Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thank You Sir - May I Have Another

It was a Monday night and I'd been up later than usual. At about 1:30am, I walked outside to take one last gander over the city before going to sleep. Here in Dealville, we have a little five-plex next door that I bought way back in the day. My tenants occasionally challenge my patience with late night parties, noise and all the things that go along with college students. While I was on the porch, I heard a loud bang from next door - which sounded like a 22 or a rock hitting the tin roof. There were voices too and it was such a provocative sound I couldn't let it pass. I pulled on a pair of pants, stuck my pistol in my pocket and walked next door. 

As I round the bend of the driveway, I saw a group of about ten guys standing in the headlights of a parked car near where Chris parks his truck. It looked like there was some sort of commotion. I just knew they were up to no good and that I was going to have to yell at them and run them off, for certainly they didn't live there. Well as I got closer, I recognized Matt Martin - my favorite tenant and his roommate John among the group. OK - so I couldn't be pissed because they were my favorites. I'm standing on the road looking down on these guys and three or four of them are leading Matt. Well he's been drinking I thought - after all, he's graduating this month and only today had his last class and turned in his last 30 page paper.
But wait - Matt pulls down his pants - his lilly white and wolly Viking ass shining in the truck headlights. He bends over slightly, being supported by his three of four friends. And then from below the wall, I see this other kid wielding a four foot wood paddle - making practice swings for Matt's ass. Ahhhh I said to myself - their all trading swats. Matt looked briefly over his left shoulder and said to his paddler - "Now don't hit my nutt sack". With one last practice swing - I could hear the whisper of the wind singing from the paddle as it sailed through the air - a dangerous and ominous looking slat of wood. BAM! - it rang out at hitting Matt's ass. I'll be darned if it didn't sound just like a 22 rifle. Matt paused for a moment - stood up and slowly pulled up his pants never once flinching - a distinct pink whelp angled perfectly across his ass cheeks. I couldn't keep my mouth shut and had to laugh, calling down to Matt how happy I was to have witnessed that moment. And without missing a step - this group of fraternal lads continued to exchange swats for another 30 minutes. I put the last of the trash sitting next to the dumpster up for the night and walked on home and climbed back in bed - then chuckled at every crack I heard from the five-plex below until I fell asleep.

Obamarama and Bling

I was driving into town when I got a call from Jeff. He was standing on my porch in a rare visit from Corpus. He'd brought with him a pal from Columbia name Juan Pablo. I turned around and went home. No most of the time when Jeff shows up it's to see if I have any open bottles of wine or whiskey laying around that he can nurse and prep himself for going out. We used to make jokes back in the day about the DZ's showing up at a mixer, walking in to say hello, but then grabbing two drinks and then going back out to their car where their boyfriend was waiting. Old trivia but I hear it hasn't change much in twenty five years. 

So I come home and visit. Juan Pablo is studying in Corpus and his father is a photographer in Columbia. My M4 was sitting on the pool table with it's 90 round drum clip in the receiver. When he saw it, his mouth opened wide like he was in awe. He said that in Columbia they are not allowed to own or possess such weapons. He said he'd never seen on so close. Well, it was unloaded so I let him pick it up - which he promptly wielded across the room in some sort of tactical maneuver - Jeff and I both ducking out of the way. 

We couldn't let him get away without having something to show the kids back home - and so we shot a couple of portraits for his Facebook page - I bobbing his teeth and ears to make him more appealing. He's now got the coolest Facebook avatar in all of Columbia.

Oh - and I have new bling wheel on my truck for the forthcoming Obama years.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eagle Sound Revisited

Emory Peak

It was a Saturday morning. We awoke to near freezing temperatures with light frost here and there and the most noxious smell of skunk. We could hear in the distance some sort of animal flock feeding and foraging. As I walked through the cactus to gather a few morning images, I saw a stand of Javalina not fifty yards from our camp.

After a couple of pop-tarts and coffee (French vanilla coffee grounds floating in hot water), I set out to photograph our wild pigs. I thought there were just a few – and I found them in short order tracking upwind and listening for their rustling in the brush. I spied three or four of them straddling a prickly pear cactus and eating a good bit of it. It seems they trample the plant first and then eat from it. As I clicked my first picture they discovered I was standing there, about fifteen feet away, wearing a yellow long sleeve shirt and bright read down vest. Off they went – twelve or thirteen in all, racing through the brush and then across the road.  

By 9:30am, Chris and I drove to a nearby hillside – a place that was littered with several large volcanic boulders and we hiked to the top. We could see much of the highlands from there we were, but fearing fatigue, we spent little time exploring and made our way back to camp. We’d decided that we were going to climb Emory Peak that afternoon – the second highest peak in Texas. 

At exactly 1:05pm, we headed out of the Big Bend basin looking up toward the peak. The map said it was 4.3 miles and an increase in elevation of 3000 feet. It is interesting, the psychology of motivation. You can’t really start out on a hike for the pinnacle and then stop when you’re tired. You have to keep on going no matter what. It’s sort of the rule. I hiked it once before with Brian in the summer and frankly, don’t remember it being such a trek. Maybe three or four times Chris would say quietly, are we close to the top. I’d say just as quietly – no not yet. When we got to the saddle at the base of the peak – we were both pretty darn tired. We still had another 1.2 miles and 800 or 1000 feet vertical to go. All of it was uphill! 

We stopped for a moment to rest on our way through the last leg. There was a loud huff from the brush and then the breaking of sticks and brush as something large moved about. As we made our may along, we ran across a beautiful black bear. Although he was weary of our presence, he didn’t mind our watching him. He made a point to stay about 40 feet away and to keep some sort of brush between us. It was just the inspiration we needed – a break with something cool in it. I could see the top – although a good click away – we finally had a target that wasn’t occluded by trees and mountain parts. The views just got better and better as we got higher – the moon rising over the desert. He had no time to kid around – the day was ending and crickets were starting to sing in the shadows. The temperature was starting to drop.  

We got to the top at about 4:20pm – deciding to stay only long enough to take a few pictures. At 4:30, we started on our way back down. By the time we got back to the bottom, we both were pretty much wiped out. We calculated the trek again and found that all told, it was a ten mile run – more than either of us had trained for.  

In another cool note to the story, on our way up, we ran across three guys from Waco – undoubtedly from Baylor – (all non-smoking, non-drinking virgins saving themselves for marriage – not) coming down from the peak. Somewhere along the way, I’d lost my felt hat. As we continued up and they down, I hollered at them to keep an eye out for it and to hang it on a tree where I could find it. Sure enough – about a third or the way down, my hat was hanging from a tree. And when we got back to the bottom – after dark – they were just pulling away in their car and mentioned that they were glad I’d found my hat. I thanked them but was not in the mood to talk. Somehow I’ll track them down and thank them properly.

Six Degrees of Separation

According to Indian legend when the great creator finished making the Earth, a large pile of rejected stoney material was left over. Already finished with the main job, the creator threw this material into one heap and made it Big Bend country.  

It was Wednesday night when Christopher and I made the wild hair decision to drive out to Big Bend and camp for the weekend. Chris had to finish a lab for school and I had to accept the delivery of a huge package A/C unit for my apartments. By Thursday night Chris was just about finished with his work, I with mine, and so we said on the phone – um, well if you want to go??? We settled on the idea that at 6am we’d blast out of San Marcos and head out to Big Bend – the most remarkable wilderness camping place in the Universe. I went to the gym anyway to prep myself for the long trek West.  

5:45am came early and at the front of the house, the sunrise is my alarm. When my cute little iPhone did its morning ding, I was just settled in with the idea of actually being asleep. I raised my head over my sleeping dog and looked across the landscape. It was a spectacular morning – a long orange and deep red band of light anticipated the sunrise – a layer of cloud across the horizon. I laid my head down for fifteen more minutes – hoping for a moment that we’d both forget. By 6am, I was out of bed hobbling around the house in my boxers– gathering my camera gear, feeding the dog, finding my last minute stuff, taking a shower and wondering if Chris was still asleep. 

At 6:37, Chris showed up at the door. Kodak so wanted to go with us – jumping around with excitement in hopes of getting into the car with us. A quick packing job, past tense, and we were on our way – Kodak sulking at the door.  

By 4pm, we were pulling into our campsite. We put up the tent, poured a glass of Whiskey, and listened to the silence. We had relaxed for only a moment, when in the distance – just barely rising above the sound of birds and crickets were voices. On the horizon were two guys hiking along the nearby ridge.  

The sun was going down and the light magnificent, warm and fleeting. Chris was diggin in the dirt with his archeology tools and did actually find a place where it seems Indians made Ocre. I was running out of light and so I hiked up the road toward an old cemetery. I ran across the two guys on the road. We smiled, introduced ourselves and chatted. It turns out both of these guys were from San Antonio serving in the Air Force. One guy was an “intel” officer and the other a Pilot. He said quite casually that he flew for the Guard. I said, “really – do you know Tim Lawlor?”. He smiled and bowed his head for a moment. “We flew together at Aviano” he said. Oh My God – this guy was Tim’s best bud and I was down here in the middle "Nowhere, Texas". He continued to say that Tim had just called him a few days earlier on the phone. I told him that Tim had been my roommate for a while in San Marcos before he went to flight school, and of course, delivered a little dirt that would be helpful in future conversation. Yeager was his name – the flight name Pilots get from their wingmen and flight pals. Wow – an American hero here in Big Bend who knows my friend Tim – and who also is his friend.   

The sun set as the two walked off in the distance – I still marveling at the exchange we’d just had and that we – here in the middle of Big Bend, Texas we were indeed connected by Kevin Bacon’s Six Degrees of separation. Awesome! 

The DQ Dude

We’d talked all morning about getting to Ft. Stockton and having a Whataburger. Oh yah – double meat, bouble cheese with extra onions and jalepenos. Chris was going to have the Whatachicken  with cheese and bacon. He said, “and it’s good for you too”. I laughed.  

We drove the entire length of the city and discovered to our dismay that there was no Whataburger. Dammit – so we went to Dairy Queen.  

It was rush hour there at lunch time – a vast ghetto presence, a few cowboys, and one DQ Dude. We sat at the only table open and right across in front of me was this 35ish white dude sitting with his  75ish year old mother who was balancing her checkbook. Across from him was a table with three girls – not one of them pretty by San Marcos standards – but well endowed.  

I watched him for a bit and thought him to be acting a little unusual. He was watching the girls with particular interest and kept smacking him lips like he was drooling. Every once in a while his mother would say something to him and he would turn toward her, look down and had this expression on his face like he’d been whipped with a stick – “yes mummy”. Anyhow – to my surprise – after all, we are sitting in the lunch rush hour at the Diary Queen – the DQ Dude was loping his mule under his shirt tail – right across from his mother. Every time he looked over at the girls he’d put down his burger with his left hand and go to town with his right. The look on his face and expressions were – if I could describe them - moist, lascivious, giddy, exuberant, obsessed - and with words like "Oh My God" or "Yah Baby" repeated over and over in one's thoughts. It was the perfect demonstration one might see in a documentary movie about freaky, repressed perverts who live with their aging mother in a small West Texas town - as captured by the surveillance camera.  The girls finished their meal before he’d gotten to finish up with his lunch special. He watched them intently every step of the way through the store and then out into the parking lot.  

I mentioned to Chris, the ongoing display behind him. He said –“that’s so fucked up”. My thought – it is so fun to travel and to see the world in a different light and to return home better informed. 

Bad Ass Dank

Last summer Greg Gorman and I stopped through Kansas City – as you will recall - while shooting the Portraits of America gig for Disney. We had a good bit of wine and excellent food and interesting company. Greg grew up with all these cats there in KC, ran around with Jimmy Hoffa's kids, and nearly everyone we met had a father or brother arrested at Appalachia. It was one eye opening good time and I learned a few things I dare not repeat. 

As we continued on throughout the country, I often revisited my memories of Kansas City – being hosted by, well, the family - eating the very best, personalized Italian food and some of the best Barbecue - although we have some pretty good bbq down here in Texas.

So – I thought for a long time what I could do to send my thanks or to demonstrate my heart felt appreciation for having been included with my friend Greg and these historically significant people. I knew way back then what I thought would be appropriate and noteworthy. Having known a few Chefs in my day and folks who like to eat, all of them appreciate some new thing, a new combination, a new spice with which to concoct a meal. Mexican Oregano I thought – home grown in the Trans Pecos Mountains of West Texas – and it was something I could get my hands on.

Alas, the weather has been strange of late – last year dropping a flooding 44 inches where there is a usual 8. This year, nothing from the sky but lightning – and fire. But in the last few weeks of August, regular rains blessed the rocky landscape and the wild Oregano returned.

To make a long story short – I harvested fifteen pounds of Oregano from the cap rock over Spring Canyon – filling the back of my blazer. This is in Pandale, Texas on the Pecos River about 40 miles from our border with Mexico. So picture this – I drove the 305 miles back home with about a hundred spent .223 casings in my console and rolling around on the floorboard, a 9mm Sig next to the seat, my M4 in the back seat with a few cans of ammo – and a full trunk load of skunky Oregano. Had I been stopped in lets say, Junction, Texas – I’d probably still be there while they waited for a lab test from DPS. "I swear officer, it's Oregano". None the less, I made it home safely. I air dried all of it – spending an entire Saturday plucking leaves and grinding them finely in my Cuisinart.

This spice – here known as Mexican Oregano, as the Mexicans harvest it here for cooking – is a bit stronger and more fragrant than our more common variety. It is used here for sauces and chili. And so, I sent a large jar to Kansas City, to the Restaurant, and to the Chef - and then he called. 

Carl he says - I want to thank you for the Oregano. I loved your letter too. We had some important friends in last night from Sicily and I thought all day what special dish to prepare for them. What better surprise than to use your Oregano - and they raved about it. He continued with details and that my letter - which had accompanied the jar of spice - was now posted on the wall of the restaurant.   

There is a website for the ranch where this Oregano grew. I did the website and it has a lot of cool pictures on it – which you might find interesting. http://www.westtexaswhitetail.com/

I sent regards to the brothers - all of whom had been so gracious when I visited. I have sworn to my closest friends here that some day, we will all pile onto an Express Jet here in Austin and go have dinner in Kansas City. I’ll be sure to remember to take my ball cap off next time.


I'm quite sure that at some point or another I've mentioned to you about my friend Randy - the full blooded Apache horse whisperer from New Mexico. When I finally get my portrait book published, he will be on the cover. anyhow - he has every cool piece of western attire every made - historical stuff. He made a special trip to San Marcos this year to help me dress appropriately for Halloween. 

A picture is worth a thousand words. I looked bad ass - complete with a live, authentic, cross drawer single action .357 magnum. It was a smokin outfit, and with music - I also had jingle bobs on my spurs.  Now Dan - over in Iraq - which he calls the cat box, sand box, something like that said that I looked like a combination of Tom Mix and Harry Potter. George, out in West Texas said - don't ever wear that out here, you'll get your ass kicked. Either way - it was fun. And had someone wanted to kick my ass, at least eight loud rounds would have been heard first. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Painted Sky

It is my first regular morning in the big house since returning from my two weeks in Canada. I went to the gym last night and then had a tuna and peanut butter sandwich before falling asleep on the couch. We've had a cat burglar in our midst and so I checked the surveillance cameras and loaded a pistol in my weary trek to my bed. Kodak has gotten both old and fat enough to have difficulty jumping onto the bed. My last endeavor for the day was helping her up with a grunt from both of us. 
The morning came quickly with the most spectacular sky. Long flat clouds of blue and grey and white traversed the sky - illuminated from beneath by the sun as it crested the horizon. My first coffee sits on the corner of the table - the sun shining sideways through the house. Kodak sits on the floor to its right. A train horn echoes up the grade of the hill. I'm home.

Gate 79

I made it through Customs without incident - although the agent took an uncomfortably long time reviewing the computer screen after scanning my passport. It seems we do US Customs and Immigration on the Canada side of the border because Canadians are so cool. Security was a breeze - and yet they did the explosives check on my camera bag and looked at the polarizing filter with suspicion. It also seems that the Canadian TSA equivalent did not have to drop out of High School to get the job and actually smiled a lot and enjoyed carrying on meaningful conversations.I raced down the moving walkways to my gate pausing for a moment to P (Spelling unknown). It was early and I was alone in there - a long line of urinals from which to choose. I think the rule of thirds applies in such circumstances and I picked the left third. There was the echoing sound of my breath, an occasional water drop, the myriad sounds of the airport entering through the entryway, the odd green fluorescent light shining from banks in the ceiling - and the repetitive sound of a baby crying. Strange I thought as I stood there peeing (Spelling unknown). Again and again was the nearly electronic sounding baby's crying - as if from a doll with a pull string - always the same tone, the same duration. I was quite sure I was alone in there. I paused for a moment(if you know what I mean) to listen more intently, looking over my should and scanning the empty room. I saw myself standing in the row of urinals in the large mirror on the opposite wall above the row of sinks. The place was clean and quiet - hmmm I thought. And then, just as I turn back, I heard the baby again - this time the sound corresponding with the automatic towel dispenser - apparently in some malfunction, dispensing towels quite on its own - the internal motor sounding just like a baby crying in the bathroom's echoed droll - leaving another section of a length of towel on the floor some twenty feet long - sorry, seven meters. And now, as I sit at Gate 79, looking over at gate 81, the sun just peaking over the horizon - pink and orange clouds high, black clouds below - a Chinese man stands before me - alone in the wide expanse of the empty airport - doing thai-chi. Oh Canada - eh!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More Benito


John's second son Benjamin Stuart Millar is 14. We went to Queen Elizabeth Park yesterday and shot a few new pics for his Facebook page.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Global Financial Crisis

Instead of paying off mortgages, the Fed and their pals - George W Bush chief among them - have paid off their buddies and their buddies institutions choosing to inflate the entire economy with the infusion of trillions of dollars rather than addressing the mortgage crisis directly. Do you have any idea how many zeros that is? Can you imagine the corruption at play. The entire financial system is built on the faith of investors - our faith in the people there to be concerned more for our interests than their own. And now that the next three generations of the American People have been enslaved by our unprecedented debt - we will enter a lengthy and uncomfortable period of hyper-inflation. Many of you will have to work five or ten years longer than you thought you would have to. What has proven to be a consistently safe investment in times of inflation with a security that exceeds the volatility of the markets has been precious metals. Gold is a good buy today at $783 an ounce. 

Friday, October 17, 2008


Titty Hard On

This morning John and I sailed on a 42 foot trawler. It was overcast, windy and cold. It had been raining all night. As we left the protection of the harbor and into the rougher waters, I stood on the bow facing into the wind. My cheeks were rosy red and icy cold rain drops stung like needles as they landed in my eyes. I dawned my Lago Grey hoodie. It wasn't long before my hands were freezing cold, my knees aching and my nipples harder than any previously understood law of physics or chemistry could explain. I mean that they were actual screaming "help me, help me". We fished for Chinook for a couple of hours without luck and then boated up the channel. Tugs pulled huge jams of lumber through the sound. Seals were everywhere and the occasional Eagle. Tonight we've made it back to civilization in Vancouver where there actually is internet signal someplace other than the pub.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Not Hella Goin On

There once was a man from $edona

Who hated white bread and bologna

So to avoid the wurst

As the Millar’s first

He flew South to get his diploma

Now he cussed and cursed

till we thought he would burst

but while he was there

he trimmed his hair

He banged all the chicks

that the school could matrix

and although just distracted

from the way he’d acted

he returned with an 86.


He is good at Sports,

We've read the reports.

He's better at hoop

And been a good troop

He’s best at music

But might not use it.

He’s a gift for writing

And he’s grown out of fighting

So his knack for language

Won’t need a bandage.


And under his armor

Is a magnificent charmer.

With a heart of gold

Some have told

But has no interest in being a farmer.

He could do flooring

it’d be hella boring

So the question at hand

Will he start a band?


Life comes in chapters and we turn page by page

The landscape changes like the maples and sage

We live in the present and plan for the future

And it’s no fun at all getting a suture.

With his sheepskin in hand

We will have to plan

for our newly grown up Vancouver man

Full of potential and options galore

His whole life ahead of him that is for sure.


There once was a man from $edona

Who hated white bread and bologna

So to avoid the wurst

As the Millar’s first

He flew South to get his diploma.

Eagle Sound

Yesterday I went on a hike with my pan camera in a nearby provincial park – leaving my digital camera behind. I was in a mood where I felt the need to be by myself for a bit and it really was fascinating. There was only one other person in the park – and I never saw them anywhere. It was so utterly quiet – just my breath and footstep and my occasional conversations to the birds and the view. I apparently walked right up on a squirrel and he screamed at me – and it scared the heck out of me for a moment. I hiked along the sea – the sun shining but diminished by a layer of high thin clouds. I shot a picture of the bay, a pile of drift logs, the moss and a few other things. When I got to a place called Francis point where there is a small lighthouse – I sat down on a ledge of flat granite and looked out over the sea. Texada Island across the sound was black in the distance with a perfect line of silver backlit clouds over its top. Beyond was Vancouver Island, a flat blue grey with a sky of layered thin clouds. The sea was breathless and flat and the only sound was the very gentle rapping of small waves on the shore below. I leaned back against the rock and closed my eyes. I heard just the breath of air above me, and when I opened my eyes and looked overhead – a bald eagle was souring past maybe 30 feet up. I watched a seal floating in the water – flipping over and slapping his tail against the water – a loud clap that echoed on the land. I understand is intended to startle schools of fish. I could have lain there all day, but I’d come to take pictures.

The scene before me was a brilliant silver sea with clouds and black islands – with a foreground of mossy granite. Far in the distance I saw a fishing boat – an old boat trolling with outriggers. I thought that this great scene would be so much better should this vessel creep into the foreground. So I waited – the sun shining brightly at times and casting a shimmering line of while light across the sea. It took thirty minutes or more for the boat to get there – the only boat on the ocean at the time. Please, please – I thought as it approached, hoping it would pass close by. With my camera poised – the fishing boat passed some 100 meters from shore – its pilot waving as it went by. I shot three pans – and when the boat passed through the shimmering line of sunlight – silhouetted temporarily by the bright light – the small ship’s wake glistened in the light for a hundred yards behind it – for just a moment – which I think was captured. With film of course, we will have to wait and see – but I will be crossing my finger

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Grasshopper Pub

Brown Water Blues

John and I went up to Klein Lake today in search of Elk. It was cold out – perhaps 8 degrees Celsius.  We stopped along the side of the lake so that I could photograph a pair of Clogs I spied,  that were abandoned by some previous traveler. It would turn out to be a dire warning that I completely missed. The reflections on the lake were beautiful – a lake surrounded by fallen trees, moss, beautifully colored maples. I stepped out on a makeshift dock made of floating logs, lumber and pallets – a place where people probably went to fish on the lake. The oddly constructed path led to a large tree trunk on the water onto which I intended to jump. Alas – one of the floating logs was just that – a floating log, not tethered to anything but its own buoyancy. When I stepped on it – as if to follow a path of stepping stones – it was no match for my sturdy foot and into the cold drink I went. John says from afar as he hears the big splash – “wow, they do have big fish in here.” As he turned to look, there were only my hands being held aloft, holding my camera into the air. 

No harm done though. I finished my hike in my wet shoes and boxers – light green patterned print with open fly. I eventually put my pants back on at a Canada Petro station – at the yellow pump across from the lady in the minivan. And I took the picture I intended to take. 

Vancouver Canucks