedly “finds” a car and takes off in it to find the owner. Along the way he meets up with a zoo’s worth of different animals, all of whom join him in this supposedly honorable quest.
There’s no mention that the best place to find a car’s owner is right where the car was found. The owner’s probably wondering what happened to it as they drive it further and further away.
The text is the same for every page, which no doubt works for a kid learning to read but will likely bore everyone else. Surprisingly, everyone lives happily ever after, watching the sunset.
The artwork looks a lot more minimal than most.

AYA and PAPAYA Find Happiness
It takes about half the book and a look in the mirror for Aya to realize what’s wrong with her. It seems rather obvious, though, and doesn’t explain why. She and her dolly go looking for happiness in some strange places.
Sneaky little message of empowerment.
The artwork is almost 3-D, with some of the characters drawn like those in Song of the Sea, especially the mom. There’s a cute shot of the dynamic duo upside-down while looking under the bed.


Travel Thursday Encore: Around the World 2004 {+ Olympics}

This time on Travel Thursday, we start classical–Rome and Athens–then go mysterious, with India and assorted sundries. . .
I think this is the last trip I took that lasted more than 4 weeks. . .

Whenever I start a trip to Europe, or start a trip IN Europe, I usually go to London first {note from present: this has changed, with all the terrorist scares; my new first home is Amsterdam}. But this time, for whatever reason–oh yeah, models–I ended up flying straight to Rome. Granted I’ve been to London more times than Rome, but I never get tired of exploring London, maybe because I’m not afraid of crossing the street there, despite the cars going the wrong way. Old saying: men in Italy drive with their flies open!
Anywayside, I did finally get to check out the Temple of Mithras this armchair archaeologist always wanted to gawk at, though I have to admit it was a little disappointing. As always when in Rome—do as the Romanians do!—I visited that little pyramid that appears to be part of the wall, then Tivoli—not as fun as the Danish one, though I wonder which one was named first?—and of course the Castel San’t Angelo, where I always ask the tour guide when we’re on the battlements, “Is this where Tosca threw herself to her death?” One guide actually screamed at me “That was fiction!” which only made me all the more excited to screw with the next guide. And no, I’m not usually that mean. . . I swear!
Shut up. . .

Anyone else find it ironic that Athens—Greek flavor—pushed so hard to get the 1996 centennial Olympics, which instead went to Atlanta, where some of the events were held in Athens. . . Georgia? No, just me? Screw you.
As some of you who know me have found out, mostly to your detriment, I’m exceedingly, disgustingly honest. However, it is extremely hard to keep such a high moral compass 24/7, 365, so some days you have to take yourself out of the lineup, rest up those ethical muscles. Not that I would deliberately hurt anyone, of course, but a few minutes or hours of being selfish never killed anyone. . . well, it probably has, but stick with me, okay?
As usual for big events like the Olympics, hotel rooms are sold out months if not years in advance, and if there happens to be a room left over, or a cancellation, the price skyrockets like it was art from a painter who just died. In fact, there were people in Athens renting out crappy rooms for the price of a luxury suite in DC. My bosses in Germany, not wanting to deal with all this—the company usually makes my flight and hotel arrangements—decided they would simply give me a $700 per diem and let me sort it out for myself. I made the required stink about this, and they promised to reward me for it next trip. Of course this was all done by e-mail, so they could not see me grinning. . . hmmm, why was I smiling? Because I had already arranged to stay with an old friend at his place in almost-downtown Athens. For free, though I did buy the family dinner every night; his wife would not thank me for the weight gain. So, $700 a day, for 3 weeks. . . hey, they’re a huge corporation, they can afford it. Nobody got hurt. . .
And we’re back to my usual personality. . .
Do you remember how there was this huge hubbub because Athens wasn’t finishing up the stadiums in time? I don’t know how many of you got to see this during the opening ceremonies on TV, but right before it started, this workman came out to center stage, bent down, and pounded a nail to finish off the job. Then the festivities began. Gotta love a people who can laugh at themselves. . .
Two weeks of shooting sports tends to blur together. In world cups you at least get some days off between games, and the only time I work for even three days in a row is the Long Beach Grand Prix. I couldn’t even tell ya what I shot, since as soon as I finished with the rolls I hand them off to a developer in the press area, who e-mails them—not the rolls, the photos—to Germany. On the other hand, I can’t remember ever thinking “I hope I got that one, it’s gonna be an awesome photo!” so I don’t care that much.
Being completely bored of shooting sports a week in, and not seeing much of my UCLA friends who were competing, I told my bosses in Germany that I’d gotten a tip on the Venus de Milo’s arms and wanted to go dig for them. . . on Milos, obviously. The German words they said basically translated to a big fat Teutonic “Whatever!” so I took off for the island and two days of doing nothing, which I’m really good at.
Refreshed, I came back to Athens and ran into another photographer who works for the same German syndicate, except he does men’s sports. He was bored too and wanted to get out of town, so I offered to give him my assignment to shoot the women’s soccer semi that Germany was playing in another town, not Athens. He jumped for it, so I got to stay and watch one of my best friends have an Olympic gold placed around her neck after the softball final. Excuse me, have to wipe away the tears. . . {want to know which one? Remember an earlier game with an amazing diving catch in center field, then she gets up and doubles the runner at first? That’s her. . .}
Speaking of tears, how many of you remember the little girl at the closing ceremonies? Here’s some tissue if you do; if you don’t, go get the tissue and then YouTube it.

This shows just how stupid I am. Who goes to the Taj Mahal, probably the most photographed building on the planet, and finds a new angle to shoot it? Not that I knew what a fuckup it would be at the time, but there was this dilapidated building and a weird tree and the Taj in the distance, thought I could make a social comment out of this. Well. . . nah, I’ll put it in the epilogue.
I do find it ironic that most women who visit this place think “How romantic!” when they hear the rich bastard built the Taj Mahal for his wife; um, wait for the part about how he built it as her tomb AFTER she died. . .
Anyhoo, from there it was on to Udaipur, which was heaven for this James Bond geek, especially staying at the floating palace. Then on to Khajuraho, where I’m told I took over 100 rolls of film, making sure I got every angle of every erotic sculpture carved into those temples. {note from the present: nowadays that’s, what, a 4G memory card?} And this time I did not take my usual trip to Varanasi, which I will always think of as Benares, simply because there’s nothing left for me to photo there.

Sri Lanka
Can I geek out for a moment here? I got to meet Arthur C. Clarke! He let me use his computer to check my e-mails! How amazing is that? The king of hard science fiction lets me use the machine he’d probably thought up in the 50s but never imagined would be in every household. I didn’t even ask for his autograph or have a picture taken; this was more than enough for me. . .

No Seychelles!
Got the idea at the last moment, so I asked around, and was told there was a flight from New Delhi to the islands, with one change of plane. In Mumbai? No. Singapore, maybe? Uh-uh. PARIS! They wanted me to fly from India to France and then the Seychelles! WTF? So instead I tootled off to Singapore for yet another visit to Raffles and the Night Zoo before getting back on schedule in Oz.

I spent most of the time in Australia recovering from the past parts of the trip. Other than reconfirming my thought that Perth is reminiscent of San Diego—and of course shooting some models—I just took it easy. Visited friends in Sydney and Auckland, spent a day in Hawaii, and back home.

Epilogue–nothing ever goes as planned. . .
Four months later, in El Lay. . .
There’s a small awards ceremony every January, where the best photos of the year are honored. I am always required to attend—at least they pay for the rented tux—but I always manage to sneak out after a while, and usually end up going somewhere else for the rest of the night. . . in the tuxedo. Like the time I went to a UCLA women’s basketball game, scarfing popcorn and getting butter. . . on the tuxedo, you guessed it. So, this year I actually get nominated for that Taj Mahal shot, and not just in the journalism category, but the BIG prize, at the end of the night. So I had to be there till the end, no sneaking out. Ordinarily not a big deal, except that for months I’d been planning to go to the Temple Bar in Santa Monica because my favorite band, Raining Jane, was having their CD release party that night!
And then I didn’t even win. . .


The Return of Music Monday: Wyoming Sky

A like on a blog from almost ten years ago reminded me of a time I used to pick a song of the week and showcase it on Music Monday. So what the heck, let’s do that again.
As I like to say about this one, I have tasted over a million songs in my life, and this is still my favorite. And aren’t you all surprised it isn’t a Lindsey Stirling or Rush?

Wyoming Sky, by Raining Jane