Archive for the 'Photographs' Category

A Mask is More than a Mask

You would have thought that the benefits of wearing a mask during this pandemic had finally become settled science. And that only loons would be resisting the call of the mask. But then you’d be wrong.

“Americans are rarely up in arms when they see signs that require them to wear shoes or shirts because abiding by those standards is part of our culture,” says NYU expert David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences.

“There’s a certain bravado of being angry and defying requirements to wear a mask,” he continued.

“Those who choose not to wear masks may feel a sense of solidarity, like they’re taking a stand against authority,” Professor Abrams concluded.

“Once Trump clearly did not wear mask in public, it transmitted a signal that if you’re a good supporter of the president you don’t wear a mask,” reported Chris Jackson of IPSOS public affairs.

Like the learned persons noted above, I’ve often wanted to be quoted in the media, but I’ve never said anything worthwhile. So, in my continuing quest for a memorable byline, I decided to wander through the Ojai metropolis hoping to capitalize and report on the wear/don’t wear issues facing my fellow citizens.

I thought that taking their photos would be a good way of breaking the ice with them. I therefore armed myself with my most impressive piece of camera equipment as a way of assuring potential interviewees that I was indeed the real thing, and someone to be reckoned with. It also would add credence to my encounters with young women who might have otherwise thought that I was merely a dirty old man hoping to take closeup pictures of their breasts and tight shorts.

I love taking photos of people but am a bit reluctant to approach strangers for fear of rejection. To minimize that possibility, I developed a sure-fire way of addressing the problem that featured an elaborate introduction.

“Hi. I’m taking photos of people wearing masks. Can I take yours?” It was a guaranteed winner.

Slinging my camera over my shoulder (it looks a lot cooler that way than draping it around one’s neck) my adventure began with a mid-morning stroll through the grassy plaza between Bonnie Lu’s and Rains, used primarily by pet owners who have nowhere else for their loved ones to take a dump.

My first encounter involved a young couple and their dog.


“Why are you wearing a mask?” I pointedly asked, adding, “And why isn’t your obviously disinterested dog wearing one?”

The young man replied, “We formerly were terrorists from Afghanistan and have worn masks since we were three. The dog is a Trump supporter and refuses to wear one. He’s a Birther too. We only take him with us so he doesn’t get pissed and crap on the carpet.”

I next wandered over to the plaza fountain and discovered a bevy of young women who were enjoying the warm day and doing a lot of giggling.


I asked the cute brunette, “What brings you to Ojai on this beautiful day and why are you covering up that lovely face?”

“We don’t work, and we live with our parents who support us financially. We’ve got everything we need in our big house in the Arbolada. I love these Acai bowls from Revel even though we all know they are worse for you than what you get at Ojai Ice Cream. But I ignore it like everything else in my life and hope it will all work out without me doing anything.”

“But what about the masks?” I said.

“Oh, the masks. We just think they are really cool looking. We pick up guys much more easily and never have to show them our faces. Maybe someday they’ll make a body mask too.”

Leaving the lovely ladies, I decided to circumnavigate the plaza and found this young man standing outside the Tortilla House on Signal Street.


“You’re obviously an upstanding citizen. What brings you to the Tortilla House and why are you wearing a mask?”

“I’m a big Trumper and I only go to restaurants that fly the flag. I’d dump this shitty mask which has been proven to be of no medical value, but Jose the owner will call the cops on me. Can’t wait till Trump is re-elected and we can trash the masks, get rid of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ban Yoga, and shut down every Vegan food joint in this town.”

I thanked him for his patriotic insights and moved on. Mid-way on Ojai Avenue, I found this trucker in front of Osteria Monte Grappa.


“Welcome to our town,” I began. Why are you wearing a mask and aren’t you worried about exposing yourself to all these stores and people?“

“I have no idea if these masks are any good. But I figure what have I got to lose?” And my covered face makes me even more attractive to the girls. In fact, I just picked up a cute brunette near the plaza fountain.”

I was getting tired and decided to call it a day. On my way I found these two women near Rains department store.


“Ladies, you look exactly like native Ojaians should look. Do you mind if I take your picture?”  (I had dropped any elaborate explanation of why I was doing this since no one seemed to care and everyone wanted their picture taken anyway.)

The more statuesque of the two said, “Yes, please take our picture with our masks. And could we have a copy? We’d love to send it to our kids who live in L.A. and who worry that we are exposing ourselves to the virus by shlepping all over town without proper precautions. They foolishly think we’re getting senile, especially when we tell them that President Wilson assures us that he has the Spanish Flu under control.”

I laughed, packed it in and, after discussing the pros and cons of The League of Nations, I said good-bye to the ladies and asked them who they would be voting for this November.

“Why Mr. Harding, of course.”

In retrospect, I consider my mask adventure a great success. Only a quarter of the people I met seemed to have any thoughts about the medical value of face coverings. Which is probably a good thing since all that does is cause arguments. And besides, the Swine Flu is right around the corner. Good thing President Ford is planning to vaccinate all of us.

Big Cat

When we moved to California over forty years ago, I was occasionally asked  “you’ve been to Yosemite, haven’t you?”  For most of those forty years, I’d respond with a certain amount of shame and sheepishly say “no, but I plan to go…eventually.”

We did finally go to Yosemite, were duly impressed, and most importantly I could then say to others “you’ve been to Yosemite, haven’t you?”

Now living in Ojai and occasionally being exposed to rubes from the Big City, I’ll be asked “what kinds of animals have you seen in Ojai?”  I’d reply like I was Marlin Perkins, the now gone, long time host of the TV show Zoo Parade.  “We’ve seen bobcats, snakes, foxes, coyotes and even a bear or two.”  Then I’d qualify my otherwise impressive array of critters by saying ” but we haven’t yet seen a mountain lion.”

That changed last night.

Sitting in the living room and watching the News Hour, I was distracted by a brown shape moving across our just watered lawn not more than twenty feet from me.  At first I thought “maybe a bobcat or a large dog.”  The shape stopped and looked straight at me.  It was at that point that I was grateful for the wall of glass that separated me from the mountain lion that had decided to visit our home.

I grabbed my iPhone and took some frantic photos, fully expecting the lion to leave quickly once he (I think it was a he) discovered that there was nothing to eat or tear to shreds.  However, he was in for the long haul as he spread himself on the edge of the lawn and proceeded to lap up the water that the sprinklers had deposited on the concrete walk.

The iPhone images were much too small to appreciate the creature’s dimensions so I ran for my camera with the long lens and spent the next thirty minutes photographing a very cooperative guest…through the glass doors, of course.

I was even able to call Harry on the iPhone, start a Face Time session and video the live images to Livermore.  I felt even more like Marlin Perkins by exposing Harry to a sight that for even him was a first.

I estimate that the majestic animal was about four feet long, head to rump, with another two or three feet of tail.  I was tempted to take the bathroom scale out to him, coax him onto it and thereby get his accurate weight.  But I thought better of it and asked Sweetie if she would do it.  In the end, I had to estimate his weight at well over a hundred pounds.

He was with us for about ninety minutes, trying out various spots on the lawn, rolling about, dozing and seemingly enjoying the luxurious respite from his less comfortable digs.  It was nearly dark when he melted away.

National Geographic has this to say about mountain lions…

Mountain lions require a lot of room—only a few cats can survive in a 30-square-mile range. They are solitary and shy animals, seldom seen by humans. While they do occasionally attack people—usually children or solitary adults—statistics show that, on average, there are only four attacks and one human fatality each year in all of the U.S. and Canada.

Both Sweetie and I feel fortunate and privileged to have seen this wonderful animal.  We’re also glad that we avoided becoming a statistic.

If you want to see more photos of our guest, click here…


I Missed the Photo Show

One of my favorite old movies is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It was shot in Australia and starred two of my favorite actors, Hugo Weaving and Terrence Stamp (who, by the way, I spied in our own Ojai Community Hospital about a year ago…how thrilling can that be…huh, huh.)

So you can imagine my excitement about six months ago when our daughter bought us tickets to the musical of the same name. Damn, by-golly and doody-face, our tickets turned out to be on the same day as Ojai’s most anticipated, star-spangled event of the year, the Art Center Photo Branch show. But we couldn’t disappoint our only daughter who, in her genetically supercharged anal persona, had asked us twice before purchasing the stratospherically expensive tickets, Dad, are you sure you have nothing else to do that day? So Sweetie and I went to Priscilla with Nancy and missed, some would say, the greatest show in Ojai.

We drove to the Pantages, installed the car in a twenty-dollar, paint blistering, door denting parking lot, and strolled over the names of long-forgotten movie stars embedded in the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk. We had our purses searched by Pantages ushers for contraband as lethal as an eight ounce water bottle, then reluctantly purchased two four-dollar water bottles, found our seats and huddled together for warmth as the air conditioning was arcticly adjusted to suit the lithe, sweaty bodies of young chorus line dancers performing at the speed of light. We nervously shifted in our seats and held our breath as we awaited the arrival of what was sure to be the two tallest persons within a twenty-mile radius who would likely occupy the presently vacant seats in front of us. That’s show biz.

The first act was filled with ear-shattering disco music that my faux son-in-law insisted was offered up solely in an attempt to enrage his rock and roll deprived musical senses. But then, unless Kevin is in front of his 42″ computer monitor playing gory war games against other maniacs on a magnum opus, water-cooled PC, he’s at best a reluctant participant in the fine arts.

Intermission time and, owing to what I insist was the fault of the icy conditions in the theater, I got in line with three hundred and fifty, shuffling, mostly aging men in the hopes that I might empty my throbbing bladder in one of the six available urinals before the eighteen minute intermission ended, as had been announced by two young female ushers who appeared to have never even heard of a bladder and who undoubtedly rejoiced in watching deteriorating old letches get their just desserts.

Given the estimated time it takes to empty the bladder of one old prostate challenged senior, I felt I could afford to day-dream about the Art Center Photo show. Even with my eyes closed, I simply would be pushed along in the Bataan Death March line, held erect by those octogenarians who surrounded me, until I would awake to the dulcet sounds of flushing. And so I day-dreamed.

I found a Montgomery Street parking space with my name painted on it directly in front of the Art Center, then floated through the pearly gated front door and held my breath as I anticipated the picture perfect awards that would surely be heaped upon me while I was being regaled with plaudits normally reserved for the likes of Ansel Adams, Alfred Eisenstaedt or Annie Liebovitz.

All eyes turned in my direction, the crowd hushed, parted like the Red Sea, and in a rising crescendo, broke into thunderous applause. Our master of ceremonies, Roger, asked for silence, reviewed my glorious fifteen minute biography and handed me the winner’s check. I immediately endorsed it and gifted it to the Art Center so that they could retire the mortgage, refinish the doors, get the cobwebs off the ceiling and install much-needed, blazingly lit, neon sign directions to the rest rooms.

I nodded my head in acknowledgement of everyone’s gratitude, waved my hand to the assembled, and floated slowly over to the fabulous, mouth-watering repast laid on a table covered with the nectar of the gods. There to greet me was Myrna. She had outdone herself by assembling all of my favorite dishes including chitlins con carne with bone marrow dressing, displayed magnificently as only Myrna can do. I ate my fill, sat on the plush cushions of the somehow magically re-upholstered couch, digested my food and…

I woke up at the seventeen minute mark, unceremoniously nudged into semi-consciousness by the old guy behind me. Are you gonna pee or what? he said with more than a touch of annoyance. So I did. And I found my way back, not to the Art Center but to the second act of Priscilla. It was good, but maybe not as good as winning an award at the photo show. Certainly not as good as sharing years of good times with wonderful people like Roger, Myrna and the rest of those dedicated folks who made the show work.

Oh, and I didn’t win a photo prize at the show. But I will donate some money to the Art Center so folks like me can find the rest rooms without a roadmap.


Ojai Art Center Photo Show…a Fairy Story

Myrna asked me to write something wry and humorous about the Ojai Art Center Photo Show.  But first, here’s a fairy story.

There was this guy who hadn’t won a prize or honorable mention three shows running.  His spirits were down around his shoes when he entered two more soon-to-be-forgotten masterpieces in what was, in his mind, the 2012 version of Les Miserables.

As usual he participated in the hanging of the show and got more depressed as he carefully placed over fifty photos more wonderful than his on the Art Center walls.  He briefly considered hanging them somewhat askew to dampen their appeal to the viewers.  But he knew that Commander Conrad would be sure to spot and correct the sloppiness.  So why bother.  He finished his work, looked upon the magnificence that graced the walls, packed his bag, accepted the inevitable and went home.

For thirty-six hours, a period of low-level anxiety liberally mixed with creeping depression hovered over his head just like that of the forlorn character Joe Btfsplk in the Li’l Abner comic strip (you youngsters can Google it.) But he was determined that in spite of the upcoming fourth year rejection he would stride into the Art Center on the day of judgment, smile, congratulate the winners and keep his negative comments to himself.  All the while cursing the judges and wishing he had never submitted photos or had claimed that they had been eaten by the dog.

He entered the Art Center on Sunday.  Smiles abounded.  People were having a wonderful time. He tried his best to participate, ho, ho, ho.  Honorable mention tags floated before his eyes.  But not for his photos.  Sweet Nan came up to him and planted a kiss on his cheek.  “Aren’t you excited?”  His mind ran faster.  Why should he be excited?  Maybe if there had been a fire and destroyed the show.  But no, Myrna and the other kind ladies had created a beautiful banquet table, Ojai’s Yes Party Girls were doing wonders keeping things humming and not a charred photo could be seen.

Myrna ran up to him.  All bright and bubbly.  “See, I told you this was your year.  And about time.”

If you want to finish the story, you’ll just have to skip on down to the Art Center between now and July 4.  While you’re there, you can also decide which of the photos you want on your wall.  Be sure to take a close look at the nearly naked lovely lady looking into the mirror.  But better hurry.  Some other guy is bound to take her home.

Photo Shows are for Losers

It’s that time of year again.  My turn to come up empty at the Ojai Art Center Photo Show.  I’m beginning to feel like the Cubs.

Sweetie had her 70th birthday in May and we celebrated by visiting the jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Pretty heady stuff.  The thought of submitting a prize winning photo rattled around in my head during the trip.  Couldn’t even concentrate on the otter feeding frenzy while I pondered what to do for this year’s show themed Eat.

Back home again, I thought what better way to showcase my ample talents, while at the same time celebrating Sweetie’s  birthday than to photograph her with her signature cookies.  A sure winner.  Who could resist that combination?  Luscious cookies, a beautiful woman, careful attention to composition, obeying the rule-of-thirds, leading the viewer to the principal point of interest, immaculate printing, and careful attention to framing would reveal the holy grail I had been seeking for years.  Recognition and reward lay ahead.  For sure.

So what happens?  Same old thing.  I arrive at the Sunday reception expecting praise and congratulations while humbly accepting a fat check.  My gaze is directed like a lazer beam at my photo hung in an enviable spot on the wall.  Where’s the blue ribbon?  Nada.  Not even an honorable mention.  Depression.  Devastation.  Defeat.

How could this be?  Three big money prizes and six honorable mentions.  Nearly the entire show and I’m left out in the cold.  That perennial fancy-pants Susan Magness gets first prize with her pears.  Just because it’s perfect, eye-catching, brilliant and unique shouldn’t have been enough to overshadow my cookies.  Tiny Myrna Cambianica earns second spot with a twisty-turny thing that focuses the viewer’s mind on the scarcity of food in the third world.  What a sneaky, thoughtful thing to do.  And finally, the ultimate insult.  Another guy named Fred, Fred Magness, wins the last money slot  with his infrared composition that draws the viewer right into the scene and refuses to let go.  The creep.

And so my friends, I wash my hands of the whole thing.  No next year.  No more disappointments.  No more heartaches.  I’m finished…unless the theme is depression.

Meanwhile, you can visit the show until July 7.  And I wish you would.  Go ahead.  Take it all in and then see if you don’t agree that I shoulda won.  I await your judgment.  But keep any negative thoughts to yourself.

Bummer, lost again

Darn it.  I lost again.  Did great work on three stunning photographs and didn’t even merit an honorable mention.  Spent hours at the Old Mill renovation in Santa Paula risking life and limb to get the National Geographic award of the year and all I get is chopped liver.  Where will it end?

The Ojai Art Center Photography Branch hung another standout show at the Art Center this weekend.  Thirty photographers qualified fifty photos in the Branch’s annual show Visions of Change.  Well the only thing that didn’t change was my winning nothing, nada, zilch.

I blame Greg Cooper and Attasalina Dews, the two judges who crowned the winners.  Yeah sure, I know that Greg currently teaches full time at Brooks Institute School of Visual Journalism in Ventura.  And Atta has established herself as a successful wedding and portrait photographer.  But I ask you, shouldn’t they have accepted the gratuity I offered in return for a first place ribbon?  Ingrates.

But enough about me.  Roger Conrad did another class job of curating the show.  And that’s on top of his uncanny ability to herd the Photo Committee members into line over a six month period as they argued about the show’s theme, the color of the table cloths, and the font style for the announcements.  Weighty stuff.

Myrna Cambianica was largely responsible for the goodie table at the Sunday reception.  In addition to the yummies, Myrna’s ecology mania guided her selection of biodegradeables, including the wine cups which had to be emptied within ninety seconds or they would stain your shoes.  Three separate recyclable containers were provided, prompting long lines to form as guests attempted to select the proper bin for their garbage.  Wrong choices resulted in expulsion from the reception.

Food kept appearing as if by magic.  Erin O’Loughlin and Genevieve Woods were stellar representatives of YES.  The Youth Employment Services, a non-profit group of Ojai students, can be proud of the way these young ladies kept the guests’ tummies full and the tables spotless.

The show runs through July 8 unless all of the photos are sold before then.  But have no fear, I’m sure we can find replacements.  So hurry on down to the Art Center.  You can easily identify my photos.  They don’t have any ribbons.


I’ve been hung

Now that I’ve got your attention.

On Wednesday Sweetie and I saw the inside of city government.  Well, the building anyway.  We spent most of the day at Ojai City Hall, a venerable property that was donated to the city many years ago and is the seat of power in our fine city.

We were there hanging my photos.  With Roger’s expert guidance and help, we spotted twenty-five pieces throughout the building.   They’ll be there until March 12 for all the world to see.   I’m grateful to the Ojai City Arts Commission for their gracious invitation to display my work.

The photos are focused…pun intended…on Lake Casitas and on the oil wells near us.  Sweetie and I have been doing a project at Lake Casitas for several months.  I thought that the old lake should get more respect.  Seems like she’s only thought of as a place where out-of-towners drag their RVs and beer to.  Or her water that sometimes yields big bass to fisherman…at least that’s what they tell us. 


 The oil wells are the result of months of work trying to make them look alive and vibrant rather than the rusty. ratty old things that they are.  We tried to get some other venues interested in an exhibit devoted to them.  Most said “Oil wells, who’d be interested in those?”  Or they didn’t respond at all.  Must have been the shock.  The director of the Santa Paula Oil Museum looked at me, her eyes glazed over and she said something like “Why would the oil museum want to show pictures of oil wells.”  I couldn’t think of a good response.


Anyway, you’re all invited to our exhibit.  If you want some free food, come join us on Thursday, January 22 from 5pm to 6:30pm at City Hall.  Sweetie’s cookies will be the highlight of the show, I’m sure.  Sorry, no booze unless it’s in a paper bag out by the trash bin.  It’s a public building, so they only allow alcohol in the Mayor’s office…I think.



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