Snakes in the grass.

What an exciting weekend folks. I am currently writing from the couch at my coworker’s house. Through a twist of fate, my house sitting gig fell through.
My boss suggested that I utilize a trek cruiser bike that we retrofitted with an electric assist kit from Bionx and attach a bob trailer to it to haul my backback and such from the house. I can attest that this system was not designed for the loads, but moving at 25 mph with a hundred pound load over the pinellas trail overpasses is too much fun to ignore. Unfortunately, with such loads, the battery life does suffer. Though the system is a great tool for bicycle commuters, not carrying a full touring load. There world show room is in downtown St. Petersburg.
In other news…
My iBook, finally, stopped allowing me to use any programs requiring vector rendering or flash, including Firefox. Luckily I found an iPad 2 on a super discount. I’ve been able to finally get much more accomplished in an afternoon, than I usually get done in a week. Sadly, I found my snake nemesis, in the photo below. Though, I’m pretty sure the one I encountered a week ago was larger.br />
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The Snowbirds.

"One crow for sorrow, two for mirth, Three for a wedding, four for a birth." ironic image from clearwater beach florida.

Presenting a first week on the gulf coast of florida. After that viscous first couple of days in the sunshine state, sarah and I began to relax, first in Palm Harbor with a friend, then Large. Traveling through three temperate zones left us a little worn out. My crazy camera fiasco subsided and over the next week acquired a used Canon rangefinder and AE-1, to subsidize my problematic Nikon body and broken Bronica. In the next few days a constant need for salt water and morning bagels, made by retired new yorkers, kept us sated. Our host Mike took us out to a late night romp one the Pier 60 Beach. Sarah and I ventured out that following wednesday to experience the full tourist trap experience in the day.

pirates at the beach.
birds at the dock in Palm Harbor.
My two new companions. Left, a Canonet QL17; right, an AE-1

To be short, after the middle of the week, we moved over to stay with my uncle and aunt in Largo. Aside from frequent, humid walks to the mall and ruining a pair of shoes, the week is best summarized in a few rolls of film. Sarah and I parted company for the weekend. My uncle, Leo, lake most of my family, dazzles many a taste bud if left alone in a kitchen. The food to say the least is spectacular. Which is a nice change from the endless strip malls of central Florida and a great way to end any evening. At the invite of my cousin I may take a break from travel to work and raise money for the next part of the adventure. In the mean time, I point my lenses to the abandoned buildings left here with the changing temperaments of the tourist trade.

An abandoned carwash. This is one of the sites i found on an excursion through Largo and Clearwater.
Largo's Heritage Villiage.
Largo's Heritage Villiage. When we arrived my flash batteries had just died. I asked Johnathan if he had any. Inside the church, a collection plate had four new AA batteries. Devine intervention to allow this shot.

The Bailout.

Sarah and I found two new unsuspecting victims of our rampant cross continental spree on the evening of february19th. Slightly outside Atlanta’s great bypass in a small thoughtful town and an address were all we had received a day before via a short phone call about a mythical warm bed to crawl into. The two days prior found us pitching a tent and crashing, bundled in layers of blankets and coats in the hills of tennessee after a friend’s backyard south of Lexington. Breakfast is always the first accomplishment of the day. A little slower to finish that morning, but the five hours on the road, stopping here and there, were harder than we had expected. At least the campground provided nice hot showers.

Front of the diner in Norcross.

In the outer loop of the city, Boulevard Diner demanded we stop for internet access and free coffee refills. I am a sucker for chrome and red neon. Free wifi with some of the best service I have experienced in any restaurant. A good resting spot, great food, and the ability to unwind with a massive stack of pancakes. This is also a great lesson on when and when not to eat regarding a road trip of this caliber.

I had a few rolls of film burning a hole in my bag so we awaited processing at a local pharmacy with a 1 hour lab. By no means was this to be our much awaited destination for the evening. On a rescue from my coworker Chris, mentioned in previous posts, we had an arrangement for a place to stay in Norcross. Chris set us up with some of his family for the night, so we could sleep comfortably, before booking early in the morning on our 9 hour drive to Tampa Bay. Sarah and I approached a secluded dead end suburban street, per the iphone’s directions. This continued past a few spooky gates and onto a dirt and gravel path the width of a single small sedan. Night had set in. there was a pause and an unanswered call to our host as we passed what turned out to be a small quest house on the property. Down a slight winding hill and a spectacular wood and stone house, romantically lit, fell into view. Our host stood welcoming just outside the front door. Sarah parked.

Stereotypically, an artist’s rugged beat up vintage pick-up truck sat to the side of the drive way. Our hosts were to be artist, Sal Brownfield, and writer, Eve Hoffman. These are family of Chris and the beginning of a night of food and conversation which have shaped my personal outlook and inspiration for our trip and every time a shutter clicks on my camera. After unloading our bags into a drive up, lower level bedroom, we joined Eve and Sal in the kitchen where we had a late, light meal and a beer. We journeyed to the living room in the house. Glass windows, floor to ceiling with naked wood trim and a collection of the most mismatched, yet complimenting furniture beckoned for a round-the-coffee table chat. A shower, rearranging my oversized duffel, and bed were the last order of the day.

A veiw out the door of the lower driveway to Eve and Sal's house. One of only three images that came out from my malfunctioning camera while we were in Atlanta.

Waking after a nice long sleep, 10am; Sal and Eve had fruit, cereal, and coffee waiting. A little more conversation, then off on the road again. A simple stay, well needed, yet of our short conversations a few clear points resonated. Eve, both night and morning, provided books like ‘Weird Georgia” by Jim Miles and locations to see inviting us to visit Atlanta again, like Fab Downtown Lunchroom. By morning we talked of writing and a need to remain focused on just that, writing and sharpening the skills daily. Eve brought an interesting idea that accents, southern from her perspective, are being eroded nationally, through the internet and other video media. She led into a self assessment for our journey regarding editing, keeping things raw and responsive or controlled and eloquent. As we discussed our travels sarah and I heard stories of traveling east to become an actor and a tale of Boris Marlowe in Provincetown, MA from Sal. As we discussed media and art, he dropped in with a simple question. Through this point in my travels, I have had unexplainable issues developing film at local labs, paying costs for a “dying” media, and wrestled with the possibility of acquiring a digital SLR to curb costs. The sentence he uttered which sliced through my skull and rewired my mind’s lighting came. Between film and digital, “do you need instant results?”

The answer is no. I have all the time in the world, no income and now real bills, no responsibility, and am in a situation which is unique day to day. I love digital, but I choose to shoot film. I have my reasons, but as an artist first, with journalism and paying gigs being second, I find film and its required dedication in this age, to be my best loved tool. The integrity in my expression is what I value the most. Although it may take a side seat to food and drink, with new friends whenever the chance arises.

 

Please check out the links, after originally writing this I discovered an amazing book released by Eve, “Red Clay“. Sal’s work can be seen here. I look forward to our communications in the next few months. I apologize for a lack of photos as this is the roll of film half eaten by my camera.

Toasters

Reaching the end of our first full day in florida. Weather here treats us weary northerners extremely well. We entered the state after a grueling nine hour drive; Atlanta to Tampa. Light to moderate showers bathed the little civic as I sped down I75 then onto 27 South as temperatures hit low 60’s. From peanut factories in southern Georgia and discovering the true meaning of strip malls in Ocala, what I envisioned as the beginnings of a thunderstorm turned into rampant sprinklers on the fritz. I lay my head dozing off onto the pillow in a suburb known as Palm Harbor.

The day swept by with whimsical photos of pelicans and teaching fourteen year olds how to properly maintain a bmx bike. Three years as a bike tech and eleven years spending thirty miles a day on a bicycle tend to not die when cries for help are heard from a nearby bike path. The boys were not only amazed by my knowledge and history of BMX, but also my skills with their bikes after eight years with out a bmx of my own. I found flattery in providing my drivers license as proof that I am indeed just recently thirty and not twenty-three. I must look damn good for my age and having missed a shower for the last two days.

First things we see in the morning haunt us the rest of the day. No batteries and the mug is still empty.

Today is bitter sweet at a glance and tragic and fun as my memory will provide in the days and weeks to come. Wandering the beach in Clearwater’s hotel island, cold and sand covered to the knees. It does get everywhere, indeed. I am as I might put it, stuck in 35mm hell for the coming week, or unless I can find a replacement for my now in operative Bronica, The Toaster. The first instance at the peanut factory, where the mirror mechanism initially bound, brought me to almost tears and screaming rage. After this morning, the shutter released and the last of the current roll finished out at the boat docks on the west side of town. The bmx-ers were dazzled with the age of my non video, film camera, in their words more or less. And tried to find solutions or ideas as I wrenched, greasily on a bound chain on one of the bikes. Three juvenile heads couldn’t unravel the mysterious broken innards of the chrome finished camera.

Eventually, the shutter unbound again. Off to the local camera shop, Lake Shore Camera Exchange, to pawn as much equipment as my bag would carry, including our house host’s dusty Nikon N75, donated to aid my cause, to attain a usable medium format camera. My film cost for the trip included a seventy-five percent ratio of 120 film. There is more money in medium format film than Nikon equipment in my collection of belongings. The attendant at the store, an older larger built, tall, gentleman, who claimed the bronica may have been one of the best optically constructed cameras showed me nothing aside from 35mm bodies priced at almost double to triple the tags seen daily at shops in New York or any larger midwest reseller. I longed for The Columbus Camera Groupback home. Sarah, Mike, our host, and I left slightly disconcerted with the high trade in prices offered for the cheap nikons and the refusal to buy a camera with such an outstanding reputation simply on the rational of Bronica’s retirement as a company a few years back.

A simple guide book provided by our hosts in Atlanta, to aid our navigation out of Georgia and allow us to stretch from time to time, taking a break from driving.The inside of the little Toaster on her last day in semi-working order. At the time of our visit to the camera shop in Florida, I was unaware she was actually broken.

I desperately searched the web for information, praying for any indication of the nature of the mechanical problem. The only real advice given in searches, “Buy a Hasssy”, one of those cameras of the same period as The Toaster, known for breaking under much less stress and costing a trans atlantic trip and half a grand to repair. A light found its lost way through the tunnel, KOH’s in upstate New York began popping up on Google. On Friday, I’ll attempt to pack the bronica to ship back to Dayton, OH, sitting with my one trunk in my parent’s attic, until I return and bite down on the $350 price tag and two month turn around on the repair bill.

Upon arrival at the local camera shop, I was still unaware that the malfunction was anything more than user error. This is an inside shot of what occurred later in the evening within the camera.
While at the local camera shop, I was still unaware that the malfunction was anything other than user error. This is what I latter discovered. The mirror is locked down due to an issue with the gearing in the winding/cocking mechanism.

As of this writing, I’ve posted my plea in my Facebook account, with the reposting aid of my friend Robin, I currently plea for assistance in finding an inexpensive alternative to use as our adventure passes into the western states. On the table for consideration is anything able to shoot 120 and 220 film at any price point. Please, if possible, email me with any input or feed back. I do apologize as more articles are to follow in the next week. Right now, I sleep, adding a few days to consider how to end what may become a temporary, mandatory break from producing new content here.