the prairie girls

One of the best times in recent memory that I have had was driving to my aunt and uncle’s house in late June to the very teeny tiny town of Burlingame, KS and photographing their granddaughters (or my cousin’s kids, however you want to say it). It was purely on a whim and I’m glad that I made the trip. I was in town to visit my immediate family but recently have made it a point to visit other family members that live in the area. I have been absent from their lives the past five years for various reasons and as I will be forty this year, I suppose I have come to the realization that I’m probably half way through my life and cresting that proverbial hill. Family is all we really have in this world and there’s no time like the present to maintain those bonds. Besides, I belong to one of the most interesting families out there and as someone that likes to write and has an affinity for history I could not make up the things that have happened in my family and love to hear the stories of our past and get to know our present and future.

 

My aunt and uncle have three kids. The oldest and youngest, both girls, live in Kansas City and the middle one lives in Burlingame with his wife and their 6 year old daughter Alexandra. Being an only child with above average intelligence in a town of 1017 people seems like it would have it’s limitations but Alexandra is way into history and likes to pretend that she lives in a bygone era when wagons crossed Kansas on the Santa Fe Trail on their way out west. She has no problem doing this because Burlingame was founded in 1855 as a principle city along the Santa Fe Trail and that past is all around her. Her town is true Kansas, true prairie, and she loves to dress up in my cousins old flowery dresses and put on my aunt’s floppy hats and bonnets and run around the yard pretending she is a character out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. Sometimes she walks into town with my aunt or uncle dressed this way. I just had to see this and take some photos so when I found out that my other cousin’s 7 year old daughter Leah would be visiting too and loved to play dress up the deal was done. Burlingame is about 2 hours west of Kansas City and the drive is a peaceful jaunt through rolling hills and wheat as far as the eye can see. It had been a while since I was there and although the town has not changed much in 150 years I wanted to see how much had changed since my frequent trips there as a youth. Turns out that nothing has changed.

 

If there’s one thing my family does well it’s eyes. Almost all of us on my dad’s side have blue eyes but as you can see, these girls have the bluest eyes you can imagine. I had planned to spend about an hour with them but they are so imaginative and so natural in front of the camera that I spent the entire afternoon with them. If only all kids were this easy to photograph. Alexandra has the brown hair, Leah is the blonde.

three trumpets

I recently took this shot of a brass band outside the gates of Jazzfest in New Orleans, LA. It is one of my favorite shots of the trip. Shot with my Canon 60D and 24-70mm lens at a higher ISO it is a gritty shot that shows the chaos that was happening as many were leaving the fest for the day. This young brass band on the street corner was blowing everyone away with their sound. The trumpet in front is done with his solo and the other 2 trumpets are beginning a call and response. You can see the intensity and trust in both of their eyes as they look at each other and begin speaking in music.

 

 

mango time

mangoes on parade

I (try to) walk 3-4 miles everyday. I walk because I hate to run and I want to try and stay healthy. I also walk to clear my head and be outside. I live around some fascinating neighborhoods and walking through them and noticing how different each house is and how each family chooses to landscape (or trash) their little spaces constantly reminds me of how different we are as people. The familiar sites and smells of June let me know that it is once again mango time in Miami. The trees are bursting and I see children and adults alike, with tables of mangoes in front of their yards. Some with clever handwritten signs, some with mango “barkers” declaring the prices and some with both. Some use the honor system. I do not discriminate.

the honor system

 

This is not legal per se, but as you can imagine, police in Miami have real issues to worry about. As I pass one table I snap a picture of a lady selling the mangoes she has just picked from the tree you can see standing alone in her yard. She tells me she has great mangoes and that she hopes I am not going to report her. “With that hat…never!” I say as I walk by and tell her that I’m on a walk and will stop back by to get some mangoes. I say this to three other people that I see along the way but the truth is that on this day, like many others, I have left the house without cash. Tomorrow is another day but the mangoes will not be around forever and when I get home I put dollar bills into my walking shorts so I can grab some mangoes the next day.

no voy a reportarte

I remember the first time I was introduced to mangoes. I was 12 and working at Merriam Lane Market unloading the morning trucks that came in before we opened the market. There weren’t many in that first load but we were just starting to stock mangoes for the season. Most produce coming in boxed up from City Market wasn’t ripe yet but Frank, the owner, had gotten a ripe mango from the Italian boys that run the produce docks down by the river while he was at market. The market I worked at was open from April to October each year and the calendar of each season seemed to be broken up into separate blocks of time distinguished by when a certain fruit or vegetable arrived and demanded prime real estate in the small market. There was the anticipation of the arrival, and rumors of how the crop would be. It would be decided how many bins we would need and where they should be placed. The announcement would come that a certain item of produce would be coming in that week and the countdown and buzz would begin. During it’s run, all discussion turned to that fruit or vegetable as word of mouth spread and customers would come in looking for what everyone was raging about. It was that way with California asparagus and avocados in May, O’Henry peaches in June, Rocky Ford cantaloupes in July, local watermelon and Mount Ranier cherries in August and Concord grapes in September. It was also that way for mangoes in June and the truck had just pulled up with our first mangoes. Before he cut into it to share with all of us, his mother, who also worked at the market and who we all called grandma, began to give us a lecture on the possible dangers of eating the skin. Grandma was always giving lectures but the skin of many mangoes does contain urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy and poison sumac that can cause contact dermatitis and make a person extremely uncomfortable for a while. Her lectures always included horrible stories of those she knew who had been afflicted with whatever malady she was warning us about. Frank gave me a slice of the mango and told me it grew in tropical areas. I recall how sweet and juicy it was and I was immediately hooked.

family affair

Growing up in Kansas, I was bombarded with images of all things tropical by travel advertisements my entire life. Knowing that the bread basket has little to offer in the way of exotic vacations, tourism boards from every other part of the world flood the plains with their images of mountains, thriving downtown scenes, palm trees, beaches and/or blue waters. Tropical areas became associated with a magical land of relaxation, intoxication and small bikini’s where everything was just right all the time. Over the years my mind lumped mangoes into that fantasy. When I moved to Miami 5 years ago and saw the trees bursting with mangoes and all the small bikini’s (definitely not in that order) I knew I was in that tropical locale of my mind that was unlocked when I bit into that mango for the first time.

And that time is here again….for a while

 

the hangout chronicles part 1

While at my friend Bruno’s birthday party in April the three English speakers in attendance ended up together in a corner speaking English, as gringos in a room full of Peruvians are apt to do. I was one of the aforementioned English speakers, the other two being one of my roommates Greg, and his girl, Jess. The conversation turned to music, festivals, and camping and as a self proclaimed expert in all three, I was naturally at ease in every area of the conversation. Greg and Jess were going to Hangout Fest by themselves and eventually I was invited to tag along and hang out. This was their first trip away together and as those events are usually a bit stressful on a couple, especially with 3 days of camping thrown in, a third wheel is always nice to have around. If not to keep the couple on their best behavior, then to just have random company at your disposal. I have made an art of being a third wheel and am in my element in those situations. Besides, Greg and Jess are an interesting pair and next to all the hanging out that would happen, to be a fly on the wall in that world could be nothing but epic.

where hangin out is happenin

 

Hangout Fest is a 3 day consortium and amalgamation of music, arts, hula hoops, hippies, sand, flip floppers, and bikini clad college cuties with their Beiber cutted boyfriends just out of school starting a summer of love before they have to enter the world, that descends upon Gulf Shores, AL in late May. An extravaganza of stages plopped right on the beach for all to drink and dance around. To say it like this implies that it is a can’t miss institution that draws in hundreds of thousands of music aficionados annually. In reality, it is in it’s second year, a festival conceived to stimulate the local economy after the catastrophic BP oil spill of 2010. Last year had a decent turnout and this year the festival sold out it’s 35,000 tickets. The sleepy town of Gulf Shores and it’s surrounding communities needs this event to be sure, but has not found the organization or man power needed to pull it off smoothly. Even so, it is a very promising festival that has brought in some great acts in it’s two years. This years headliners were Paul Simon, Foo Fighters, Widespread Panic, Flaming Lips, Warren Haynes Band, Primus, Galactic, the Black Keys, Motorhead and many others.

...the outer limits

 

We would leave on Thursday and drive to Tallahassee to stay for the night. Friday would be an early departure for the 4 hour trek to Gulf Shores so we could beat the registration rush for our weekend campsite. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were the music days and we would get up early on Monday for the 11 hour drive back to Miami. I had no ticket to the shows and no real desire to get one. I’ve been to many a festival and by far, the most entertaining thing to do is watch the parade of endless freaks that file by, some inĀ  costumes for the weekend, escaping the 9-5 and some that have checked out of life full time, living the endless carnival of festivals and jam band tours, pounding the pavement on black bottomed bare feet, dousing away bodily odors with patchouli oil and the cares of the world with acid and ecstasy. These are the people that I wanted to see and meet and shoot. I would be just fine out side of the gates. Just me and my mustache cavorting with my camera. At zero hour I also found out that my other roommate Alana and her man, Crispy would be going and sharing our campsite. It was getting better and better. And who knows….maybe there would be a Whataburger siting.

ladies.....look no further

The hangout chronicles will be a multiple post story so stay tuned….