Saturdays If You Like

Yeah, that’s a lame title, but I couldn’t think of a better one.

Well anyway, let me explain it.  When I was a kid, up until now, one of my favorite movies has been The Gods Must Be Crazy, about a Bushman forced out of the Kalahari to dispose of an evil Coke bottle that has been dropped into his village by an absent minded guy in an airplane.

The narrator of the film explains that 500 kilometers from the Kalahari, there is a big, bustling city where people work normal hours.  At 7am, they rise to go to work.  By 9am, they are working.  At 10am, they take a coffee break.  At 12:30, they take a lunch break and by 5pm, they are heading home.  Monday to Friday they do this, having Saturdays and Sundays off.

For the Bushman though, its always been Tuesday or Thursday or Saturday for that matter.  They don’t follow any kind of calendar and they don’t have to do things by any set hours during the day.  Their lives aren’t so segmented.

I might be in the minority, but somehow I’ve always liked the Bushman way.  When I had what I used to call a “normal” job, I’d be in by 9am, working until 5pm.  I always wondered how it was that I started at 9 and finished by 5pm.  Sometimes I still had work at 5pm, but at 5pm I was ordered to stop.  On Saturdays and Sundays, the conventional calendar said I didn’t need to come to work.

For about eight years, I’ve been a teacher and I have this sort of unconventional schedule.  I work from 9 to 12pm sometimes and have the afternoon off.  Sometimes I work until 11pm.  Sometimes I have Thursday afternoon off.  Something I work on Saturdays.  I go through periods of time when I work on Saturdays and now we’re in one of those periods.

Working on Saturdays really isn’t that bad.  You’re out of the house.  You don’t sleep in but that’s OK.  My work on Saturdays is usually easier than during the week.  Most of all, you get to be out when a lot of people are in their houses.

Call its Saturdays if you will.  But its pretty great I think:

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Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus

No, I did not write this poem.  Its kind of famous, as it is on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty.  I never gave it much mind but lately I’ve thought more and more about what brings us all to this great United States of America.

This past week we celebrated July 4th, rapidly becoming one of my favorite holidays.  I’ve gone to the fireworks every year since 2010 and I can’t even believe how much I still enjoy going.  I thought it would get boring after a year but it never has.

As usual I go with a group of friends and most of my friends are from other places.  I always think its so funny that I moved to Boston, the cradle of liberty, the place where the United States began and I started to feel very American.  Then I also started to work with students from all over the world.  I become American to leave America.  I guess.

But then I thought of how funny it was what had all brought us together.  I went with three Spanish friends and a Brazilian friend.  Three of us live here in Boston and two were visiting.  I think its so funny always that I’m the only one in my extended group of friends who went to an American high school with the cliques, the cheerleaders, the football players, the divided lunch rooms and the proms.  The rest of my friends grew up in other countries.  I really only have three purely American friends.  The rest are either immigrants or the children of immigrants.

The poem, July 4th and the composition of my friends group made me think a lot about who gets to come to America, who stays here and why.  The current political climate seems to be really harsh on letter more people in.  Obviously I think that’s wrong.  It kinda goes against what this country is really all about.

Either way, walking through the crowds on July 4th made me happy thinking about what had brought us all to the United States.

Let’s enjoy some fireworks photos!!!!!
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Albertslund

Welcome to Wrongsideofthecamera, worldwide media juggernaut, those of you who have landed here because of a search of the word “Albertslund.”  I hope you enjoy the prose and the pictures.

Well, there will be some prose on what Albertslund is, where it is, what part it plays in the life of this blog writing person and how it is connected to a lot of poop.  Stay with me. I’ll make a point eventually.

So in 1997, which seems like yesterday and a long time ago, both at the same time, I boarded a plane from Newark Airport bound for Copenhagen, Denmark and a really uncertain future.  I had departed for my long dreamt of study abroad semester.

I had seen images of the seaside Copenhagen, slick Scandinavian architecture and the like.  Imagine my surprise when I happened upon this:

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What on earth is that you ask??  Well, this is Albertslund, the student town I lived in in Denmark.  No, it does not usually look like that.  Usually it is not covered in fog but that’s how it lives in my memory.

Now round about the time of the actual anniversary of my departure to Denmark and a detailed account of all the interesting folks and things that happened to me will be detailed in an entry in August.  I’ve already gotten most of it written out.  It just needs photos to dress it up.

I bring up Albertslund here not because of a sudden fit of nostalgia, but hey, nostalgia isn’t terrible.  Albertslund was a kind of an interesting place because there were these giant smoke stacks in the middle of it, kind of beckoning to you from all points.  The little student town was built around these smoke stacks and the whole rest of the place just kind of lived around them.

When I moved to Boston, it reminded me a lot of Copenhagen.  The two places share a lot of the same qualities.  On Saturday, I visited the Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant in Winthrop or as I like to call them — the poopie tanks.

That saying was pioneered by one of my favorite students of all time, when we passed by the sewage treatment plant.  He goes “hello poopies” when we sailed by the tanks.

Now here’s how the poopie tanks are connected to Albertslund.  Albertslund had its huge smoke stacks and they were kind integrated into the town, while the poopie tanks were integrated into the surroundings of this little park in Winthrop on Deer Island.  You could walk, jog or bike around the poopie tanks.  There was something egalitarian and kinda Danish about the whole thing that I really admired.  And from what I remember of my time in Denmark, my Danish friends would have loved to visit a park that contained a poopie tank.

Danish friends, express yourself in the blog commentary section if you disagree.  Anyway, you want photos from the poopie tanks??  You get photos from the poopie tanks:

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We All Get Dressed For Bill

I don’t usually go around agreeing with Anna Wintour, but for the title of this article, I agree with her.  A year ago today came the sad news that New York Times style photographer and Wrongsideofthecamera patron saint Bill Cunningham had passed away.

As I wrote about on this blog several times, I met Mr. Cunningham a few times over the years.  Once he was so engrossed in his work that he paid me no mind at all.  The second time he was funny and warm when I ran into him in front of South Station and we talked about how Boston had changed since he was a kid growing up there.  He couldn’t get over how beautiful the Greenway was and I agreed with him.  A prettier piece of urban park I haven’t yet seen than the Greenway, especially in the summer.

Looking at Bill’s work really did heavily influence what I photograph.  Bill is looking for stylish people who stick out.  I look for that as well and kind of magic moments that can happen with extremes of fashion, as the shots I’ll post here will show.

The best fashion show is definitely on the street.  Always has been, always will be.  I miss you Bill!!!!!!!!

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The Gentle Rhythm Of Life

This week Boston was overtaken by Sail Boston mania.  Let me explain.  Every couple of years, the navies of the world send their most beautiful tall ships to Boston.  The ships are open for viewing and visiting.  They are usually filled with charming young men hawking all sorts of great things like wine.

The year I got to go on three of the ships that came for Sail Boston.  First, was the Union ship from Peru.  Then there was the Esmeralda that floated over here from Chile, a country I love.  Of course I boarded the ship and vocally voiced my undying love for that country.  The third was a US Coast Guard vessel that boasted a flag the size of your average football field.  Nah, I’m kidding.  But the thing could have easily covered half of a football field.

I observed a kind of gentle rhythm of life on the boats.  Jobs were done but there was also a palpable excitement on board each of the vessels.  I enjoyed how the sailors were so eager to answer questions and so nice about answering them.  I don’t know how I’d feel after answering the same questions over and over but the guys I saw on the ships, they didn’t seem to mind.  Just a part of the rhythm of life for them.

To a great Sail Boston week!!!!!

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Beasts of the C Line

I’ve been taking advantage more of the C line lately.  Brookline is so nearby and so lovely and its a shame I never visited it before, even though I’ve lived over here forever.

So on Saturday, I rode the C line to North Station in the hopes that I could catch a commuter rail train to Salem.  Those hopes were of course shattered but I’ll reveal that part a little later.  I mean and there’s of course my blind faith in any kind of public transportation in Boston to get me anywhere.  There’s that.

Anyway, so I get on the C line in Coolidge Corner and I see this beautiful, massive husky dog.  Now I’m a dog person.  I used to be a dog and cat person but now I think cats are OK but dogs are just so much more fun and better!!!!  They are happy to see you, unlike many cats….

So I go over and start petting the massive husky.  The husky, whose name was Loki and was the size of a small horse decided to put on a show for everyone.  He went from person to person to person basically asking to be pet by the people around him.

As I mentioned, I’m a dog person and next to me there was an open seat.  Loki was walking around the C line train, getting pet by everyone and when he got tired or bored of this magnificent exercise, he would just sit down next to me.  I thought he was a good seat mate, albeit one who decided to lick my camera lens.  I told him not to worry because it was just a filter on my camera lens that he licked anyway.

So we get to Park street and Loki gets off, I guess on his continuing tour to entertain others.  I was meanwhile covered in dog hair, as the owner warned I would be.

Then things got interesting.  I’m trying to get to North Station.  The C line was ostensibly going to North Station but when we got to Government Center, they kicked everyone off the train and signaled for us to get out by opening the train doors towards the wall.  Magnificent.  Then we all stood on the train platform waiting for a train to actually take us to North Station, when they told us to get back on the train because it was actually going to North Station after all.

Who cares.  Either way, I got to meet Loki and that made the day very much worth it:

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The Riot Is Back!!!!!!!

Hold on to your hats, my blog reading public.  This is going to be a long post where I will reveal many things about myself.  Be patient.  If you aren’t patient, you can scroll down and just see the photos without reading all of this stuff.

Recently, the blog celebrated its tenth birthday.  We’re nearly in the teen years!!!!!!  I always thought I shouldn’t ever reveal anything about myself on this blog but I have over the years, revealed things here and there about myself and the world hasn’t stopped spinning and the sky has not caved in so I guess its safe.

So here I’m going to unfurl the story of the Riot family, actually they have another name but I’ll just keep that to myself.  The Riot family is my second family and I will talk about how they came to have that great title.

Let’s go back.  The year is 1994.  There’s this teenager and she goes to high school in the suburbs of New York and an unhappier creature you have never seen in your life.  She’s counting down the days until school ends and she can be free.  Who was that teenager???  Me.  And the place was Valhalla, New York, a place best seen in the rear view mirror of your car.

High school was a self contained ecosystem, to which someone had created the rules when I wasn’t around.  I was left to spend the next few years trying to figure them out, while they kept getting changed on me.  Oh you wear blue jeans?  We prefer stone washed.  You listen to rock??  No, we only listen to pop.  And so on and so on and so on.

I lived with the hope that one day I would exit this ecosystem forever and be with people who were like me.  People who liked to study.  People who studied because they were actually interested in the world.  I had hoped college would be the place for that.

I studied really hard in high school.  Most teenagers fight with their parents about doing their homework.  My main fights with my parents revolved around their insistence that I take classes like physics and chemistry that I knew I would get bad grades in and by bad grades, I mean anything under 90 percent.  One social studies teacher gave me a 93 on a paper I wrote and told me to do better the next week.  Yeah, this sounds border line nerdy, which it really was, but I studied hard for two reasons.  First, because I am actually naturally curious about the world and second because good grades would get me into the college of my choice and out of the godforsaken Valhalla.

When it came for college choosing time, I visited a lot of schools and none of them really struck me as the place I wanted to study.  I wasn’t even really sure of what I wanted to study.  I thought something politics or historic or something along those lines, but I wasn’t even sure.

I visited a lot of colleges in New York state with my parents, as we lived there at the time. If there was a school I wanted to go to, it was New York University.  There was the University at Albany, the last school on earth I’d ever want to go to.  I kinda even hated visiting there.  I’m sure you can see where this story is going at this point.

So when it came to college selection time, I got into almost every school I applied to, even NYU.  My GPA was really good, above 3.7 but my SAT scores were lackluster.  I still got into the schools that were in the top hundred in the United States.  Now here’s the thing.  My parents made too much money for me to get a scholarship and my SAT scores weren’t good enough to be offered one, so while I got into all of the schools I applied to, my father made the decision where I would go to school and that school was Albany.

I graciously accepted the decision and thanked my father for his foresight into the treacherous world of student loan debt.  NO WAY.  No, I was extremely angry at my father for choosing this school for me.  I yelled at him, we had really bad fights at the time and the college selection process turned into a war between my father and I that went on for years after I had actually gone to college.  Inside though, it felt like all of my hard work of maintaining my GPA and being a good student was for nothing if I was to go to this school that was so low on the academic scale.

So off I went in the fall of 1995 to college.  This scene, I remember like it was yesterday.  First, I had been expecting for years to go to a school with a brick campus covered in ivy. Instead, I went to a concrete campus that it was rumored had originally been intended to be a prison in Arizona!!!!!  I was to live in something called Indian Quad in the high rise Mohawk Tower on the 16th floor.  I remember all of this so clearly.  We arrived with my loads of stuff, just to be told that we’d have to wait about four hours to have my stuff loaded onto a cart and taken in an elevator up to my new room.

The time finally came and I went up and met my first direct roommate, a girl named Oda.  We were to be living in a suite with seven girls sharing three rooms.  I’m not going to smear Oda up here, but we were very different.  Oda and I were to share the smallest of the three rooms.  Oda listened to Mariah Carey and I listened to Nirvana.  When you are 18, that makes a huge difference.  Now I’m friends with people and I have absolutely no idea what kind of music they like at all, but back then, meeting someone who listened to Mariah Carey meant an automatic negative in that category.  Oda also used to log on to the internet all day and all night and type on her computer keyboard, all day and all night.  Needless to say, there were a lot of sleepless nights to go around.

There were five other girls who shared the living space with us.  Among then was one girl named Jenn and another one named Rupali.  I kind of sat and talked to all of the girls there and for a while, we did get along, until all the personalities came out.  Rupali and I butted heads a lot over different things.  Jenn, I felt like there could be a friendship with but I had to tread carefully.

We all shared that living space from September until May of 1996, when we all dispersed to our separate corners of the world, or in that case, New York state.  I went to visit Jenn and her family in Queens over Christmas vacation and that’s when I got to know the rest of the Riot Family.  Her father, whose name is Bill, but who is always known as Bilbo, was this sarcastic, funnier version of David Letterman.  His idea of fun was talking to his dog and saying that the dog loves him more than his family.  Jenn’s mother was always sweet, just like my mother.

The friendship went through its bumps.  Jenn and I were and still are on opposite sides politically.  That led to a lot of clashes.  Jenn and I have known each other for 22 years and there were plenty of times when I thought that the friendship was as good as dead.  We sometimes went years without speaking to each other.

Then this funny thing happened.  Jenn moved to Pennsylvania to be closer to her family and she started a family.  Her sons took a liking to me.  I’m the adult that loves to play with them.  I take them skiing.  They love quizzing me on what languages are spoken in different countries and I’ve kind of become a bit of a star attraction over there!!!!!!

Now there’s a new baby in the Riot family, a little dark haired sweetheart who is adored by his brothers.  The baby has 62 babysitters at any time, meaning he is held and played with constantly.  While I played with him, I decided to read Zbigniew Brzezinski’s obituary to him from the New York Times.  I thought it was time that the baby learned a bit about Cold War politics.  I’m sure the baby appreciated it.

Well and the friendship with Bilbo and Jenn’s mom has also deepened.  Bilbo has become someone I can go to for life advice.  My own family is always great and I will always love them, but sometimes its good to just let someone else know about your problems, concerns or ideas and to have another sounding board.

Bilbo’s sarcasm knows absolutely no end.  He came over and cooed over the baby, while commenting on how fat his legs were.  On another visit, I heard a story about how he injected watermelons with vodka or tequila.  I told him I wanted to start a Twitter page for all of his sayings, but Bilbo turned me down flat.  He wants to deny the world access to his premium content!!!!!!!!

I guess what I can say here in conclusion is that sometimes it isn’t immediately obvious that a long standing friendship would form with someone.  At this point I’ve known Jenn for longer than I didn’t know her and we’re kind of like sisters as I don’t have any siblings of my own.

Well, anyway, if you read down this far, you deserve some photos.  Here’s the Riot gang on full blast:

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