If you’ve been to this blog before then you know that I like to ride bicycles as transportation. A lot. And I often comment on how much more a person sees while on a bike rather than being stuck in a plastic and metal shell more commonly known as an automobile. Many of my photos, in fact, were taken while on my bike, which would be nearly impossible if I was driving a car. Well, to drop this down a few octaves further, sometimes I just have to walk…sometimes I just gotta use my feet. Walking, especially when there is no actual destination or time-frame, can be meditative for me; a great way to clear my head and/or think about things. Last night was such a walk. Armed with a camera and an iPod for music, and slightly fortified with a few beers in my belly, I went for a really lovely late evening autumn walk. And here are a few of the things I saw a long the way.
If you’ve been to this blog previously one of the things you know about me is that I like to ride bikes. A lot. But sometimes nothing will do except using my own two feet and walk. Today was just that day. Autumn is my favorite season of the year and the weather here in Western New York has been so incredibly beautiful this past week that when I had something to do this morning I didn’t want to waste a minute of this idyllic day. And so instead of hopping on a bike, I walked. Here’s a few photos I took a long the way.
“Just as a painter needs light in order to put the finishing touches to his picture, so I need an inner light, which I feel I never have enough of in the autumn.”
Autumn has always been my favorite season. And yes, I realize that we are a couple weeks away from it’s official arrival, but these past couple days surly felt like it. It’s an introspective time for me; it always has been. I don’t know why, it just is. A sort of meditative melancholia, but in a good way (if that makes any sense). In the same way that spring brings renewal, I believe autumn does too, but in a different way. Things change…some things end and some begin. New schedules (my second year at seminary begins soon), new–or diminished–light in the sky, and a sort of preparation for things (both physically and spiritually) of what’s to come with the starkness of winter which will surely follow theses next few months. I had a sort of odd week at work, and a busy last couple of days, so I took a brisk and cleansing walk last night (which ended with stopping for a couple beers). It felt good to have the cool breeze on my face; it drizzled a little and that felt good as well. I could smell wood smoke in the air, and I too started a small but brief fire in my wood stove to take the chill off the house when I got home. The change of season feels good to me…needed. Anyhow, I thought I’d share these tow photos I took while walking; click either for a larger view.
“Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.”
Though it’s not officially autumn yet it certainly feels like it today. It felt good. It was also the first day since last spring that I wore a light jacket. Many of you know–either by being a local or from reading this blog previously–that the Allentown that I mention in the the title of this post does not refer to the city of Allentown, Pennsylvania but rather to the neighborhood by the same name in the city in which I live, Buffalo, NY. Allentown, is small without doubt, something like 10 city blocks, but it’s culture is international. It is a village within a city, really. And it is both commercial and residential. The main thoroughfares–Allen Street and Elmwood Avenue, which intersect–are mostly (but not entirely) commercial, while most of the streets leading off of or intertwine to are mostly residential. It is a nice mix and I feel blessed to call this my home. I went out to purchase a bottle of wine this evening (which I am currently enjoying), and I brought along a camera and tripod (big surprise). And in the two city blocks walk to the liquor store (which is pictured here), I passed the following sights. A young woman playing a piano (when I asked her why she was playing her piano outside she stated simply that she liked to make beautiful music…and it was), multiple bars and restaurants (some of which are known for hosting international musicians, and some that…umm, well, let’s just say have reputations of their own, click here and here). I also passed a poetry reading and a mural dedicated to the late Spain Rodriguez (among other street art). As I took photos a few people came up to talk to me (this happens often), and one of the people was a guy about my age or maybe a little older who seemed a bit tipsy. He was an artist, he said, and had work hanging in galleries in Buffalo, New York City, and Rome. But still, he added, he liked to call this neighborhood home. I don’t know if he was telling the truth or stretching it. But what I do know is that all of this is within a 3 minute walk from my front door. And this is what I thought about on my brief walk home while the first chilly air of the season brushed across my face.
Cool photo, right? I took it while on a walk this evening. It looks sort of Star Wars-esque, doesn’t it? You’d never know that I took it while in the heart of the city. Anyhow, I had gone for a long walk tonight to clear my head (walked the length of the Elmwood Village here in Buffalo, from Allen to Forest and back again) and twice (yes twice) was almost struck by a car while crossing an intersection while the driver blindly turned while chatting on a cellphone. The first time it was so close that by the time the car stopped I had instinctively put my hand out (as if that would have done anything) and my hand rested on the hood of the car while its bumper pressed against my leg (no joke). There are too many cars on the road and too many people on cellphones while driving. Does every adult American really need a car? Two adults in the house…two cars; five adults in the house…five cars. Does every trip—no matter how long or short—really require a car? There are other forms of transportation. Sorry for the rant, but I had not one but two close calls tonight while I was simply out for a walk on a beautiful summer’s eve. I’ll put down my bullhorn now.
Yup, it’s true. Many of you know that I recently sold my truck, and after being car-lite for many years I am finally car-free (I did recently join Buffalo Car Share but haven’t used it yet…haven’t used a car in more than a month actually). Anyhow, as if the savings from the true cost of car ownership weren’t enough, New York State sent me a refund check for un-registering my truck. A few weeks ago when I turned in my plates the nice woman at the counter told me I would likely receive a check in the mail because I had almost a year left on my vehicle’s registration. Honestly, when she told me this I just sort of shrugged it off…yea, right, like the state is going to give me money back for this, I thought to myself. Well, I stand corrected. The proof is above. And it’s interesting that in the past month or so that I have not had my truck I haven’t really missed it (obviously it’s much easier this time of year while the weather is nice). And while I enjoy the benefits of physical exercise and the peace of mind riding a bike or walking, a side benefit is that it’s a lot easier on my wallet…and that makes me happy.
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”
Before I get to mentioning the decision let me first explain the above image. That is a new rear spring bracket I purchased today for $80 for my truck. I’ve mentioned many times on this blog that I am not car-free but am car-lite. Anyhow, the above bracket has to replace the rotted one on my late model truck by this Monday before the month ends and my annual inspection runs out. But before it can be replaced a section of the frame–which has rotted–has to have metal plates welded on for support. I’m not sure how much this will cost, but likely more than I’m guessing.
Anyhow, to get to the decision. Once I have the truck repaired I plan on selling it and….drum-roll please….finally go car-free once and for all. I’ve done it in the past (but not for some years) and will do it again; I’m nearly there already. I’ll do a test run of being car-free through the summer months and see how it goes. The aggravation and true cost of car ownership has finally outweighed the value–to me–of owning one. I’ll bike, walk, take public transportation (as I do now, only more), and likely join our local car share so I’ll be able to use one if I need to get somewhere quickly or out of bike range.
It’s interesting, that when I first found that I needed this work done on the truck I was stressed about it (and still am, actually), but in a way it is also freeing…it is what finally pushed me to make the decision. Everything, some say, happens for a reason.
I just purchased an inexpensive used camera from someone off craigslist today. I now have three cameras and none cost more than $99US. This is not meant to be a braggart’s statement, but just to reinforce that one does not need a $500 camera to take good pictures. Anyhow, and this is interesting, I think, how they all function differently and that they are each better at some tasks than others (obvious, right?). The smallest of the three, a little palm-sized point-and-shoot takes the best close ups…yup, that’s right, most of the close up pictures of flowers on this blog were taken with a camera that is small enough to be hidden within the two palms of my hands. The new used one I purchased today seems to have the best zoom qualities, which will be interesting. All the pictures in this post were taken with that camera. The seagulls above, for example, were likely 1/2 mile in the sky, as was the church steeple below (I love that one). The one below that is of the Bubble Man of Allen Street; he was a half block away and 3 floors up. The fat pregnant stray cat below…well, how could I not take a picture of her if my camera was already in my hand. And the bottom picture is a silhouette of Allentown at dusk with pink sky in the background, the last scene I saw before entering my house. I like this camera.
It’s interesting. I like many adults have suffered from sleep problems for most of my life. It’s rare for me to sleep more than 6 hours. But every so often I do. My body crashes. Last night was one such instance. I went to bed around 1:00am–which is late for me–and didn’t wake until nearly 11:00am this morning. It was disorienting to say the least. And I’m not sure what it was–the long sleep or the grey and rainy day–but I woke with a feeling of melancholy. Not anything too heavy, just enough to put me in an introspective mood. Seeing that I woke too late to go to church, I read the NY Times on line while I had coffee and then went out for a long walk in the drizzly weather and took photos. I took a bunch of them–of all sorts of things–but am only showing some of my favorites; the flowers. I find it interesting in that when taking photos it forces me to look at–contemplate–the thing I’m pointing the camera at. The one above, for example, is a flower on a tree…who knew that inside its white leaves was hidden such beauty. Or the one directly below–a dandelion–on any other day these are the nemesis to my garden, but when viewed up close, through the lens of a camera, it is beautiful. Anyhow, it’s likely that the brilliant color of these flowers on such a grey day has added color–inspiration–to my spirit. And I thought I’d share. Click any for a larger view.
I’ve posted pictures of crows before but am finding them ever fascinating lately. And tonight–after just recovering from a cold and feeling I needed some air–went for a walk on a foggy evening at dusk and took a few more photos. I’m not sure if I’m just noticing them these last couple years but they seem to have multiplied in our area (or possibly migrated) by multitudes. At dawn and dusk in certain areas of the city they are virtually everywhere..hundreds–thousands–perched on every possible thing or flying from one to another. And caw..cawing to each other in their own special language. What I think is really interesting (and a bit scary) is how smart they are…here’s a little info from the PBS website:
New research has shown that they are among the most intelligent animals on the planet. They use tools as only elephants and chimpanzees do, and recognize 250 distinct calls. One particular talent they have been discovered to possess is the ability to recognize individual human faces and pick them out of a crowd up to two years later – a trick that might make even Hitchcock shiver with fright.
And let me just reiterate one sentence:
One particular talent they have been discovered to possess is the ability to recognize individual human faces and pick them out of a crowd up to two years later.
I’ve been taking pictures of these birds for the last couple of years and only recently learned of their above said intelligence…but have always felt like they are looking back at me. Look at the one above…sort of makes the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up…hopefully they realize I am their friend and not foe.
To read a bit more about them at the PBS site, click here.
I like to walk; it clears my head. When I’m on a bike I have to pay attention to my surroundings but when I walk I can do just that…walk. Tonight I had some thoughts that were troubling me so I thought I’d go for a brisk walk on this chilly (32F/0C) and wet February night…OK, I stopped at a local tavern for a couple beers also (that helps clear my head, too…or maybe it clouds it, whatever). Anyhow, and as usual, I brought a camera with me. I also had my small tripod…in order to get clear pictures at night it’s essential my hand doesn’t shake. What’s interesting is the angle at which these photos were taken…about 10 in./25cm. off the ground. The tripod I use I originally purchased to use on my bike, but tonight I was walking. It gives it an interesting perspective, I think. Anyhow, the walk was good…and the beers were better. As usual, click any photo for a larger view.
This morning when I woke I was somewhat surprised to see there were a couple inches of snow on the ground. It really changes my short commute to work…how I ride a bike. Interestingly, for as big and heavy as the Mundo is, it is not my favorite bike to ride in the snow. In this this light snow it isn’t difficult, but in the really deep and heavy stuff it can be tough to maneuver. That said, this area of the world has had it really easy this winter, by this time of the year we’ve usually had at least a couple lake effect snows. I’m not complaining, just an observation…but I have to admit I have been liking the cold air…it feels refreshing to me; bracing (and you don’t sweat while riding). To give you an example, take a look at this photo I took exactly two years ago today…the bike was parked in nearly the same spot as the one pictured above is. Anyhow, I worked another split shift today, and on my return to work in the evening I chose to walk rather than pedal. And on the way I was taken by what a beautiful winter sky was overhead…it looked so big to me as clouds rushed past. Here’s a photo.
So this is interesting. I had just left work after working a split shift. I didn’t face a stove all of the day but much of it. When I came outdoors the fresh air felt good and it felt good to be on foot, but I was surprised to see that there was a combination of snow and rain…we haven’t had any real snow this year. As I was walking down Allen Street I noticed how the light shone off the wet sidewalk and I had my camera with me so decided to take a couple shots. Being on foot, opposed to being on a bike, I had to set the little tripod on the ground, which gives it an interesting perspective. Anyhow, as I was taking the photos a guy appears out of seemingly nowhere…shows up in the frame and just sort of posed there with his bike. I look up from the camera and he says to me, “You ever hear of the incredible human iPod?” “Um, no.” I reply. “Then you can’t be from around here,” he says. “What’s your favorite song,” he asks. And without waiting for a reply he says that he knows I like Fleetwood Mac because everyone likes Fleetwood Mac, and he starts singing One Winged Dove as loud as he could…he’s singing it in the picture above. To make a long story short, James walked with me for about a block or so while we talked about riding bikes in foul weather, and it was then that I noticed he had two flat tires and he asked me for money (I had none with me otherwise I would have given him some). The interesting thing is that he rode up to me (on two flats). I didn’t notice it at first because, as I mentioned earlier, he just showed up in the frame. But after getting home and uploading them I could see him approaching on his bike like an apparition (in the upper left photo he’s in the distance and the upper right he’s a blur while getting off the bike). I just find it interesting that I–being interested in bicycles and taking photos–have this guy just show up and step in front of my lens and pose with his bike. One never knows what they’ll see when on bike or foot. Also, I thought I’d share the below photo I took yesterday…Days Park at night (click either photo for a larger view).
This post is twofold. Firstly, it is another in the theme that when you walk or ride a bike you witness so much more than when in a car (yes, I know I’ve been harping on this lately but it is important in my daily life), and in the case of myself–or anyone–it offers near-countless opportunities to appreciate the beauty around and capture some of it in pictures. After a crazy-busy day in a hot and bustling kitchen the last thing I want to do is hop in a climatically controlled and comfortable car (though now-and-again I have to)…what I want to do is get outside and walk or ride a bike. And when I do this and look around at all the beauty as I walk and ride it is–to me–like nature’s own therapy…a person does not have to live in a rural setting to see nature, it’s all around, and it is entirely free. This brings me to my next topic…the camera. While I have always been interested in photography and used to use 35mm cameras, in recent years I’ve been using inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras.Yes they have their limitations (many limitations, for sure) but what’s awesome (besides their price…the current one I use cost $99US) is that they fit in your pocket; when you need it just pull it out and snap away (I believe neighbors and co-workers are finally used to me taking pictures of what I cook or what I see in my front yard). And to help the limitations of an inexpensive camera there are plenty of free or nearly-free editing software available. Two of my favorites are both open source and can be found here and here. Often I don’t see the beauty around me, especially if I had a really busy day and I’m feeling cranky, so I have to force myself to look…to look at what is directly in front of me. And it is right in front of me an all of us–always–all we have to do is look.
“The kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, but people do not see it.”
The Gospel of Thomas, verse 113
Alright, I’ll get down from my little soapbox pulpit now…to see a few more photos that I’ve taken recently, while either walking or riding a bike click here, here, here, or here; click any photo for a larger view
$36.79 in groceries.
Sometimes I just have to use my feet.
To me, walking is to bicycling as bicycling is to driving…it slows things down and brings things into perspective; I see and notice things when I walk that I likely wouldn’t if on a bike and definitely wouldn’t if in a car.
I needed a few things from the store and had planned on riding a bike the six blocks to get them but when I stepped outside it was such a lovely early-autumn evening that I wanted to savor it. I walked with my son and we had a really nice conversation.
Sometimes–especially on such a fine and carefree evening–my feet trump my bike(s).
Happy World Car-Free Day.