Monthly Archives: July 2010

Through A Glass

Tabletop at twilight.


It was late twilight, I had just finished a lovely meal at Indique in Cleveland Park with Taina and Althea. (If you go, get a Kokum Martini and thank me later. Most. Delicious. Alcoholic. Beverage. EVAR.) I looked out the window to their sliver of an outdoor dining balcony, and spotted three glasses refracting ambient light and signage.

I ducked into the swampy evening heat and tried to take a picture, wedging myself between the window and the table, expecting the management to give me hell any second — or maybe just that I would crash through the muntin bars, lacerating my back and mortifying my dinner companions. I shot about fifteen frames, each crappier and more frustrating than the last. I had the wrong lens, the wrong angle, the wrong depth of field, and the wrong amount of available light. The entire situation was full of fail.

Still, I got this image out of it. Do I wish the bokeh were softer and more Leica-like? YES. (Can I afford a $3000 lens to make it so? NO.) Do I wish the shot were less grainy/noisy? Well, I suppose, although I have to say I kind of like its contribution to the atmosphere. Is the composition optimal? Negative, Ghost Rider. As previously acknowledged, the whole affair is resoundingly imperfect.

But look at the color palette in this picture: NOM NOM NOM NOM. (And it’s accurate too, no juicing in post.) Check out the reflections and distortions in the glass; I especially love that railing bit in the stem. There’s even kind of a mise-en-abime thing going on, although it’s more conceptual than visual.

For me, this is the child with the wonky ears that you just love to death.

Written in Water

Raindrops on leaves.

…on leaves of grass.

Latter Rain Word Church

Storefront church in Del Ray, Alexandria, VA

I’ll admit that I took this picture in the first place entirely because of the sign. I was baffled by this string of words. I just couldn’t parse them.

From the top: “Christian’s Community Center.” I always thought at least two or three had to be gathered before it was a church.

Then: “Latter Rain.” What? I wondered if it were a typo for “Latter Reign,” kind of like “Latter Day Saints,” maybe.

Or perhaps it was supposed to be “Latter” *beat* “Rain Word” *beat* “Church.” But what’s a “rain word?” And is it anything like a prayer for a change in weather? But “Word Church” seemed like a meaningful semantic unit, likely an elision of “Word of God,” so separating it that way didn’t make much sense.

Wikipedia to the rescue! I learned about the Latter Rain Revival, and how the rest of the charismatic and fundamentalist communities look at these folks as heretics (which automatically makes what is probably a misguided soft spot in my heart for them).

Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.—Hosea 6:3

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.—James 5:7

They put an emphasis on contemporary apostles and prophets, believe in ongoing revelation by the Holy Spirit, and, in some varieties, universal salvation (another plus in my book). There apparently is some controversy about ordering angels around as well.

The Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, VA, is chockablock with churches of both the mainstream and the storefront flavor. (In another high point for evangelical signage, I passed one that exhorted “Go Green for Jesus!”) They exist side-by-side with an equal profusion of massage, bodywork, and yoga/movement outfits. Something for body and soul at every turn!

As I said, I took the picture because of the sign. But when I got home and took a closer look at it, I became enchanted by the stark navy-and-white simplicity of the brick building, the skewed cross of the telephone wires, the magenta-blue sky and purpling light of dusk, the golden glow at the entranceway, the demon-eyes of the brake lights reflected in the window, the stark “No Parking” sign, and the vibrant strips of green and yellow at sidewalk’s edge. I made an interesting image while I was thinking about something else. (It happens.)

And don’t you kind of want to know what experiences transpire behind those blinds?


Iced latte with pistachio biscotto at Tryst in Adams Morgan.

When it’s really hot out, sometimes it’s hard to work up an appetite. All you want is to cool off, and maybe have a nap (especially if you have a headache).

Here’s what you need: an iced latte with a pistachio biscotto. That’ll fix you right up. A little caffeine to get rid of the sleepies and the headache, a few crunchy calories to put the zoom back in your brainpan. This particular one helped me hold up my end of the conversation with Crystal of Big Bright Bulb.


Angela Walters, who blogs at Quilting is my therapy, is absolutely brilliant. I hope some day to have a piece worthy of being crowned with her creative skills. Unfortunately, I suspect that by the time I do, she’ll be charging prices more commensurate with her talent and I’ll never be able to afford it.

Giraffe’s Neck

Crepe myrtle branch.

There’s a whole sub-genre of photography—actually of visual art in general—that involves the non-metaphor metaphor. “Oooh look, honey, that cloud looks like an elephant! See the trunk? And the big ears? Isn’t that amazing?”

There are psychological puzzles based on this kind of thing: it’s a rabbit! no, a duck! no, a rabbit! Escher elevated the ambiguous image and the impossible space to a metaphysical tease. It’s clever, but it’s still not especially aesthetically profound. (Next up: Magritte and his non-pipe pipe. Ooooo, deep!)

So please take the title of this photograph with the appropriate amount of tongue-in-cheek action. Really, it’s that I’m just enjoying the color and texture.


Purple leaves on a potted plant.

I’ve only once ever had a garden of my own, and even then it was just a raised bed that I grew some vegetables in. I don’t own a house, and I haven’t done very well keeping plants alive in my apartment. (Although, to be fair, the last plant I had grew completely out of control, and that was why I got rid of it. Excess or failure to thrive seem to be my two options.)

I do, however, experience the occasional pang of envy over the adornment that my home-owning friends put tremendous amounts of work into maintaining. The latest example is this stunner sitting on a pot on Jocelyn’s stoop.


Rose of Sharon after rainfall

DC is known for summer thunderstorms that punctuate our late afternoons with drama and inconvenience. (Do not fly into the city at 4 pm in June, July, or August.)

In most places, a summer thunderstorm means a cold front is moving through, and the precipitation will clear the air and cool things off. Not here.

Here, the downpour will batter your garden, cause the bad drivers on the Beltway to drive even worse than usual, and hit the pavement only to be transformed into yet another steaming layer of miasmic humidity. Everyone will nonetheless solemnly assure each other, “Well, we sure need the rain.”

“Look, I made a hat!”

“Doing beautiful things is its own reward,” he says, when I ask what enjoyment he can still derive from a trick he has pulled off many thousands of times before. “If you do something that you’re proud of, that someone else understands, that is a thing of beauty that wasn’t there before—you can’t beat that.” He gulps suddenly, like a snake trying to swallow an egg, and when he speaks again his voice has a wobble to it.

“There is that great line in Sunday in the Park with George,” he says, referring to Stephen Sondheim’s 1984 musical about Georges Seurat, “ ’Look, I made a hat where there never was a hat’.” He falls silent again and, as unexpectedly as those coins turn to fish, big fat tears start rolling down his cheeks. “I can’t say that line without choking up, because it states, in profoundly poetic terms, what I have always wanted to do with my life. It’s so simple and so funny, but boy it hits me deep.”

This is Teller, of Penn & Teller, speaking in an interview with the Telegraph of London. This is what an artist’s credo looks like.

Thank you to Bob for knowing that this would strike a chord with me.

Secret DC

Staircase at Decatur & 22nd Street

There’s an old city hiding beneath the modern one; its old, good bones are still there if you know to look for them.

There was plenty wrong with old DC, just like there’s plenty wrong with contemporary DC. Some of what was most wrong about the old city is what made the best of it possible, and I suppose that’s still true today.

The elegance and absurdity of this staircase connecting one monied street to another above it speak to me. They say: power and wealth make many strange and wonderful things possible. But there’s always a price. Somebody always pays, and it is important to know who that is and what the true cost really was.

As a society, we are just now ~ and slowly, too ~ starting to appreciate the true price of our cheap energy (for example). There are no “externalities” when everything is connected.