Sunday, April 13

Tuesday, April 8

A Simple Plan

Nearly thirty years ago, The Boss Rabbit and I embarked on our adventure in suburban homesteading. We bought a house. A starter house. A home that we could build some equity in, and when the time was right, convert that equity into a newer, larger home. Lather, rinse, repeat.

We're still here. The promise of the suburban dream remains a promise, muted somewhat by the reality of two people who would rather do any number of things beside working on a tract home out on the first ring. Really, we mean well, we're just easily distracted.

Truth is, we just had other things to do - we had a business to run, a couple of old cars to fiddle with, a hot air balloon to fly, kids and grandkids, and well, we just ran out of time and forward momentum. Inertia and denial are powerful drugs, easily administered. Overdoses are common, and while usually not lethal, they can be disfiguring and permanent.

With the changes of the last few years to cope with, and the virtual demise of advertising photography and my willingness to participate in it, there really hasn't been that much liquid cash to dump back into This Old House. We considered an apartment, maybe a loft; something that would liberate us from the day-to-day upkeep of Rancho Conejo, and the guilt that comes from not doing said upkeep.

Then there's this:

Neither the Boss Rabbit nor I want to spend our (ahem) Golden Years in Kansas City. We've seen it. Easily-irritated progressives shouldn't live here. We've also seen the Pacific Northwest, Southern California, Chicago, the Intermountain Desert West, any number of roadside attractions within a half-tank of Kansas City, and not that long ago, we finally set foot in Scotland. We have know for some time that we were not suited for where we are. We have benefitted for many years from the low cost of living here, without actually doing much real living.

With the realization that we're approaching a more fragile, even brittle age, it dawned on the BR and me that we didn't have any desire whatever to grow old and eventually achieve room temperature in Kansas City. It's just too redundant.

We're leaving.

Of course, since we are who we are, we're not going to move, exactly. We're going nomad - move and keep moving. We intend to shuffle off the mortal coil of home ownership in favor of a trailer and a gas-guzzling Suburban. We will finally be able to spend as much time as necessary to catch the light in Utah, the seasons in New England and winters in Arizona or Florida.

Serving Suggestion
Photographically, this is a boon. Time is a luxury that isn't usually afforded you on holiday - two weeks off requires a certain ability to accept whatever images are presented you so you can make the next stop and still get back to work on the agreed-upon day.

If weather presents a hurdle to a photographic challenge in say, Coos Bay, we can wait it out, even if it's only for one image. If the BR wants to wander the neighborhoods of Victoria Hill in Seattle, we have time to do that. The time spent waiting for the planet to turn can lend itself to journaling the life on the road and maybe even finding an interested reader or two. I will have ample time to write, and with some luck, experiences to write about; images to share. We will maintain this life until we grow weary of the Bedouin way, grow weary of one another, or give out physically.

So, we spend a lot of the next twelve months shoveling thirty years of accumulated crap into the willing if confused arms of children, grandchildren, thrift stores, and the drone army of estate-sale commandos, who pick at the flesh of the recent dead like flesh-eating beetles. Removing the books alone may make the house list to one side.

At the end we'll have a house, a trailer and a large Chevrolet. The last few pieces get shoved into the trailer as the house is sold, Moxie the cat is installed on her portable throne and we put Kansas City in our rear-view mirror.

There will be adjustments. The BR and I are both dedicated packrats, and I'm still parceling the remainders of my thirty years accumulation of photo equipment to worthy successors and future image-makers. Learning to live in a confined space has its own challenges. I'm a big guy. My daily ablutions will be like playing the trombone in a phone booth, but I will adjust. We will adjust. We will learn to live within our aluminum and fiberglass boundaries.
Note: The value of this plan has just been validated by the sudden, unexpected death of one of my compadres from the old neighborhood. We were brothers beyond the flesh for more than fifty years. Shit.
Then, right on cue, my friend Jan wrote this morning:
"So let me ask you: What do you really, really, really want to do? What motivation do you need? How long are you willing to work? How hard are you willing to work? Who (besides me, I'm here!) is going to support you?
Today is the perfect day to start, my friend. Turn your world upside down. It's a really beautiful view." 
Tracey Leiweke once gave me this bit of insight during a photo shoot with George Brett, "In Kansas City, no idea is good enough." It's true. Our collective inferiority complex manifests itself as a sort of snarling victimhood, a Boss Tom concrete-paved pouty three-year-old that will hold its breath until it turns blue if you don't tell it that it's just as good as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or (jeez-o-pete) St. Louis.

This is a town where you still can't get a train to the airport, a bus that actually goes anywhere useful, or a cab when you need one. Downtown is a Yellow-free zone, save the corner of Twelfth and Wyandotte, and even then cabs are rare unless there is a granfalloon of paunchy, barbeque-addled businessmen in town wondering where all the hookers are. That cab ride will set you back at least twenty bucks, chum.

We will miss Kansas City. And then we won't.

Thus spake the rabbit.

Saturday, March 29

My Old Man

Today would have been dad's 104th birthday.

He's been gone for forty years, long enough now that if I spend any time looking at his image, he just doesn't look right. I can no longer hear his voice.

He died when he was the same age I am now, give or take, but he was really much older. He lived through the Depression in a small Kansas town, working at whatever he could find to help his family make ends meet. He mined coal, dug ditches and finally settled on his lifelong avocation, meatcutter.

His health was always in question. He suffered four heart attacks in one day in August of 1962, and his sudden mortality always haunted him. He was strong as a bull, but afraid he'd drop dead at any moment. One day  in June 1974, he did, in front of the building at 4620 J.C. Nichols Parkway, where he was headed to see his doctor. I was in my late twenties before I realized there were shops and Christmas lights on the Country Club Plaza. I always turned around just shy of the fantasy retail world when I took dad to the Plaza to see the doctor.

He met my mom when they were both working at a Kroger store in Kansas City, Kansas. It was to be the second marriage for them both - he had been married to Josephine Long, and they had two children; my half-brother Bill and my half-sister Sonjalee. Mom's first was one Rudolph Chopp. I know nothing of him, nor why they divorced. None of this matters much, except as genealogical trinkets.

Mom and Dad, 1972
My dad was immensely popular with the kids I ran with. Long after our teenage breakups, ex-girlfriends would come visit my dad. He would, in turn give them things, things that might still be useful and wanted around our house, but dad had very little sense of ownership. Virginia Tackett, a stunning young Asian-American girl from the neighborhood - and by stunning I mean just plain pretty - was the recipient of dad's old Underwood typewriter, the one I learned to type on. I'm still holding a grudge on that one. My old friend Mark received a 1955 Cadillac 62 Series sedan from dad.

I got my manic-depressive tendencies from dad. When he was on an emotional high, he was invincible. When he was at the bottom, he was pitifully morose. At these times, he didn't give things away, he threw them away, destroyed them. Photo albums, home movies, tools, dishes all made it to the fifty-five gallon burn barrel in the back yard. Dad painted everything. It was what kept me moving - I was afraid that if I sat still for too long, I'd get a fresh coat of paint.Dad was either an eccentric genius with an inferiority complex, or he was crazy as an outhouse rat. He was loathe to view anyone as a celebrity and would ceaselessly mock the starry-eyed, but if he liked someone, he was as fan-giddy as a bobby-soxer. He worshipped Red Skelton and was sure Red would like him as well, a sort of 1960 Facebook-ish mutual admiration connection in an entirely imaginary world.

Unlike Tommy's dad, who had fought and served, my dad sat out World War II building B-25s at the North American Plant in Fairfax. He wasn't the wry and patriarchal powerhouse that Steve's dad was. He was just, well, different than the other dads. To me he seemed weak, somehow unaccomplished. I didn't understand at all. I felt cheated somehow.

For all of shortcomings, I never knew of dad intentionally hurting anyone or anything, save a few carp and catfish that came too close to his dough-baits, the source of much of his income and pride during the last twenty years of his life. His summer nights were often spent at area pay lakes doing R&D, while I waxed the Cadillac and listened to rock 'n' roll.

The day that dad died, a Monday afternoon, the day after Father's Day, I was building houses in Castle Rock, Colorado. My boss's wife walked the 300 feet to the job site to tell me that my mom was on the phone at the house, waiting.

"On a Monday afternoon?" I already knew what had happened. Dad always scheduled his appointments with Dr. Miller on Mondays so mom could take him on her days off. Mom never had a real day off for most of her life. Dad had collapsed in the lobby of the medical building and suffered a massive cardiac event. It was over long before the ambulance arrived.

He was buried in the only suit he owned, a simple blue serge from Robert Hall and wore a tie-tack manufactured and crafted by my half-brother. It was one of the first artificial sapphires ever created, a more perfect crystalline structure than any in nature. The morning of his funeral, the Masons swooped in an decked dad out in the appropriate Masonic apron and accoutrements, though I had never known dad to be active in the Lodge. It was slightly surreal.

Dad was one helluva cook, and could make shoe-leather-cheap cuts of meat into sumptuous fare. He never met a stranger, much to my pudgy adolescent embarrassment. He was entirely color-blind, both in visual acuity and in relation to the races. He was brilliant, if uneducated and eternally optimistic in spite of his hard life. He was delightfully goofy and innocent, and I was his reason for being. He gave me gifts of insight, gifts of inspiration and an appreciation in advance for all that I have, and all that I am now.

Finally, I understand. 

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Thus spake the rabbit.

Sunday, March 16

Story Problem

My Star Obit Index for today = 22!

"SOI" = Number of obituaries in the Kansas City Star of people who have passed on at your own age or within a couple of years / divided by the total number of obituaries

Mine today, 14/63=22.2

Don't forget to live a little today.

Thus spake the rabbit.

Friday, January 31

Is this odd?

A less than humorous news story today - an explosive device - a small "bottle bomb" - was detonated outside an auditorium at Hilo High School in Hawaii. There were no injuries, thankfully, and the perps are in custody, but the TV talking head reporting the story was standing in front of the school's marquee:

Hilo - Home of the Vikings.

Thousands of years of proud Polynesian warrior tradition, and they're the Vikings? Really? With the logo of the Minnesota Vikings neatly incorporated into the School Seal?

It's the best laugh I've had all week.

Thus spake the rabbit.

The Miracle and Horror

From extraordinary photographer and environmentalist James Balog. I have truly never seen anything quite like this. The scale of this event is incomprehensible.

The entire documentary is available on Netflix.

Thus spake the rabbit.